Eating until one’s gastrointestinal comfort becomes compromised should not be used as an indicator of the quality of the meal. And yet, as I pushed back from the table at Sugar Skull Cafe, I did so with the knowledge that I had eaten beyond the point of satiation and to the Scooby Doo ruh roh level of glutton-induced unease because the meal was just that tasty.
Sugar Skull Cafe, located in the keys in a bowl, no last names restaurant orgy that is Trinity Groves, opened in late April. In the beginning, Sugar Skull focused on the first two meals of the day but has since added dinner hours. But we don’t care about dinner. No, Precious, we care about brunch. Starchy, crispy, cheesy brunch.
The brunch/breakfast menu is divided by food that is handheld (tacos) and food that requires a fork, if only to shovel steak and beans onto a tortilla. Tacos range in price from $3.50 to $4.50 each and feature ingredients beyond the hum-drum egg and chorizo tacos of monotonous mornings past. (They do have chorizo tacos, but they are hip chorizo tacos, as evidenced by the cascabel honey and green onion accouterments. And the fact that they have tattoos.) The vegan taco, for instance, is composed of Mexican squash, spinach, beans and corn pico. On the opposite end of the taco spectrum, or spectacom, lies the el cochino. Here, the tortilla cradles bacon, chicharron, charred tomato and cheese. If the preceding descriptions don’t make you seethe with resentment at the disingenuous hucksters slinging watery tortillas wrapped around reheated, imitation egg-ooze fraudulently sold as "breakfast tacos” out of fast food windows nationwide, then you, my friend, have never known the joy of real chicharron at 7 a.m.
The dishes that require a fork, while meager in number, are mighty in serving size. Diners can choose from either chilaquiles ($6.50), migas ($6.50) or el jefe ($7.50.) The latter comes with chorizo whereas chicken or beef can be added to either the chilaquiles or the migas for less than $2. Even with the meat-is-murder protein option, your brunch won’t exceed $8.
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My date/the only person I know who is willing to hold up a plate of food for five minutes while I try in vain to channel Annie Leibovitz, ordered the steak migas. Sugar Skull makes migas with tiny pockets of fried masa. These little squares of carcinogenic heaven are substantial enough to retain their crispy exteriors under the bright, tomato salsa that surrounds them. The migas arrive accompanied by frijoles, tortillas and two fried eggs. Puncture the yolks over the migas, tear off a piece of tortilla and scoop up the spoils.
The el jefe was my undoing. The bones of the dish consist of cubes of potato which are deep fried before being tossed in smoky, charred tomato salsa that smacks of cumin. The potatoes are then topped with a drizzle of crema, Mexican melting cheese and a handful of cilantro. It was everything I wanted it to be, with those crispy on the outside, earthy and soft on the inside potatoes and that big, bold salsa. But it was also so rich that I was barely halfway in before I had to start telling my inner voice to shut the hell up. No one tells me I'm too full to eat when there's still taters to be had. No one.
Anyway. Existential, carbohydrate-based crises aside, it was a nice breakfast with a nice view. And while Sugar Skull has a great patio, I do wish someone would come get me out of this chair. It's been five days now.
Sugar Skull Cafe
3011 Gulden Lane #102, Dallas
Breakfast is served Monday-Friday until 11 a.m. and on Saturday and Sunday until 1 p.m.