Challenging Culinary Icons and Jonathon's Oak Cliff, The Subject Of This Week's Review

My first few weeks here felt somewhat rudderless. I had a handful of recommendations from folks back home, some ideas from commenters on this blog, and some hints from folks in the office. Lots of these recommendations have turned into memorable meals (Bryan Street comes to mind). Others made me wonder if my advisers were on the take. Gas station tacos at Fuel City were memorable but not the best I've found. I loved the bar at Angry Dog but wasn't wowed by the burger. And I wasn't as smitten as others with the fried chicken plate I ordered at Bread Winners.

But in a round about way, that last experience, at that go-to breakfast spot, led me to an Oak Cliff restaurant that I thoroughly enjoyed -- and that I review in this week's issue.

The local chain that led me to Jonathon's Oak Cliff made me wonder why we make the recommendations we do to newcomers. How do these "icons" become our stock answers when someone ask for Dallas' best something-or-other? History surely plays a part. Any restaurant that makes it longer than 30 years is bound to capture the hearts of locals, if only for the stories the establishment inspires. Marketing, advertising and PR firms keep popular places in the news and at the top of our lists. But how many of these places would really retain our affections if evaluated only on the plates they served?

I know better than to unleash on what I think may be Dallas' most over-hyped spots. I'm still adjusting my palate to Texas culture and the attributes locals value in their craved cuisines. It's healthy, though, to look carefully at what we're eating on occasion, both through the lens of the local fan (places with history stick around for a reason) and with in inquisitive eye focused on young upstarts that will shape the local food culture of tomorrow.

The constant churn of openings and closings is what keeps a dining culture exciting. Failures and partial successes lead to more new ideas, pollinated by national food trends as they're interpreted by locals. When it works, we celebrate a new gem. When it doesn't, we inevitably miss our old favorites.

You can read more about Jonathon's in this week's paper or on the restaurant page, and when you're done you should pay the place a visit. I like the simple menu and solid cooking. And the massive patio is perfect for a leisurely outdoor breakfast with the paper -- as soon as the weather cooperates.

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