Hattie's Serves A Divine Southern-Style Brunch
Sprawling mega-churches dot our fair, smooth-plained Dallas landscape, so you'd think you'd see more of the blessed and baptized while out to Sunday brunch, this clearly being Our Lord and Savior's municipality of choice and all. But they're hard to find. Maybe they're out there, stowing Bibles under car seats before heading for Bread Winner's and Smoke to surreptitiously sip a Bloody Mary or two. No doubt many have been lured away from Hollandaise and ham into gluttonous promises of endless shrimp by the false prophet, that notorious and nefarious fiery-hued crustacean . Maybe I just like to eat brunch at seedy bars that proper hymn-singing folk can't be seen at in daylight hours. Could be why I haven't seen a lot of 'thumpers in all of my brunch excursions these past few months.
That all changed on Sunday, when the Man O' The Hour and I headed to Hattie's in the Bishop Arts District to find out just how "best" this year's "Best Brunch" winner really is. (If you're disappointed or surprised that the special issue of the paper came out without my vetting the brunch nomination, you can head over to talk about it at Side Dish, the lead contender for next year's Best Combination Feigned Shock And Finger-Wagging, though I like to wait until they start charging full-price for a panty-wadding before I make a final decision.)
Folks must've skipped the end of the sermon to make it to Hattie's at 11 a.m., when we arrived to find big-hatted and suit-coated patrons ordering signature Bloody Marys at Oak Cliff's Southern food-serving staple. Hattie's is a terrible place for a hangover, not only because there wasn't anything dark on which to discreetly vomit amid the restaurant's heavenly white decor, but because it's hard to chew over the sound of self-righteous tongue-clicking from nearby tables full of people who simply think they're too freaking good for four -- or was it five? -- shots of the finest Old Crow and a tallboy sixer. Jeez, guys, live a little in this life, will ya?
Lucky for us, we weren't hungover. (For once.) But we were hungry for the entirety of the invitingly priced brunch menu -- Hattie's offers everything from mac 'n cheese and pecan-crusted catfish to grits to traditional bacon and eggs. Turns out, though, what was off the menu but recommended by our thoughtful and attentive server sounded, if possible, even better: chicken and waffles with a hot, red pepper maple syrup.
Certainly the spirit of the Lord -- or somebody important -- must've been in Hattie's yesterday, because I was divinely inspired to order something I've never had and probably would actively avoid in almost any other circumstance: fried oysters. MOTH opted for the aforementioned chicken and waffles. We sipped happily on two fine Bloody Marys while we waited excitedly for our respective entrees.
Hattie's Bloodys are made with a spicy, bright home-made mix (they also squeeze their own orange and grapefruit juice, so they're good at that kind of thing) that makes the $8 price tag both reasonable and expected. Hell, I'd expect $8 for crushing my own tomatoes and trying to find the right combination of spice to make one of the finest Bloody Marys in town. Of course, I'd probably be so drunk at the end of the enterprise that I wouldn't be able to count my takeaway, but Hattie's is a classy joint and would never behave so. The drinks came with celery, lime, pickled okra and a fresh grape tomato garnish. That's what Bloody Marys should be: salad in a glass, people. Salad. In. A. Glass.
But Praise Jebus, y'all, the food . My bacon-wrapped fried oyster scramble came on a bed of potato hash and fluffy, seasoned eggs. They were topped with Parmesan shavings and a spicy orange Hollandaise, and I could hardly believe that I was putting the things away at all, let alone with enthusiasm. I've long had a serious fear of food that once had a shell, and a horrifying experience at a cheap raw bar in New York City as a college student left me shaken. I don't want to talk about it.
Wrap anything in bacon, and you're bound to make deliciousness happen. Let Hattie's wrap anything in bacon, and you've basically bought a window-seat ticket to the moon. Neither the thick, fried batter nor the bacon overpowered the distinct oyster flavor, and the spicy Hollandaise drizzle added just enough taste and texture to mix things up in my unbelieving mouth still shocked by shellfish.
But yea, though I walked through the valley of first-time oyster eating, I feared no evil, for the MOTH ordered chicken and waffles, and I ate a bunch of that too. The thing about chicken and waffles is that it's hard to get a dish that's both high-quality fried chicken and high-quality waffle. Either you get greasepit, KFC-style chicken and a fluffy, buttermilk waffle, or you're savoring every bite of a well-breaded breast plopped down on an Eggo. Not so, though, at Hattie's, where MOTH was presented with a crisp (but not break-your-teeth-crisp) chicken breast atop a Belgian waffle thicker than a working man's hand. Garnished with a fresh orange slice and accompanied by a dish of hot pepper maple syrup, the Hattie's chicken and waffles get everything absolutely right. Hell -- whoops, I mean Heavens! -- the tender, flavorful chicken meat beneath the crispy outer breading was better than the crust itself.
Two more Bloody Marys and two nearly cleaned plates later, we were presented with a dessert menu. Dessert ! At brunch! Brilliant, but our stomachs just couldn't take it, and we were forced to skulk out of the place unsweetened but satisfied nonetheless. Our check just about matched the one from Molly Maguire's two weeks before , but the meal was twice, three times the quality. Hattie's may not be my favorite brunch in town -- Smoke still takes that award -- but it more than deserves its "best." Glory, glory Hattie-lujah.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Dallas dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.