Big deal meal

I hate to repeat myself, and it hasn't been very long since I reviewed Breadwinners in this space. You might remember--it was a new restaurant on McKinney whose name reflects the emphasis on baked goods. (The tomato basil bread is terrific.)

At that time, it served only breakfast and lunch; I'm bringing Breadwinners to your attention again (already) because, with the addition of a dinner menu, it has evolved into a full-fledged restaurant.

Breakfast is the mama meal, the mother of the day. Lunch is really about business or sustenance, but dinner is the big deal meal. Dinner is where we exhibit true human behavior regarding food--it's where food most often becomes more than itself. The art of cuisine defines itself at dinner. And dinner defines most restaurants.

When I first reviewed Breadwinners, I found breakfast OK and lunch a lot better. Dinner has them both beat; it's the real winner.

The rambling, up-and-down dining rooms are charming, but Breadwinners happens to have inherited one of--perhaps the--loveliest patios in Dallas, so we ate this particular dinner there.

I'm not a committed al fresco freak--in my opinion, there's only a small window of weather that makes dining outside a good idea in Dallas. But this was one of those nights.

And set off the street, this little courtyard is the kind of romantic place you glimpse through wrought-iron gates in New Orleans--hung with ferns, walled in by old brick and French doors. (Of course, I was dining with another mother. Why waste romance on a marriage?) The only thing missing from the French Quarter ambiance was that blush of green moss (or is it mold) that blooms on everything in Louisiana, and actually, considering the recent rains, Dallas is just on the verge of growing its own.

It's such a charming patio that you wonder about all those folks sitting out on the pavement down the block at Primo's. After we ate, we wondered even more.

So how does Breadwinners define itself? The appetizer menu ranged from pizza to quesadillas, with Thai shrimp, fried polenta with marinara, and coconut chicken providing global piquance. Given that an ideal appetizer should have strong, wake-you-up flavors, tastes that excite the mouth's imagination, our choices were a big success. And we'd picked them because they sounded more imaginative: a plate of angel-hair pasta that tasted faintly of fresh fennel, topped with thick portabello mushroom slices, tomatoes, and a tangy dressing; a mound of bright green spinach, just sauteed in garlic, with chips of toasted garlic scattered over it, their barely bitter crunch a foil for the lemony leaf.

There isn't a simple green leaf dinner salad offered. Instead, we split a "crunchy garden" salad, too cold, too crunchy, with a dressing that was too sweet.

Entrees were again excellent--prettily presented plates, but not a generous portion of pork tenderloin, rubbed with dry spices and sauced with whole grain mustard, perfectly cooked, the heart of each slice delicately baby-pink and juicy. It came with a mix of vegetables. Shrimp and macadamia nut stir fry sounded tempting (still does), but a salmon special was cooked to perfection. Salmon has enough fat to stand a crusty char, which this fish had without losing its pink silkiness within.

Back to the baked-goods theme. Our serious waiter, who'd hovered discreetly all evening, wheeled the dessert cart over; we chose a whipped-creamy cheesecake with the pick of summer blackberries.

--Mary Brown Malouf

Breadwinners, 3301 McKinney Ave., 754-4940. Open for lunch and breakfast Monday-Saturday 7 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m.-3 p.m. For dinner Wednesday-Saturday 5 p.m.-11 p.m.

Tomato basil bread $2.95
Sauteed spinach $3.75
Grilled Portabello mushroom $4.95
Dry rubbed pork tenderloin $14.95
Shrimp and macadamia nut stir fry $13.95


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