I'm just back from lunch at S. & D. Oyster Company, which easily made the cut for my "last five meals in Dallas" list.
The list isn't just a theoretical exercise: I pull out of town Friday morning, so I gave some serious thought to where I'd eat out this week (unfortunately, eating out isn't completely compatible with preparing to move, so I've also recently dined on microwaved soup while packing towels into boxes.) And I think I chose wisely.
But before I share my picks with you, a brief overview of the game's rules: This isn't a list of the area's best restaurants, nor does it include all of my favorite local spots. I was most interested in eating experiences I'll have trouble replicating elsewhere, so I skipped a return visit to Yutaka Sushi Bistro. And since a cross-country move isn't cheap, I opted not to chase down a final rib-eye or go the omakase route at Tei An.
Here's where I ate. I'd love to hear where you'd go.
Saturday: Babe's Chicken Dinner House
I was wary of Babe's when I first moved here; I reckoned any restaurant with so many locations couldn't possibly fry up impeccable fried chicken. But Dallas has taught me to appreciate chain restaurants, and no multi-unit store has impressed me more than Babe's. The chicken-fried steak's fine, but the chicken -- its juicy meat encased in a salty coat of brittle fry -- is phenomenal. I'm equally fond of the creamed corn, mashed potatoes and white gravy, all of which usually end up pooled in a magnificent heap of comfort.
Sunday: First Chinese BBQ
This one's a gimme: I've been eating Chinese on Sunday nights for decades, and tend to stick to my routine no matter where I might be moving that week. I briefly considered stopping by Royal China for its superb scallion pancakes and jalapeño edamame pork, but couldn't resist First Chinese BBQ's barbecue pork fried rice; combination soft noodles and marinated duck feet -- rich, smoky and so wonderfully chewy that I never have to share.
Tuesday: Maple & Motor
I sharpened my steak knife when I took a job in Dallas, assuming I'd be bellying up to beef on a fairly regular basis. While I never found a steakhouse here to rival my favorite red meat joints in Vegas, I was astounded by the burger quality. But no burger's better than the patty served at Maple & Motor, a perfectly seared hunk of ground brisket and chuck. The burger has the salty crust and full-on beefiness every burger strives to deliver. I take mine with mayonnaise, raw jalapeños and sautéed onions. As the counter woman said when I placed my final order: "Yum."
Wednesday: S. & D. Oyster Company
I reviewed S. & D. back at the start of oyster season, along with Half Shells Oyster Bar & Grill, which serves cold-pasteurized oysters. Half Shells' owner called me out publicly for criticizing his oysters and challenged me to a blind taste test. I accepted the challenge, but never heard back from him. I wasn't surprised. Anyone who's spent time around mollusks knows a treated oyster can't hope to rival a fresh, robust gulf oyster, brimming with oceanic flavors. S. & D. serves those very oysters raw, with house-made cocktail sauce, and fried aboard soft French bread. I always order mine both ways.
I agonized over where to eat my last Tex-Mex meal, and settled on a restaurant which is actually Salva-Tex. Or, according to Texas Monthly, Mex-Mex. Mind if I muddle the issue further and propose another classification? To me, the 25-year-old Gloria's is Dal-Mex. The restaurant has the requisite swank and shimmer, and the menu includes the beautifully grilled steaks Dallasites prize, as well as the high-quality fish and seafood that's a perk of living in the DFW foodshed. I'm not sure I've patronized any other Dallas restaurant more frequently.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.