By Steven Doyle
We enjoy our great restaurants in Dallas, and it is easy to fall in love with gilded trompe l’oeil celestial paintings, tiny pats of foie gras and over-priced champagne. But then there is the rest of the year when we need but to celebrate a decent dinner and a very cold beer. This is almost daily, and for those nights we seek the very best on a budget and look for those out-of-the-way joints that might seem suspicious at first, or merely off the radar. Once discovered, these spots are worth sharing.
This month we share with you some of our favorite off-radar eateries. Some are more known than others, but once you try them you will not want to keep them a secret. If you feel generous, offer to pick up the tab, it shouldn’t cost you much at all.
Tacos la Banqueta
Lifted from our best taco list we cherish each visit to this out-of-the-way spot in East Dallas. Located on the corner of Bryan Street and Carroll (just a block east of Bryan Street Tavern) this is pure taco Nirvana. Here you will sample the goods that might otherwise require a trek south of the border. Enjoy cabeza de vaca, lengua and tripas, all the great forgotten parts of the cow that are eaten across the globe each day, but somehow fall short on Americans. You still can nab a a beef fajita or el pastor taco. Those are pretty special too.
This Richardson Chinese mom and pop is home to the very best bowl of soup in the city. Think hand-stretched noodles, rich beefy broth and giant shards of roast beefy goodness that will have you screaming for another bowl. For a change of pace also look to the very garlicky Zhajiangmian, or the fried pork chop served with cucumber and seaweed. We also enjoy the fried tofu and crispy pig’s ear. Cool off with a bubble tea or platter of fresh fruit and ice cream.
If this was all about the mom-and-pop shops in Dallas, Mesa would take home a first-place ribbon. Think family operated interior Mexican food with a menu that topped with homemade. Look to the lobster enchiladas to impress that first date, but keep coming back for empanadas, guiso and mole saturated tortillas called Enmoladas. There’s also fantastic cocktails conjured by the family’s daughter, and plenty of room on the beautiful patio out back.
El Jordan Café
Situated in the heart of the Bishop Arts District, El Jordan is the land of milk and honey if milk and honey were actually cheese enchiladas and gooey queso. For some odd reason you will find a servable chicken fried steak on the menu as well. And why not. After dinner meander over to one of the finest pie shops in North America which is a merely block to the south on Bishop, Emporium Pies. The chocolate with the pretzel crust is amazingly good.
Ballard Street Café & Grill
Located in Wylie this little café has been known to the locals for years. Enjoy a chicken fried steak breakfast for those days you happen to feel like a lumberjack and in need of extra calories to get you through your work day. Soak up the local charm while enjoying fresh biscuits, homemade yeast rolls and an assortment of pie that will make you do some sort of giddy dance you will regret later. Relax, no one knows you here.
In Fort Worth, this is by far the very best family run Italian restaurant in North Texas. In the kitchen you will find mom doing what she does best. Here you will find beautiful bruschettas, antipastas and homemade pastas. What you will not find is the thick and heavy red sauced dishes you might be used to. What a fresh and welcome change. Bring your own wine and glasses and cash.
This is not your average brick-and-mortar restaurant. Chef DAT is a dude who is the Dallas king of pop-up restaurants and you find out where he is serving his next dinner by emailing a reservation. The chef is all about serving up what is local, seasonal and fresh. You will find a heavy leaning on seafood dishes which is a throwback to his time in Hawaii. DAT hails from Louisiana so you will often see dishes that reflect that heritage as well. All of his dinners are BYOB, but he has been known to toss a cocktail or two your way during dinner. For more information check out chefdat.com.