At its inception, the 35 Denton music festival was simply North Texas' answer to Austin's
famous shitshow, South by Southwest. In its third year, 35 Denton has become a legitimate music showcase, pulling names like Big Boi, The Flaming Lips and Mavis Staples into its funky little downtown square. The powers that be (some dudes with beards) have put together another righteous lineup for 2012 featuring Built to Spill, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Bun B and Devin the Dude, among hundreds of others. What you may not know about Little D is how easy it is to find good food and cheap booze. The fest is pulling into town on Thursday and will be sleeping its dirty ass on my couch until the 11th, so if you're planning to come get your ears fed, make sure to stumble into these fine establishments (and plenty of others that aren't listed but are just as loved) and get your belly fed too. Shoes optional.
GreenHouse Restaurant 600 North Locust St. 940-484-1349
The food here is oh so Denton and 1,000 kinds of delicious. The bar is equally as impressive, offering monthly specials catering to the season. They have an awesome vegetarian menu, and the appetizer options make for mad decent bar food. Try the pulled pork sliders, and then try them again. And again. If you can shove more food into your body, get the chicken Monterrey sandwich, the lamb burger, the fish tacos or any one of their super fresh salads. Don't leave without having the lemon-sage custard. The atmosphere is great and their recently renovated outdoor patio is the one of the city's best places to have an ice-cold beer and watch Denton happen.
Rooster's Roadhouse 113 Industrial St. 940-382-4227
Get the Rooster Tails and then find a good Realtor because you will want to move to Denton and eat these everyday. Beer-battered chunks of sweet onion will float to your table on their own accord (because they are made of magic and dreams) and are served with something called Cockeyed Sauce, which you will want buy a quart of before you go back to your crappy apartment in Dallas that doesn't have a Rooster's next to it. Eat nine baskets of these and then get the pulled pork nachos, smoked garlic jalapeño bacon cheddar burger, or the big ass grilled cheese double burger. It has two grilled cheese sandwiches instead of buns and cradles a meat fest (to which you should add bacon) that will blow your mind. And then your aorta. Or, if you're in for a challenge, get a Hell Burger. Don't let the requisite signed waiver fool you, it's not ... um ... that hot.
Oldwest Cafe 1020 Dallas Drive 940-382-8220
Dedicate at least one day to getting up early and putting your name on the list for some Oldwest Cafe breakfast. The good news, you can go back to sleep immediately after you're done because you won't have any other choice. The biscuits and gravy are downright perfect, the pancakes are the size of a tire, and the omelets are fluffy and full of fresh, delicious things. They also have oatmeal, but like, don't be that guy.
Loco Cafe 603 N. Locust St. 940-387-1413
If any place in Denton can go up against the biscuits and gravy at Oldwest, it's Loco Cafe (across the street from Greenhouse). Their breakfast items rival anything in Dallas and their simple, local approach to food makes every item shine. They also boast a huge tea and coffee bar. Get the breakfast tacos or the ham and cheese sandwich. Or both. Get them both. And a biscuit. Oh, the biscuits ....
Keiichi 500 N. Elm St. 940-230-3410
If you have a thick wad of cash laying around that you can part with, there is no better place to let it go than at Keiichi. Chef Kei is a classically trained, unbelievably talented chef from Japan whose specialties include what could possibly be the freshest, most dynamically flavorful sushi in Texas (or the globe). Also up for eats? Deeply authentic, stunningly savory Italian dishes. Wait, what? Trust me, this place will be one of the greatest experiences of your culinary travels. Just go read some of the reviews on the interwebs and try to deny your curiosity for trying world-class fare in a tiny brown building in a creepy parking lot in Denton. You're welcome.
Taco Lady (Behind the Laundromat) 1101 E. McKinney St. 940-380-8188
Yes, that's the official name of this taco mecca down the street from City Hall. You can pay your speeding ticket and electric bill, then get an authentic street taco all on the same block. Taco Lady has fresh and flavor-crazy carne guisada and some seriously hearty breakfast tacos. It's a small, simple place with a handful of chairs and nothing special on the walls, but who needs fancy decor when there are tacos to be inhaled? And inhale them you should, and fast, Taco lady closes at 3 p.m. Cry tears.
