Good to go is a column where our food writers explore Dallas' restaurant scene through takeout orders, delivery boxes and reheated leftovers.
If you live in East Dallas, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about the Cardi B sandwich — or maybe you’ve been lucky enough to scroll through your Instagram feed then swipe back up to look at the photo of a giant fried chicken sandwich on your screen.
It’s a top-seller from Invasion, which opened an incredibly long time ago, or was it a few months? Anyone else losing their grasp of time? It was April when it opened, and contributor Alex Gonzalez wrote a first look earlier this summer.
So, yes, a while back, during the pandemic, chef and owner Airric Heidelberg opened this tiny restaurant, giving this part of Old East Dallas a menu many of us can get behind. But it took some time for the restaurant to get there.
“We were supposed to open the 17th [of March] and [the city] shut down the 16th,” Heidelberg says. “We decided to give to the community and give to the homeless” with the extra food they had then.
Invasion got some press for the good deed, which provided some momentum in a time when that wasn’t easy to achieve.
“That trust that you usually build up with an establishment wasn’t there,” he says. “We started hiring a staff and most of the PPP loans and the stuff the government was giving to the businesses, we weren’t able to get because we didn’t have a history.
“All the restaurants that I know that opened up during this time, there was no help, it was just all uphill to make it through. So even though in the beginning we were struggling and losing money each week, we were giving 200 to 300 meals to the homeless.”
Invasion made it through the first few months, getting word out from the good deeds and also getting a bump when there was a stronger push to support Black-owned businesses.
“We are doing better. It’s almost like a roller coaster: You get momentum and you’re just trying to sustain a certain number,” Heidelberg says.
As for how you can help with that number, getting a meal here isn’t just a good deed, it’s also solid food.
Friends of mine really are crazy about the Cardi B (insert whichever sound of hers you prefer here). Buttermilk fried chicken joins spicy mayonnaise, pickled coleslaw with jalapeño on a buttery toasted bun ($10.99). The bomb Brussels sprouts are excellent, too, roasted well with house-made “bomb” sauce ($7.99).
“That chicken sandwich, I knew was going to be the No. 1 seller, even though were trying to do healthier food,” Heidelberg says.
Less obvious on the menu is a dish that travels well: the Iron Fist ($7.99). It’s a bowl of fried rice with cabbage, carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, green onions and more of that bomb sauce. That sauce is perfectly suited for vegetables and makes this bowl addicting. The meal itself traveled well in a 15-minute car-ride home, and saving half of it for the following day’s lunch worked, too. (I throw it in a small glass dish with a bit of water, cover with foil and bake at 350 in the toaster oven for 15 minutes. It’s my usual process for reheating fried rice, and I endorse it.)
I made a visit for this bowl before speaking with Heidelberg — at that time, he was surprised I was only getting a bowl of rice and vegetables. First, I eat rice nearly every day. Second, I desperately need more vegetables in my diet — I spared him these reasons and insisted I’d get a sandwich later. More sandwich specials are to come, he said.
Those specials have arrived, along with a bigger menu. Plus, Heidelberg is having a patio built this week — a welcome adjustment since the dining room is rather cozy, space-wise. Invasion is just one restaurant in Dallas making outdoor dining accessible for customers.
We’re also a fan of Heidelberg's using halal beef on his menu for better quality and softer texture. It’s usually more expensive for a restaurant.
Whatever you get, this is a good addition to the East Dallas neighborhood, and the food travels well, too.
Invasion, 4029 Crutcher St. (Old East Dallas). Open 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 3 p.m. Saturday.
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