In a town where brunch spots tend to go flat quicker than the sparkling water they once served, Hattie’s, with their modern take on low Southern fair, has endured. Their brunch has captivated the Dallas dining scene for many years. It won the Dallas Observer’s highly illustrious and difficult to secure best brunch award in 2010. A lot can happen in seven years, however, which is why it was time to drop in and pay this Bishop Arts District restaurant a visit.
It’s a welcoming place, Hattie’s. It embodies a sense of quiet refinement with honeycomb tiles, stamped tin ceilings, starched white linens and a receiving area that is part bar, part living room. It’s nice, but not too stuffy — just the kind of spot Dallasites are quick to adopt and sore to give up. That much was evident during a recent Sunday trip, when the wait was estimated at an hour. When faced with the dilemma of queuing for the promise of good food or scouring the hinterland for sustenance, one chooses to wait.
While you do, head down the street — past the charming shops that reek of bath bombs and disposable income — and to Veracruz Café, where mimosas are $2 a pop and chips and salsa suddenly become the perfect prelude to a Southern brunch. Drink and drink well, for when Hattie’s calls your number, you will soon be reminded that there are many places in the world where a bloody mary can rival the cost of an entrée.
Not that it isn’t a damn good bloody mary. Topped with a bacon strip shellacked in brown sugar and cayenne, it’s one of the more serviceable marys around. It’s balanced in a perfectly Goldilocksian way — neither too acidic nor too funky with Worcestershire, just clean, bright and with enough Tito's vodka to anesthetize doldrums. It’s also $10.25, hence the need to start your Sunday fun-day somewhere else-ay.
As you sip your drink, an angel sent from carbohydrate heaven will appear table-side. He will bear a basket of sourdough and banana breads and will gesticulate with a pair of tongs while asking which one you want. You will have an out-of-body experience as you see a thick slice of banana bread, with its even crumb and sweet scent, placed gingerly in front you. You will question why all restaurants, regardless of cuisine, mission, style or customer service level, do not also include breakfast bread in the meal just as they would tap water or Splenda packets.
After emerging, transformed, by the gratis bread, you will find that the menu is stocked with iterations of Southern comfort food. From pecan-crusted catfish to bananas Foster French toast, an onion and cheddar tart to blue crab Benedict, griddlecakes to bacon-wrapped meatloaf, it's a varied selection of dishes that serve as both brunch standbys and dinner-style entrees.
An order of buttermilk fried chicken ($14.95) did not disappoint. A thinly pounded breast was dredged and fried until the crust took on an amber hue. It crackled under the serrated edge of a knife, giving a sonorous clue as to the crispy, craggy mouthfeel to come. This was grandma-worthy fried chicken — moist, well-seasoned, surprisingly light — served in true grandma-style on a bed of mashed potatoes and with a stream of slightly spicy, smoky tasso ham gravy.
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The fried green tomato sandwich ($11.95) might, at first glance, seem a lighter choice than fried chicken. It does center on a
vegetable fruit, after all. But make no bones about it, this sandwich is a behemoth of richness. Sourdough slices are slathered with butter with what must be a Paula Deen level of gusto. The bread is but a delivery system, of course, for other rich ingredients: smoked pimento cheese, applewood bacon and cornmeal-encrusted green tomatoes, fried until golden. Even the generous allotment of iceberg lettuce could not dispel the fact that this was the kind of sandwich that could make even the hungriest of brunchers stop at only a half. But stop you mustn’t. Power through and be rewarded with the knowledge that you devoured a well-composed and thoroughly decadent take on the classic BLT.
A lot can happen in seven years, it’s true. But Hattie’s brunch proves that all these Sundays later, it’s still a dining darling — a bacon-showered, deep-fried, gravy-coated darling.
Hattie's, 418 N. Bishop Ave.