The State of Dallas Dining, As Told By Its Chefs

Starring Stephan Pyles, John Tesar, Katherine Clapner, Kent Rathbun, Teiichi Sakurai and a dozen other local chefs.

Brian Luscher, 44, The Grape: Less elitist food snobbery. Less "smoke and mirrors."

Matt McCallister: Bitchy eaters. I had a customer not long ago who complained that there wasn't enough duck breast on a dish and that it should be taken off the menu. She overlooked the fact that there were three pieces of fried duck rillettes (which she ignorantly referred to as hushpuppies. Last time I had a hushpuppy, which by the way suck, it was not filled with fatty herbaceous braised duck goodness) and half a duck breast cut into two pieces and a duck glace that takes about 10 hours to make. Not to mention that it is also served with salsify, pickled membrillo and kale. This is a dish that I put a lot of time into preparing and thought into the structure of. For someone to just discount the artistry and bitch about there not being enough duck breast ...

Braden Wages, 28, Malai Kitchen: TACOS!


The Dallas Diner: How would you describe the local palate?

Matt McCallister: Average, but there are great palates out there, as well and a lot of people willing to try new things.

Tim Byres, 36, Smoke: Very particular. People in Dallas know what they like and as chefs we are focused on casting a wide net.

Jay Jerrier: Dallas is pretty provincial. Most people won't go out of a five-mile radius from their house to eat. On the one hand it's kind of nice, as it builds in neighborhood pockets for restaurants. On the other hand I think it limits exploration unless it's destination dining. I think Dallas gets knocked for the "Fickle 500" that flutter from new place to new place, but if you have a good product I think Dallas diners are very loyal and passionate.

Braden Wages: The Dallas diner is increasingly more exploratory. This is no longer only a steak-and-potatoes market. Unfortunately, most diners rarely branch out of their immediate neighborhoods. Dallas is not so large that going to a restaurant should seem "too far."

David Uygur: I have been repeatedly surprised by guests' willingness to try new and maybe off-the-beaten-path things. Since we change our menu frequently, we have tried all kinds of ingredients. The items that generally get the best reaction are the ones that are a bit unusual. We have had great success selling beef tongue, tripe and chicken liver. We even have sold sanguinaccio dolce, a traditional Italian chocolate pudding-like dessert that uses pork blood as a thickener. In fact, the toasted hazelnut semifreddo with sanguinaccio dolce has been one of our best-selling desserts.

Teiichi Sakurai: We're serving things now that previously we couldn't sell at all. The first time sushi was introduced to Dallas was around 1980, and the selection was just tuna, salmon, yellow tail and shrimp. That's it. And only a very small, eclectic group of people would eat it. No one else wanted it — no one wanted to eat raw fish. But now you can get sushi from Tom Thumb and people eat it like potato chips.

Brian Luscher: While the Dallas diner typically wants comfort, flavor, value and quality, as of late they are interested in occasionally trying something that might be out of their comfort zone. Fifteen years ago — hell, even five years ago — sweetbreads, headcheese and pigtails on a menu would have elicited a gag reflex; now diners are interested in unique items on occasion. Are we ready for true nose-to-tail dining? No, although maybe the right chef in a small unique location could be successful.

Brady Williams, 25, Oddfellows: There are a lot of places that are killing it right now that three years ago would have had a tough time making it. Things like craft beer and spirits, local and sustainable sourcing, or even certain cuts of meat were, even only a few years ago, either unappreciated by the mass market or considered a novelty. We still have a long way to go, but we're at the beginning stages of a paradigm shift.

Brent Hammer, 35, Hibiscus: As compared to Los Angeles, where the diners are very fussy, here the customers are easier. I think people that come to this restaurant do so to be a little bit of escapist, to leave it all behind — enjoy the food, their company, the atmosphere and the music. For the most part I don't think their palates are any more or less sophisticated then anywhere else.

Dean Fearing: I've seen the growth of education of the Dallas palate over the last 25 years. It used to be you could serve anything and everyone loved it, but now Dallas diners, including guests from all over the world, have a very well-educated palate. And this education has only strengthened my staff over the last five years. Every plate has to go out as ordered.


Trending Topic: What trends in the local food scene get you excited about cooking here?

Dean Fearing: It's great to finally see some really good neighborhood restaurants. Five years ago we hardly had any, but now there are chefs opening restaurants where you can get great food, good service that is casual and inexpensive. We're starting to see them all over town now.

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13 comments
OCfoodie
OCfoodie

Why is Brady Williams included in this panel? He is not the chef at Oddfellows...never has been. The Chef's name is Josh Childress.

Preppy6917
Preppy6917

I fully concur with Brian Luschner's comment of less elitist food snobbery and smoke and mirrors. Having moved here from New Orleans a year ago, Dallas dining seems to be more about the brands and status symbols (i.e. Kobe beef or Silver Oak wine) that can be associated with the meal as opposed to the true processes and ingredients that go into your meal preparation.

teresa
teresa

Wow. Real class act, singling out and chastising a customer publicly, in the Observer. You might want to remember who keeps those doors of yours open, Matt McAllister. Your menu isn't online, but my guess is she probably spent a lot of money on that dinner and it probably wasn't so big. I don't believe the customer is always right, but saying something like that publicly just comes off as petty and whiny. Chefs and their egos......

norahedward
norahedward

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G_David
G_David

I don't know what Jose thinks about Jay Jerrier's taste in tacos, but I for one find it to be borderline tragic (with the exception of Torchy's). He needs to venture about 3 miles east of his restaurant and see what a taco is supposed to be.

Kasey Thompson
Kasey Thompson

Great, now all I can think about is the hamburgers and onion rings at Maple & Motor. Mmmm...yummy burger with an egg on top...Mmmm. This is not good for my diet!

Matilda of Tuscany
Matilda of Tuscany

Great article--keep supporting the local growers and they will be able to support more growing!

OCfoodie
OCfoodie

Did you know that Oddfellows pre-cooks their fried chicken, hamburgers, and fish then simply warms it up before serving it to their customers.

Preppy6917
Preppy6917

Not only was it unprofessional to call out that customer, but to make a blanket statement that hushpuppies suck? It sounds like this "chef", and not his diners, is the poseur.

rubbercow
rubbercow

If your main concern while eating at a restaurant is the quantity of food per dollar, you have no business eating in a fine restaurant. Go to a buffet for christ's sakes.

Larry
Larry

I think DFW eaters and especially the contributors to this article are being incredibly myopic. The diversity of great and good food in the metroplex is incredible, from elegant Mexican and enchiladas to simply great chilli to great barbecue to elegant fine dining, to Jon Bunnell's exceptional Texas cuisine, to Mr. Pyle's and Fearing's talents; the list could go on and on. Be thankful Dallas and Fort Worth. You have the best of the best.

Chef
Chef

Tastes like it.

 
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