I realize that I’ve been quite remiss in not yet writing much about a big part of my new life here in Dallas. House? Uh, uh. Job? Nope. Vicious dog attacks in Addison parks? (Well, I guess I have written a little about that.)
It’s the food! Food, food, foodfoodfoodfood. Dallas reportedly has more restaurants than any other city. After being here a few months, I have to say that I totally believe that statement to be 100% accurate.
One of our favorite places is Chamberlain’s Fish Market Grill. Oh. My. Word. Fabulous seafood, perfect service. Lovely wine list. Would love to eat there every day, but I doubt if they’d let me in after I’d sold the shirt off of my back to pay for it.
Come to think of it, I’ve never like this shirt much, anyway…
There’s a fab burger place called Smashburger. Not sure about the name, although I work with someone whose dad owns it, so I ought to ask her. The burgers taste like they’ve just been pulled off the grate of a friend who’s made grilling his life’s work. They have Smashfries, too, which are coated in olive oil and rosemary. Tiny little potatoey bits of heaven, right there. Top it off with a Smashcoke, or to be a smidge healthier, maybe just a Smashwater. Be sure to get a few Smashnapkins, ’cause you’ll need them. (And before I leave, I always visit the Smashbathroom.) Sure is Smashgood eating, right there.
Of course, if Dallas has 34,567,923 restaurants, then approximately 34,567,918 of them are some form of Tex-Mex. That’s a great thing (except that I don’t seem to be as efficient at burning calories as I was when I lived in Dallas before). You can pick from tiny little Mexican places, or big fancy Mexican places, or anything in-between.
As I’ve mentioned before, Uncle Julio’s was one of my faves back in the day. I’m happy to report that it still is, although back then the dining room was open to the road and there was no A/C. But the swirly sangria/margarita drinks were just as cold. And now the dining room’s all closed in. They’ve raised their prices a whole lot to do all that, so I try to appreciate it.
They have a killer veggie fajita plate, and grilled shrimp that are so good they they’d make a train take a dirt road to get to them. Oh, and most importantly, they have a fun little machine that squishes dough into tortillas and bakes them while you watch.
I can mow my way through quite a few of those soft, warm little circles. Mmmm. But unfortunately, when my goddaughters were here, the tortilla guy gave them each one of the little balls of dough, un-squished, to play with. This had the unfortunate effect of making me realize that each tortilla actually consists of 14 cups of flour and probably as much lard. (I didn’t ask, don’t really want to know.) How in heck can the ball o’ dough weigh so much more than the squished, baked tortillas? I tell myself that it’s calories and fat baked out, instead of just some water. I lie like that to myself sometimes, when food’s involved.
I’ve been passing a restaurant called the Magic Time Machine since I got here. Weird name for a restaurant, I’d say to myself. “Wow, Laurie, isn’t that a weird name for a restaurant?” I’d say.
We checked it out one night. It’s in an old log schoolhouse, and the waitrons are dressed in costume. One was playing Johnny Depp playing that pirate. Another was Shaggy, from Scooby-Do, and we saw a Sleeping Beauty, too. They wait on you in character, which basically means they all get to act all weird and say wild things to the kids, who apparently are their target market. The salad bar is actually in an old car, so it’s a “salad car,” of course, and other cheesy stuff like that.
The kids each get a list of stuff to check off from each server, which causes them to run around the restaurant chasing after them all. This has the beneficial effect of giving mom and dad (or dad and dad, or mom and Special Uncle Larry) a break, while their little monsters terrorize older, childless patrons.
The price for this entertainment is cleverly tucked away in the meal cost, thereby guaranteeing that you will pay $24.99 for a little lettuce, some boring veggies and an uninspired entree that bears some vague resemblance to its glowing description on the menu.
But the little ones love it. So I’m sure we’ll be there again one day, along with other relatives willing to do anything for their beloved little ankle-biters.
Back when I worked at the Dallas Times Herald, we’d often order out from a place called Good Eats. Can’t believe it’s still here, either, but it is. Great veggie plate. I can remember clearly eating their black-eyed peas with a plastic fork, one hand on my keyboard. Since the paper has since folded, I’m sure no one’s still blaming me for that unfortunate keyboard-meets-broccoli-casserole incident.
I’ve been buying gift certificates from restaurant.com. You get a $10 or $25 coupon for something like $3. Seriously, I got $150 worth for $16 the other day. Makes it worth trying new places. Used one at Shuck-N-Jive the other night, where the “dinner for one” weighed about 17 pounds. Seriously, three people could’ve shared it. They brought it out on a motorized forklift. The table had to be reinforced with an 8×8. Next time, I’m going for an appetizer. Good reggae music, though.
Plus, the coupons are really cool because if you don’t like the place, you don’t feel quite so screwed. Not that I’ll mention any names (Coconut Thai), but if the food isn’t good (Coconut Thai), you hate to pay full price (Coconut Thai). I’m sorry, did someone mention bad Thai food (Coconut Thai)?
There are two big restauranteur families in Dallas who’ve had a falling out, prompting one of the relatives to split off and start his own place. One is a Salvadoran/Mexican place called Gloria’s, owned by Gloria Rubio. She’s accusing a former manager of swiping her recipes for his own restaurant, which is less than a mile away from Gloria’s. It’s called Mario Sabino’s, and also has Salvadoran/Mexican food.
We went to Mario Sabino’s because of — you guessed it — I had a coupon. Since then, I’ve been to Gloria’s with a work group. The food’s almost identical — pupusas, black bean dip, tamals — although the service at Gloria’s was terrible.
Another nearby family place, Avila’s, is a favorite of Children’s Medical Center/UTSW/Parkland employees. If you’re going to choke on a black bean or something, do it there during the lunch hour, because everyone’s wearing scrubs.
Avila’s was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives show. Since then, though, there’s been a showdown between the 88-year-old matriarch who opened it and her son. During the lawsuit, he went in one weekend and stripped the place, taking kitchen appliances and even a chunk out of the wall to get the DD&D plaque.
Since then, he’s opened his own place called “Mextopia.”
“Mextopia”? Really? Maybe he should spend less money on lawyers and more on some creative help.
It’s sad to see people going at it after years of success, but it’s fascinating to read about it in the Dallas Morning News then go eat there, knowing the infighting that’s going on. Believe me, I know all about family infighting… It’s just nice for it to be happening to someone else for a change.
One of my favorite docs from Vandy, John Kuttesch, went on and on and on about these things called kolaches when he found out I was moving to Dallas. If I was ever on I-35 South toward Austin, he insisted, I had to pull in to the Czech Stop, this little convenience store about three feet off of the interstate in West, Texas. It’s a Czechoslovakian bakery, along with gas and Cheetos. The kolaches are little round sweet rolls, filled with cherry or strawberry or apricot, then slathered in cream cheese. He was right, they’re crazy-good. Thank goodness I don’t get to West, Texas, very often.
Found two great breakfast places near the house, Cafe Brazil and Benedict’s. (Cafe Brazil also has a store in Deep Ellum, the East-Nashville-type of funky music and arts area.) Makes me wish there were five weekend days and two work days, just because I can’t make it to breakfast during the week. And I have a lot fewer hangovers that need a good breakfast cure on work nights, too.
Next up on the list: Cuzco’s, a Peruvian place that’s come highly recommended by someone at work who’s Peruvian. That seems like a good bet, ja? I’ll let you know how it goes.