Best Of :: Food & Drink
We were at Central Market once this year—and we love Central Market—but we asked for ciabatta and the person behind the counter held up this big black hank of bread that looked like some old lady's work boot. And we thought, "If that's ciabatta, we gotta say notta." But that's also why the smaller, more intimate scale of the city's original Whole Foods on Lower Greenville will be so sorely missed when the store closes some time later this year or early next. The ciabatta loaves at the Greenville Avenue Whole Foods are always fresh and steamy in a little bin right off the bakery. You can tong them into that brown paper bag yourself, and the best thing is they're still hotta. We buy a lotta ciabatta there. You didn't know we spoke Italian, did you?
Ultimately, the purpose of an appetizer is to whet, to arouse, to salivate. It's to kick-start the innards and make them receptive to the more weighty compositions to follow. Mansion Chef John Tesar's crab "scampi style" does this. Six ounces of king crab leg meat is torn from the shell in ropes, flecked with parsley and set in a pool of Riesling butter sauce with touches of garlic and shallot. Riesling creeps to the forefront, launching a fascinating interplay of focused minerality and torrents of fruity acid that seem to reach around the crab's sweet buttery richness, targeting the minerals a few layers deep in the soul of the meat. Here, bitterness kisses the front of the mouth before the butter slides the crab's rich sweetness across the palate. Then the acids clear away a little of that, and it becomes almost floral. All of this is framed in a steely mineral component that is strong in the wine but subtler in the crab. Hence, the complex flavors of the crab instantly become understandable. This is a laser beam of a dish. It is visceral. It has gobs of charisma. It is pure mouth joy.
You know Jimmy's sausage and meatballs (and mortadella and prosciutto) are the stuff of legend, forcing chefs and gastronomes (why does foodie sound like a term for someone with a sippy-cup fetish?) alike to knuckle under its culinary weight in devoted reverence. You also know the wine selection is the best ever brought forth from the entirety of the boot, flowing from Veneto, Compania, Tuscany, Piedmont, Friuli, Sicily, Sardinia, Trentino Alto Adige, Basilicata, Umbria and Marche. Jimmy's even stocks the wines from Avellino bottled by Riccardi's Italian Dining owners Anita and Gaetano Ricardi. But what you may not know is that Jimmy's now has a back room—borne of reconstruction after the devastating 2004 fire that nearly destroyed its circa 1920s building—where wine dinners and wine flights will be launched and indulged and disabused, some hosted by Italian wine experts such as Andrea Cecchi of the Chianti producer Cecchi. More to follow. More to flow. Much to love.
For a third of a century John's Café on Greenville Avenue was one of those chipped mug of coffee places you could go on a Sunday morning and get your feet planted squarely back on planet Earth for the week to come. Then two years ago they deep-sixed it for a bank. Story of our life. But now John's is back from the grave, this time deeper on Greenville, almost at the corner of Ross, and many of the old familiar faces are gathering again for coffee, Greek salad and one of the best big burgers in town. The new location hits it just right, clean and plain, lean and mean—the way Old East Dallas likes it.
There are plenty of bars where you can grab a decent bite in Dallas—Lee Harvey's, the Meridian Room and the Lakewood Landing all come to mind—but the Old Monk is the only one we frequent even when we're not drinking. From the sizable burgers to the awesome fish and chips, everything on the menu is tasty, and it's all better with a side of the best skinny fries in town. And don't forget your vegetarian friends, who'll surely love the renowned (in our world at least) vegetarian Reuben. You'll find us on the large patio, a must in our book since most of Dallas' bar scene still hasn't come around to the idea that food tastes a lot better when it's not accompanied by the smell of cigarettes.
Years ago Sonny Bryan's got rolled out into 10 different Dallas-area locations, and they're all great, but the original on Inwood is proof that part of the barbecue is the shack. Since 1910—that's when Sonny Bryan started peddling his incomparable ribs and brisket from a tumbledown dive near Parkland Hospital—a whole lot of smoke and flavor must have gotten rubbed into the joint's well-worn benches and little school desks. It helps that you can see people back behind the counter pulling those big racks of ribs out of the smoker: You know for sure it's not coming down here quick-frozen from New Jersey. This is real-deal Dallas, the old-fashioned way, and every bite a treat for sure.