Just about three years ago, the damn near legendary Dallas Morning News food critic Dotty Griffith decided to hang up the notepad and head down to Austin.
Now, the UT grad and unrepentant Texan (who once said "barbecue is the most American of foods; to hell with apple pie") spent plenty of time in and around the Hill Country. Yet the transition can be difficult, especially after decades in Big D. According to oft-repeated stereotypes, Dallas is pretentious, Austin laid back; we support 500 seat steakhouses, they lounge in coffee shops; our city has...um, had...Deep Ellum, the capital centers around 6th street--on and on. Hell, even their football team can whip ours.
For one immersed in the refined world of prime beef and foie gras, however, the differences are very real indeed. So Dotty presents the top 10 things she misses about Dallas:
1. Un-congested traffic and free flowing freeways. Really! Driving in Austin is the worst.
2. Bicycle riders who don't think they have the right of way, every way, every time. In Austin, bike riders proceed as if they're driving Sherman tanks.
3. Streets without a taco stand or a tattoo parlor. Not so in Austin: chorizo and bleeding hearts are available on almost every block in the center.
4. Some of my favorite neighborhood food haunts in East Dallas: Vietnam Restaurant, the Medallion Liquor Store on Live Oak at Skillman (where Ed Griffith--same name as my late dad--works), Alligator Cafe.
5. Service. In Austin, most restaurant workers see the job as a way to survive while working on graduate degrees or between music gigs. In Dallas, service is a career for many people--and there are a great many successful and savvy waiters, bartenders and front-of-the-house managers. Thank you, Dallas, for your professionalism.
6. Steakhouses. Yes, there are (or were) so many in Dallas you take them for granted. Here, in veganland, prime beef is a rare treat.
7. Fried chicken shacks. Austin is all about taco trailers.
8. Free valet parking and the option to self-park. Think Dallas has it bad? In overcrowded downtown Austin, parking runs $7--plus tip. And only the valets know where the spaces are.
9. Really good by-the-glass lists and decent (not just cheap) house wines.
10. Many good friends. You know who you are. Come see me. Austin is a great town. Really!
--City of Ate staff (and Dotty Griffith)