Friday, January 9, 2015

Weekend in Dallas

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Grubbing on Native Texas Cuisine in DFW

The Big D has become a yearly stop for me with it being the lady's hometown. I was recently in Texas for 8 days and aside from a couple meals in Austin, we ate BBQ, Mexican and or Tex-Mex the entire trip, and I'm not sick of any of it. There's really no walking around in Dallas. It's the most spread out city I can remember driving around in, the entire DFW area could be mistaken for the largest strip mall in the world. If it's a franchised chain they have it in Dallas. But they also got other stuff going on in good independent chef driven spots and also mom and pop local stops. Here's a roundup of places I ate that aren't BBQ based, I'll report on those in another post so do stay tuned.

Mesero - Henderson

Dallas restaurateur Mico Rodriguez was one of the founding partners of the popular Mi Cocina which has several locations in the area. Some spat happened and he left the group and disappeared for a while before roaring back with Mr Mesero located on a popular strip in Uptown. I went there a year ago and enjoyed the food/atmosphere. Since then he's opened another restaurant in the same neighborhood called Mesero Miguel, which he then closed and reopened as Mesero. It's all kinds of hard to follow so lets just get to the food, it's what I was hoping Dove's was going to be.

Crispy Fish Tacos 

You can only take Tex-Mex so modern without turning it around into something else. They manage to take that step up but not out with dishes like Nachos Conocidos which are fresh fried tortilla chips individually topped with black beans, queso chihuahua, brisket, avocado, jalapeno, mexican crema. There's an entree section with intriguing options but my eye was set on the combination plates. These feature homegrown favorites like the Tejano enchiladas which are cheese filled tortillas drowning in the best chili laced meat sauce I've ever come across. You can pair them with crema queso chicken enchiladas or perfectly seared steak fajita tacos and so on. Just like the food, the margaritas pack punch. Both floors were booked on a Monday night as the place was jumping with families, dates and parties of people out and about. Definitely a hot spot right now.

(1) Tejano and (1) Crema Queso Chicken Enchilada with Red Rice

Mesa Restaurant

This modern Mexican restaurant sits in a neighborhood (Oak Cliff) in the middle of a transition. The husband and wife team behind this place come from Alvarado Veracruz, a small town with the Gulf of Mexico on one side and a brackish lagoon on the other. They're bringing the authentic flavors of their hometown cuisine to Texas with much fanfare. So much I had to see for myself and I came away fully concurring with all it's fans.

Mama Cata Mole Chicken Enchiladas

You gotta try the signature dish aka Mole Mama Cata. You can get it on the appetizer section in the form of Enmoladas, try it off of the entree sized portions with it smothered over a duck leg or order the chicken enchiladas like we did. Man oh man. Some of the best mole I've ever tried as there wasn't a lick of it left on the plate. Big chance I'm back here for this dish next time I'm in town. Also delicious were the lobster enchiladas which came with nice sized chunks of meat inside homemade tortillas covered in a creamy poblano sauce topped with avocado and blue crab over a julienne vegetable salad with rice. As good as this signature coastal dish was, the mole stole the show.

Lobster Enchiladas

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Fried Oyster and Red Snapper Tacos with Personal Topping Bar at Stampede 66

We decided to do dinner at Stampede 66 one night after I couldn't get a reservation at the new-age steakhouse called Knife. Run by a well known Dallas chef named Stephen Pyles this is his ode to Modern Texas cooking. Lots of tempting stuff on the menu including what many call the best margarita in the country but from the descriptions I read it was more about the show (Its made table-side with liquid nitrogen). At $18/each I decided not too indulge in one and instead opted for another round of perfectly executed designer tacos. I loved the homemade tortillas, the seafood fillings and the personal topping bar they came with. I didn't mind paying $4/each for these as they were excellent eats.

Fried Chicken Basket

For dinner she had the fried chicken basket and I went with the ever so tempting chicken fried steak. The bite of fried chicken I got was pretty damn good and she's a big fried chicken critic and loved it. Though I thought the biscuits weren't crumbly enough for my liking she loved them. My chicken fried steak was pretty damn good but not what I expected. I guess by serving a slick spiral cut steak instead of a wide flat hunk of makes it modern. That and maybe the chorizo roja gravy or mint pea salad and pickled red onions that came with it. Not pictured is what every piece of chicken fried steak should have in its presence (Attn: Dove's), a big cup of loaded mashed potatoes (made with bacon, cheese and chives). All in all a satisfying meal in a very pleasant setting.

Chicken Fried Steak

With this being a trip where the main focal point wasn't food, I did have to settle for a few of those chains mentioned in the opening. I'm not one who automatically will not go to a place if its a chain but I tend to stay away from the national ones. So places like McDonald's, Chili's and Chipotle are no-go's no matter where I'm at. Because DFW has so much space for these chains the area attracts better regional options than the norm. The aforementioned Mi Cocina was a lunch spot one day and while it wasn't bad I couldn't help but wish we were at Mesero instead.

#9 Two Beef Enchiladas with Spicy Sunset Sauce at Mi Cocina

A chain I actually wouldn't mind seeing open up somewhere in Chicagoland is a spot I've been to multiple times on each trip made to Dallas. Gloria's Latin Cuisine was started by a young couple from El Salvador. They settled in Houston before moving to Dallas to work at a family members Salvadoran joint and the rest is history. They eventually opened up Gloria's and it now has over 15 locations in-state. The reason to go here are their excellent cocktails which are on happy hour special all day everyday except Saturdays. The place gets packed and they start you off with some of the best tasting black bean dip I've come across. The frozen house margaritas are the real deal, they don't mess around with alcohol content at spots in Texas. These drinks pack punch. Also delightful are their Salvadoran style tamales made with chicken and potato packed inside some very moist masa.

Tasty Bar Eats at Gloria's

Then there's the cult loved In-N-Out. Originally from West Coast California fame, they've invaded Texas as I passed handfuls of them driving around down there. I was fine with that. My last trip to an In-N-Out was over ten years ago in Las Vegas and while I remember liking my burger just fine it didn't do anything as far as make me a believer. Hell I had no plans to try them again anytime soon, not even this trip. But the reason for my visit was a wedding and on New Years Day I had to drop the lady off so she could get ready with the bridesmaids. As it happened In-N-Out was right down the block and I had a couple hours to eat and then get ready. So I decided to give them another try. As far as fast food goes this is more than acceptable but I wouldn't call it anything other than that. The fries suck and the burger is dominated by lettuce, tomato and sauce. All said it's cheap and gets the job done. But I don't need another unless my other options are Subway or Burger King. See ya next time.

Double Double with fries from In-N-Out

Mesero - Henderson
2822 North Henderson Avenue
Dallas, TX 75206
(214) 821-6426

118 West Jefferson Boulevard
Dallas, TX 75208
(214) 941-4246

Stampede 66
1717 McKinney Avenue
Dallas, TX 75201
(214) 550-6966

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