Our annual Best of Dallas® issue is online and on the streets this week. To celebrate, we've been counting down the 50 most interesting restaurants in Dallas. These spots bring something unique or compelling to the city's dining scene, feeding both your appetite and soul.
It was almost hard to believe I was eating in Dallas when a plate of preserved tuna belly was placed on the bar top in front of me. The meat glistened with oil, and caper berries and chives gave some color that was echoed in a puddle of fruity olive oil. Black peppercorns were strewn about, waiting to explode like gunpowder. It was a beautifully plated, $24 can of tuna fish, served at a bar that also serves Old Speckled Hen — not in London or Spain but in Dallas.
Welcome to Eight Bells, one of many new local bars that decided to put as much thought into their food as their bar menu. The results have been fascinating. Meri Dahlke and her crew decided that Dallas was ready for something new. It was a gamble. Canned fish and shellfish are featured almost exclusively, with a few sandwiches on the back to placate the squeamish.
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"Bleh!" A woman just one stool down from me coughed when I placed my order. "Sardines!" she parroted before retching again. She reminded me of myself when I was 4 years old. I had a distinct visual flash of my mother and her friends eating sardines right out of the can on Triscuits. Dank oil dripped from the tines of their forks, and I was all in. At least until I saw a little white spine protruding from the canned carnage. Bleh!
Anyway, that was more than 30 years ago and this is me a few nights ago, staring down at a plate of tuna that was almost quiveringly tender. It's belly meat — canned toro — and it was decadent. I loved it. I maybe even loved it for $24, but I'm still thinking about that one. Something tells me the market on obscure, canned fish from Spain is pretty tight. Wait till you see the cockles on the menu for $40. Your wallet will say bleh.
Either way I hope this works out. You can count the number of bars and restaurants in this city willing to take risks like this one on your fingers with some room to spare.
Eight Bells Alehouse, 831 S. Exposition Ave. eightbellsalehouse.com