Best Of :: Food & Drink
Local is a slowly evolving organism, one that seems to thrive creatively on the cusp of its own extinction. Chef/owner Tracy Miller brought forth her restaurant in 2003, an offshoot of the catering operation she's nurtured in Deep Ellum's classic Boyd Hotel since 1997. Miller opened with the commitment to shepherd and develop Local in deliberately managed increments so as not to outrun her culinary (and financial) headlights. Since that time she has added a sleek yet comfortable wine lounge and is unfolding plans to subsume the Boyd's courtyard with garden dining in the spring. Yet through all of this inching, Miller has never relaxed her snug embrace of American flavors, distinctly teased with her own earthy flair. Try her urbane steak and eggs twist, two fried quail eggs on a drift of steak tartare. Or wallow in her meticulously harmonized hazelnut- and mustard-crusted halibut in Chardonnay thyme broth accompanied by grilled country bread and a young spinach salad—pure haute meets homey. Or surrender to the rib eye in a mushroom sauté with onion risotto. Miller is a virtuoso who whirs the salivary glands with clean flavors that mingle and marry and juxtapose in well-composed essays. That it sits in the Deep Ellum urban frontier means your adventure never has to suffer the irritants (noise, parking, neglect) of the stunning and the trendy.
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.