There’s lots of talk about ethnic food and its place in our melting pot of a country. The homogenization of so many places presents muddled versions of the real deal sometimes so much so that it’s unrecognizable to authentic transplants or visitors.
Of all of these bastardizations I feel I might be lucky. As my genealogy is almost exclusively limited to the British Isles it seems the fare found in gastro pubs here in the States doesn’t stray too far, as a general rule, from those charming little roadside institutions found in the homeland.
My dad tells a story about how he was parked outside a bank drive-through situated next to a Long John Silvers on a rainy day in Oak Cliff when memories of England started washing over him, almost out of nowhere. He hadn’t been back to the U.K. in over a decade but the smells of rain and concrete with fish frying nearby struck a subconscious nerve that he couldn’t shake for days. He talked about eating fish and chips in misty weather while sitting on the backs of park benches in his stylish 70s wool suit to avoid the ever-accumulating puddles on the seats, or about the walls along the village roads of Northern England he would walk past always having the startling realization that they’d been built before Christopher Columbus had even discovered the country of his birth.
On days like these the homes of the locals who have weathered the winters in houses which are sometimes hundreds of years old hold tea and photographs and shepherds pie with the family crest traced into the mashed potatoes on top.
Winter in North Texas really is just a version of year-round weather in that part of the world: chilly, windy and soaking wet. Here we have a limited time to take advantage of the weather. Even though we like to complain about plummeting temperatures and freezing precipitation the time should be seized. On a day like that there is absolutely nothing as heartening as a black and tan in a dim room full of dark wood.
Luckily for me there are a few particular places in Dallas that make me feel right at home in that regard. While each has its own charms the fish and chips are accompanied by as many slugs of malt vinegar as need be and Yorkshire Puddings are a given or, at least, available on request. I couldn’t ask for more.
The Londoner on Lower Greenville has my favorite fish and chips – wrapped in newsprint before they slap it on the plate – with an added luxury in the form of tarter sauce. Idle Rich in Uptown has the most amazing steamed mussels in beer broth and chips an inch thick. The Staggering Irishman in far north Dallas has bangers and mash, a dish comprised of sausages (called bangers over there) smothered in red onion gravy and a giant pile of mashed potatoes. And Trinity Hall at Mockingbird Station has an English breakfast on the weekend that keeps me full for a week. If I find myself there for dinner rather than weekend brunch the real star of the menu is the Irish Stew.
Being from the States and being southern there are lots of familiar elements to the hearty comfort food you’ll find in a pub: hearty offerings that manage to put you at ease. The only thing a purist will ask as you swagger on up to the bar is not to ask for a “car bomb,” the traditional Irish whiskey shot dropped into a pint of stout but a “peacemaker.”