Mr. Chopsticks 1633 Scripture 940-382-5437
You know that feeling when you must have tempura anything? Like a tempura shoelace would be acceptable as long as it's hot and crispy? Mr. Chopsticks can help you. They have classic Chinese dishes, a great sushi selection, a ridiculously huge sake menu, incredible appetizers and one of my favorite atmospheres in Denton. Their quasi-new location on Scripture has an elevated patio with a decent view and the servers are super friendly and bring cheap alcohol and bowls of delicious, spicy, shrimpy tom yum goong soup. This stuff ... it cures things.
Beth Marie's Old-Fashioned Ice Cream 117 W. Hickory St. 940-384-1818
The smells. Oh the smells. Saunter in that jingly door and take your place in the inevitably long line and start making your decision. The line moves quick so read fast, there are one billion flavors to choose from. The waffle cones are made in-house, the brownies are huge and fudgy and warm, and the ice cream is better than anything you can get in the frozen food aisle. Unless you're in Central Market, because they carry select Beth Marie's flavors. When you've been running around Denton for three days and find yourself dizzy by Sunday night, soothe your pounding head with a waffle cone stuffed with birthday cake ice cream. It also cures things.
El Guapo's 419 South Elm St. 940-566-5575
All you really need to know about this Denton tradition is they press their own flour tortillas. And these tortillas will change your life. This place is Tex-Mex central, and they do it very, very right. The margs are strong, the fajitas are sizzly and fresh, and the quesadillas are addictive. El Guapo's is always packed, but they have mastered the art of a short wait and the chips and salsa appear before you within seconds. Awesome, party of one.
Sweetwater Grill and Tavern 115 South Elm St. 940-484-2888
Sweetwater has one of the best indoor/outdoor patios in Denton, and they are dog-friendly. Major plus. The menu is basic bar food (the sweet potato fries are unbeatable), but they have a fried bologna sandwich that defies all rules of food. It's greasy and weird and crispy and really kind of tasty. And you can get a bottle of Dom with it if you please. Make Elvis proud and eat here. The kitchen is open late for you drunks and they'll even bring your dog a bowl of water. Aww ...
Denton County Independent Hamburger Co. 113 W. Hickory St. 940-383-1022
It's on the Square, it's next to Beth Marie's, and it serves juicy, juicy burgers topped with a fistful of fresh cheese and other things you can put on a burger (but aren't as important as cheese). The building is old and outdated and nearly everyone inside is wearing overalls, but press on dear friend, there's a beautiful burger waiting for you when you shuffle your hungry feet through the line. Get a bucket of Cherry Coke, a mountain of their golden fries and some friends because you will need help finishing this meal.
Luigis Pizza Italian Restaurant 2317 W. University Drive #C3 940-591-1988
Let's talk about pizza. Let's talk about three brothers who make pizza. Let's talk about how you can find the best pesto pizza in Denton in a strip mall next to a still-open, mildly creepy 1980s Albertson's. Luigi's is cheap and delicious, a combination that is almost impossible to maintain these days. The pesto pizza is huge and green and will require a bib. The rolls are made fresh daily and the servers and owners are some of the nicest people in town. Try the lobster ravioli, the pink sauce will make you a believer.
Love Shack 115 E. Hickory St. 940-442-6834
Chef Tim Love has family in Denton, and therefore has bestowed upon us his unique blend of backyard favorites with a new-American twist. The Dirty Love Burger is everything that is right about burgers and the onion rings are perfect. The only downside, this seems to be the only place new UNT freshmen go to eat, which is a bit taxing, aurally. But enjoyable if you're creepy. Maybe go after their bedtime.
Weinberger's Deli 311 E. Hickory St. #110 940-566-5900
The brains behind Weinberger's have taken deli favorites and elevated them to an entirely new level of sandwichness. The California Club has all the basics but also a honey-sriracha mustard and fresh spring mix on board. The wildly popular Mark Cuban is perhaps the best sandwich in Denton, challenged only by their Italian beef, which you can order Hot'nWet (dirty euphemism for dipped in au jus), and covered in spicy giardiniera. Two, please.
J&J's Pizza 118 W. Oak St. 940-382-7769
There is nothing on J&J's menu that isn't included in every other college town's pizza repertoire. The only difference is: J&J's doesn't suck. The pizza is hot and fresh every single time and the beers are cold and cheap. They offer New York and Chicago style pies, and choosing is difficult because both are damn good. Chances are you'll be there anyway to see a band or two in their basement venue, so grab a slice and some napkins to go with your tunes.
Of course, you can always sit in the grass with a warm Vitamin Water and a bag of Combos. It's Denton, no one will judge you and you'll probably make a new friend. Have fun, Aters.