There’s something comforting about fried mozzarella cheese. Served as an appetizer or standalone dish, it's a staple of Americana and our penchant for fried food. Aside from the delectable gooey interior and crispy, golden-brown coating, fried mozzarella sticks — the good ones at least — also carry a sense of nostalgia.
When I was growing up, the local Italian restaurant in my neighborhood served massive, hand-breaded fried mozzarella sticks. I still remember them fondly. Sadly, that attention to detail and quality is hard to find in Dallas these days. So much of the city’s cheese sticks come frozen in a bag before hitting the fryer, but at least one local spot is crafting fried cheese with care.
The Rabbit Hole Bar and Grill on Ross Avenue is in a humble stand-alone space that once housed Eastbound and Down Icehouse. The kitchen here is turning out fried mozzarella the way it should be — from scratch.
The Rabbit Hole’s approach to the American classic stands out. Almost everywhere it’s found on a menu, the dish diners receive has a disturbing uniformity to it. It’s the sad result of the homogenization of food through wholesale corporate suppliers. Even the neighborhood Italian spot of my youth now marches in lockstep, serving Sysco-fied fried cheese.
At Rabbit Hole you’ll receive three monstrous panko-crusted sticks, fried to a perfect golden brown and dusted with Parmesan cheese. Inside, the cheese fills every crevice; no bites of just hollow breading. Split a whole stick in half and the cheese-pull is food porn primed for social media.
Each serving comes with a side of marinara and ranch. Bring a friend along to share with; one and a half sticks are more than enough for one person. At $8, it won’t set you back much. Try the habanero cheese sticks for a dollar more.
Rabbit Hole is making cheese sticks better than they have any business doing. Stumbling across it was such a gratifying moment. If you’re heading into or out of downtown Dallas by way of Old East Dallas, popping in for fried mozzarella is well worth the stop.
The Rabbit Hole Bar and Grill, 3826 Ross Ave. (Old East Dallas). Open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday - Sunday.