One of the keys to any good eating establishment is being able to find it. S&M Eats, newly opened and making use of The Grapevine Bar's adjacent kitchen space, appears very approachable. Located just off Maple Avenue, S&M is painted an inviting how-do-you-do turquoise, which is offset by punchy neon green chairs and an awning that beckons potential patrons under its umbrella.
When I was there, however, the walk-up window was shuttered. The chairs? Empty. And the only person standing under the awning was me, looking confused. I could hear the sounds of people enjoying themselves. I even caught a faint whiff of caramelized pork belly. Was I overlooking the "this way" arrow, or does S&M Eats exist only in an ephemeral, Platform 9 and ¾ way? ....Was I the Muggle of tacos?
The answers to my questions, as it turned out, were a bouncer away. When S&M's storefront is closed, one must make their way to the back, where another walk-up window resides. The only way to do this is to enter The Grapevine. My theory is that these two establishments are deploying mutually beneficial Central Market-style maze tactics, where by design there is no clear-cut path leading to the end destination. Instead, even the hungriest will likely lose sight of their food-target as drink specials and revelry lurk around every turn.
Sufficiently inebriated, you are at some point destined to remember why it was you came here in the first place. And that, like a burgeoning relationship exploring boundaries, brings us back to S&M. One step out the back door and past The Grapevine's patio lies a tree-shaded clearing that serves as the dining area for S&M. Reminiscent of a schoolyard, the ground is covered in concrete and picnic tables abound. There's even a basketball hoop.
But don't get lost in the nostalgia, there's meat to be had. Chef Kellie Doyle, formerly of Bread Winners and The Stand, has devised an aggressively uncomplicated menu of arepas ($3), tacos ($3.25), boleos ($4) and fries ($2.25 plain, $4 loaded.) After you pick your poison, just let the nice lady behind the counter know what you'd like to have on it or in it, as the case may be. Beer braised brisket, tequila agave pork and Salvadorean spiced chicken are just a few of the options. Everything but the fries comes topped with a handful of jicama slaw, which provides a nice crunch of freshness.
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While enjoying my basket full of masa-based food stuffs, I was able to reflect on what it took to get to that point. I came away with the realization that it's not about the destination. It's about nursing a Shiner and an arepa or two, all while watching people in varying states of drunkenness attempt to slam dunk.
3906 Maple Ave Dallas, TX 75219