Each week the Dude Food guys assess the 'masculinity' of Dallas area dives. The more fried meat and junk on the walls, the better the rating...
Love And War In Texas
I realized recently that I hadn't been back to Love And War In Texas once in the three years since I bestowed a 2006 Dallas Observer Best Of on their fried pickles (I actually wrote so many items on fried foods that year that an editor sent me an e-mail inquiring about my health--true story.). It might seem crazy, but when you account for the fact that I hate driving to Plano almost as much as I love fried pickles, it actually makes a lot of sense. That being said, I packed the mules, hired a sherpa and headed out for Plano last night in search of holiday-worthy Dude Food.
Without a frat-boy country singer to attract the masses (I'll get to this later) the holiday crowd at Love and War was notably sparse when the expedition pulled into the parking lot, but any worries we had about a decline in the quality of their cuisine were erased by our order of Texas Wagonwheels (the aforementioned fried pickles, served with a side of smoky ranch). As The Dude might put it, "Fuckin' A."
As we dined on pickles, the little lady and I perused the substantial menu for at least 20 minutes, taking time to reflect on our state's culinary heritage as we salivated over the offerings of each region of Texas, from the Border to the West Texas Plains to the Hill Country, East Texas Piney Woods and Texas Gulf Coast. When we finally finished, we decided on "The Stockyard" (An 8 oz. center cut filet served with smoked corn on the cob, skillet potatoes and Texas caviar) and the "Frio Country Platter" (One third rack of ribs and a Mesquite smoked half chicken served with smoked corn on the cob and Shiner Bock beer beans.)
My steak was prefectly cooked, peppery and juicy with plenty of mesquite-grilled flavor, while the dry rub on the lady's ribs made the side of barbecue sauce a true complement rather than a mere flavor smokescreen. And while the lady proclaimed her dish "the worst date dish ever" thanks to the messiness factor, I must say it was a turn on to see a woman tear into a pile of meat like that. (In fact, it made me even more confident in my recent decision to renounce my celebrity crush on singer/actress Zooey Deschanel--after all, I could never share such beautiful moments with a noted veggielante.)
Strangely, the sides were just as good as the meat here, from the lightly salted smoked corn to the spicy Texas Caviar. And I highly endorse the idea of Shiner Bock-anything, be it beans or biscuits or marinade--never been a fan of red wine reductions and whatnot, but beer is an essential culinary ingredient in my book.
Unfortunately, dessert rapidly became an impossibility, but next time I'm definitely coming prepared to order "The Oatmeal, Texas"--hot oatmeal cookies served on cinnamon ice cream with warm butter-brandy sauce.
Perhaps the most comforting thing about the whole meal was the soundtrack, however-- a mix of classic songs by artists like Robert Earl Keen, Steve Earle, Joe Ely and Willie Nelson, along with a smattering of tunes by their lesser frat-boy imitators, often loosely grouped together under the genre "Texas music"--which if anything, does a huge disservice to our state's rich musical legacy. You'll often find such artists playing Love and War's outdoor stage--though they do get the occasional visit from the real deal, like Billy Joe Shaver--but I wouldn't let it stop you from sampling their fine cuisine.
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After all, I'd still rather hear some frat-boy sing about I-35 all night than another douche singing acoustic Pink Floyd covers on a Dallas patio (Hello, Uptown Jake's)...wouldn't you?