Welcome to Good to Go is a column where our food writers explore Dallas’ restaurant scene through takeout orders, delivery boxes and reheated leftovers.
Janice Provost takes a deep breath. You can hear the weight of the past few days on her shoulders. It’s been an anxious few nights. She’s been restlessly conjuring up board specials for this new reality at 3 in the morning. (“Will Parigi do brunch? Pancakes travel well, but eggs Benedict might wilt like the sunflower in E.T.”) She asks me to hang on — there’s a honeybee in her house she needs to let out.
“A week ago we had no idea we’d be standing where we are now,” she says.
Provost took a job in the Parigi kitchen over two decades ago while she was attending El Centro, and she bought the joint around 19 years ago.
“This is like having a tsunami in a land-locked state. It’s not a storm we’ve weathered," she says.
The day before, she thought about college. Meal prepping reminded her of scavenging the freezer for iced-over trays of cellophane-zipped prefab meals. Provost has been putting together orders with questions in her mind: “What freezes well? What should be eaten immediately?” Manicotti works great. Right now, they’re taking call-in orders and running food to your car out of the Parigi back door.
So, the cheeseburger has been on the menu for 18 years — now it’s on the chalkboard outside because you can’t dine indoors. In a paper bag marked with “Xoxo!” (I have to admit, it warmed my heart in these challenging times), this sensational burger, draped by fontina cheese, gets passed through the window. Hot and salty french fries, dark gold through and through from a good blanch and deep fry, sit in the cardboard container.
A drive-in meal with singular flavors — farm skies and rich beef and good salt — from one of Dallas’ oldest restaurants. Luckily, the fries are easy to fish out of the bag with one hand on the wheel.
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The toppings change daily: One day it might be funky Cotswold cheese; another is fontina, avocado, mayo, lettuce, tomato and onion. Either way it’s sparkling with juices — the patty is a blend of 80% beef and 20% fat from the local Crystal Creek Farm. The flavor is clean beef, big as a cloudless sky. The burger travels great — the buttery Empire Baking Company bun and fries are still hot when I land back home.
Provost has had some practice at this kind of meal prep. Catering got Provost started in the industry more than 23 years ago — it was always her drive to cook — before taking over Oak Lawn’s Italian-meets-melting-pot menu. Talking french fries, she recalls a scar that’s still visible on her thumb from peeling potatoes as a kid.
“My No. 1 goal is to keep my employees with jobs,” Provost says. She takes a second with that. “We’re very, very fortunate the community has been supportive. ... Everyone has to eat.”
Parigi, 3311 Oak Lawn Ave. (Oak Lawn). 214-521-0295. Currently Parigi is taking phone-ahead orders and bringing food to your car. Call ahead, drive-up and let them know you’re there. Use their back door off Hall or Rawlins streets.