There are a lot — and we do mean a lot — of "best ____ restaurant" lists in the county, ranking everything from breakfast to burgers and anything in between. Hell, we even do a few of them ourselves every year. But one of the biggest such lists in the restaurant industry is Esquire's best new restaurants list, and this year, a tiny, BYOB Old East Dallas restaurant made No. 13 out of 20: chef Misti Norris' Petra & the Beast. Esquire Food Editor Jeff Gordinier wrote glowing praise about Petra:
"In a 1930s gas station that looks like dusty scenery from The Grapes of Wrath, in a room decorated with anime and skulls, to a soundtrack of Rage Against the Machine, chef Misti Norris is conjuring funk. A motto at the restaurant is 'farm, forage, fermentation, and fire,' but it is definitely funk that those other four f’s result in — dishes (served in the sort of paper boats that I associate with chili-cheese fries) that seem to writhe with flavor. Consider her fried chicken hearts wrapped in a pale-green garlic crepe, or her pigtails with sour purple cabbage. Her background is Cajun, but that doesn’t really help you locate her inspiration. As far as I can tell, her cooking appears to be Narnian."
“The idea was always to have this be very small,” Norris told the Observer in an August interview. “Very small, very small staff, very focused food. I want it to be a place where people are OK hanging out. You’re not rushed, I’m not trying to turn your table, you can wait around and try some more food.”
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In the few months she's been open, Norris has achieved that and more, solidifying her spot on the vanguard of Dallas dining. She's also decided to make Petra & the Beast, originally meant to be a pop-up, into something more permanent. She told GuideLive that she's throwing her original plans for a temporary restaurant out the window and working on either buying the building or signing a longer lease.
Despite running the only new restaurant in Dallas to get a nod by Esquire this year, Norris continues to be the polar opposite of the braggadocious, loud-mouthed chef archetype. Asked how she felt about her spot on the list, she had only one thing to say: "Umm, pretty crazy."
Petra & the Beast, 601 N. Haskell Ave. (Old East Dallas)