We're all guilty of occasionally getting blinded by the relentless shininess of Dallas' hospitality scene -- by the craft beers, the farm-to-table restaurants, the chefs building their latest pantheon to the gourmet grilled cheese. Overexposure to these things sometimes makes me forget that I live in Texas, the southern Midwest, salt of the earth, home to people who aren't afraid to work with their hands. I'm stuck in a stuffy bubble filled with high-gloss nail polish and hair-product fumes, and sometimes it's nice to escape.
Tucked among bail bondsman and antique wholesalers downtown, just down the street from the DA's office and the Lew Sterrett Jail, Riverside Grill is a nice antidote to the shininess. There's a plain looking sign on the plain looking building, which houses a plain-looking dining room. If you're looking for atmosphere, go somewhere else.
This is the textbook definition of no frills: vinyl booths and chairs paired with laminate tables, pale yellow walls, and few decorations, all of which look as if they were put there begrudgingly. It's a small operation, two waitresses and two cooks manning the grill; they don't have a lot of time to explain the specials or tell you what farm their eggs come from, nor much interest.
They actually don't even have time to show you to a table. Just find a seat and figure out what you're eating. I tried to play it cool, slithering into a booth, convinced the regulars would immediately identify me as a yuppie interloper and try to eradicate me.
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She returned with my coffee and slapped down a one-paged, double-sided menu tucked into plastic page protectors. The breakfast menu is small, half a page, nothing special, just a straight forward breakfast selection: eggs, sausage, bacon or ham, grits or hash browns, toast or biscuits. The waitress returned quickly and procured my order in less than 10 words. And in less than 10 minutes, my food came, along with the check: chicken fried steak with gravy, over easy eggs, hash browns and a biscuit.
The breading on the steak was crisp, the yolks were perfectly runny, and the hash browns had a nice crust on them. The biscuit was a little flat, but it was flakey and buttery; gravy was nothing to write home about.
It's a working man's breakfast, heavy, all major food groups accounted for, providing enough sustenance to last until lunch. No hollandaise or hibiscus tea; the regulars wouldn't allow it. And it's not one of those ironically cool places either; there aren't any hipsters, and no foodies. The food isn't spectacular, but it's good (enough to clean my plate), and it serves a purpose (fuel).
None of which is to say that you should feel guilty for appreciating the finer foods in life. You shouldn't; you've earned it. And don't eat here because you think you're doing the working class a favor; you're not. But it is easy to get swept up in the whimsical bullshit chefs put out these days, and it's nice to occasionally have an opportunity to put our feet back on the ground.