During Hidden Gems Week, the Observer food and drink writers are celebrating an abundance of diverse, delicious restaurants and bars around Dallas, places that don’t often (or ever) get mentioned by big-name food media, trendsetters, bloggers or chefs. We’re taking you outside of the ordinary to help you discover something new.
Quick Shop, on Coit Road in far North Dallas, is no ordinary convenience store. It’s a South African shop, with an array of snacks, desserts, cured meats and frozen foods from South Africa, Kenya and other Commonwealth nations, including the United Kingdom. Quick Shop’s owners take great pride in their selection: For the African immigrants of North Dallas, this is a lifeline to home.
Here’s what to try when you stop by:
Biltong: A form of jerky common in South Africa, biltong isn’t as chewy or tough as the American kind, and it’s spiced with a subtle blend of sea salt, pepper and coriander. Quick Shop has biltong specially cured for the shop by an expert producer, available pre-sliced or in bulk, and the owners take great pride in the quality. I got a bag of pre-sliced and, as I snacked on it over the next couple of weeks, grew to enjoy the meat more and more.
Chilisticks: Like biltong but spicy and in the form of tiny sticks. They’re drier and chewier, but chew long enough and the meat flips into a supple tenderness and unleashes a flow of chile powder and spices. (Imagine if gum kept tasting better as you chewed.) There’s one more cured meat at Quick Shop, by the way, also made specially for the store to its specifications: Droëwors, a thin stick of meat that more closely resembles the Americanized version of beef jerky and is spiced with coriander seeds.
Groceries: Grab a bag of dried pigeon peas; try seasoning your meal with dried stinging nettle; top a sandwich with crab spread; or choose among Vegemite, Marmite or Beefy Bovrite, a beef-flavored spread you can put on toast. (We sprung for a large jar of gooseberry jam instead but might be cooking some pigeon peas soon.)
Piri-piri sauce: Hugely popular in South Africa and Europe, piri-piri is a peppery hot sauce that’s most commonly used on chicken. Quick Shop has jars of it from rival brands, including a lemon and herb sauce, a mild, tomato-heavy variety and, of course, pure hot sauce.
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Sesame snaps: Faced with a huge variety of snacks and sweets, including candy bars, I went for these petite crackers made from sesame seeds and sugar. (That’s really the whole ingredient list.) They’ve got good crunch and come in tiny three-packs.
An assortment of South African chocolate bars: They’re an uneven lot. Chomp is simply awful, with plasticky, bad chocolate coating plain sugar wafers. Tex, on the other hand, is terrific — like a giant Kit Kat with a layer of chocolate crisp. Cadbury Top Deck is a decent blend of milk and white chocolate, but the bar is not actually in the shape of a top hat, which is immensely disappointing. My favorite of the bunch: Nestle Milo, which is basically an enormous Nestle Crunch bar with malt and slightly smoother chocolate.
McVities chocolate-covered digestive biscuits: OK, I got one other sweet treat. During the summer I lived in London, working on a graduate thesis, these “digestives” — they’re really just crackers with chocolate icing — accounted for probably half my calories. There was a week when I ate a package a day, slinking down each evening to the corner store to buy just one more package, which I told myself would be the last one. Now, in 2017, my package of cookies lasted an entire four days. It’s a good thing Quick Shop is all the way up in North Dallas.
Quick Shop, 17509 Coit Road, No. 6. 214-431-8841. Open 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.