Welcome to "You Like This," in which we ask chefs two questions: 1) What's the best-selling dish at your restaurant? and 2) What's your favorite dish at your restaurant? We hope the answer to the first question will open your eyes to the fan favorites and the Dallas palate, and that perhaps the answer to that second question will inspire you to go out on a kickass food limb once in a while. This week's You Like This features chef Nathan Tate and Rapscallion.
Hey, chef! What's the best-selling dish at Rapscallion?
Our fried chicken and mac and cheese. Surprise surprise...
When I decided to do fried chicken, I knew it would probably be our best seller. But, I thought if we could make it a little unique — but still have all the characteristics of a good classic fried chicken — then it could satisfy both the foodie crowd and the normal, everyday diner. I think the fact that we get a nice smokiness with our rotisserie and then toss it in an unexpected Szechuan mala sauce really makes it an interesting dish.
The mac and cheese is really just a throwback to my grandmother's baked mac and cheese. I elevated the ingredients a little bit: We make our own creole cream cheese and use buttermilk instead of whole milk, for a tangy flavor. I think these things sell the best because people can make a mental connection to versions they have had in the past. At the end of the day, it's comfort food.
What's your favorite dish at Rapscallion right now?
I've been geeking out on Mexican food lately. Surprisingly, our version of vuelve a la vida, a bright, acidic Mexican seafood cocktail, and our smoked pork pozole are slow-movers. I think that maybe because a lot of Texans have such an affinity for Tex-Mex sometimes more traditional Mexican food is really unknown to them.
I think I just took it for granted that people should know what these dishes are. Sometimes chefs can have blinders on, and just because a dish is something they have enjoyed, or think is cool, a little education might be necessary for their guests. The trick is to get that across without being condescending or pretentious. I want our guests to leave happy, so as a chef it's really important to find a balance between cooking for myself and the guests. I try to never forget that the guests pay the bills and the salaries and are the people who make it possible for me to have a fun and creative job.
If you've never been to Rapscallion, you must have no friends, so I'll take you there. And we'll get the cornbread, which Nathan Tate didn't even talk about and is crazy amazing. Did someone say "duck confit?" Because yes, yes they did. Put it in your face. Go out there and eat all the amazing food Dallas is serving up right now, folks. Your Dallas chefs are talented, and they're offering you the chance to order something other than — or in addition to! — steak and potatoes (I like me some steak and potatoes, too). The next time you go out for dinner, try something new. I promise: You like this.