First Look

First Look: Red Stix Asian Street Food Seduces the SMU Crowd

The dining room at Red Stix Asian Street Food
The dining room at Red Stix Asian Street Food Brian Reinhart
When Red Stix Asian Street Food departed the ranks of Plano’s troubled Legacy Hall food hall concept last March, chef-owner Uno Immanivong already had a second act lined up for her fast-casual concept. And the new location, just across the street from Southern Methodist University, is an inspired pairing of neighborhood with restaurant.

Put simply, the reborn Red Stix is a college town eatery. It’s got casual, customizable food, legit southeast Asian cooking credentials and an affordable price point. SMU students should fall in love.

I swung by on a recent night for a casual first look at the two-month-old restaurant. We strolled past the walk-up window on the restaurant’s front — not open at the time, but a cool idea — and ordered at the counter instead.

Red Stix’s agreeably eclectic menu is based around skewers of binchotan-grilled proteins, like Thai chicken satay, fried tofu and Chinese barbecued pork. Order them by themselves, have the cooks slide a skewer into the center of a banh mi or get an order of pad Thai topped with one of the “stix.”

Alongside the portions centered around grilled skewers are a handful of appetizers and sides and a specialty main course that’s already becoming a word-of-mouth hit: the “damn damn” noodles, an ultra-spicy riff on Chinese dan dan noodles.

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A banh mi sandwich with show-stealing side order of togarashi waffle fries.
Brian Reinhart
Our chicken satay banh mi was well-assembled ($7.45); I especially enjoyed the clutch of pickled veggies deep in the heart of the sandwich, right alongside a few slices of jalapeño. The filling helps distract from the bread itself, which collapses down to a crusty shell pretty quickly, and which on my visit was cut wonkily, causing some of the chicken to fall out.

Those “damn damn” noodles, though — they aren’t joking around. This is not spicy-for-people-who-can’t-handle-spicy food. This dish brings straight up for-real heat. Ground chicken, scallions, peanuts and a single baby bok choy cut in half are the only distractions from this eater-vs.-food battle with hot pepper and ramen noodles ($8.95).

There’s a sweet glaze hidden in the background of the noodles that makes them survivable, but twisting more noodles around your chopsticks will only bolster the long-term pain.

Every college group has a daredevil. This is what that daredevil should be ordering.

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The "damn damn" noodles may not look ferocious, but take a few bites and get back to us.
Brian Reinhart
And speaking of college groups, Red Stix has a secret weapon to prepare it for battle against one of SMU’s favorite restaurants, a certain chicken-slinging fast food spot across the street. Buried deep in Immanivong’s list of side dishes is a killer order of waffle fries ($2.45).

The waffle fries are dusted in togarashi — the Japanese seasoning mix with sesame seeds and chile pepper flakes — and served alongside a cup of sweet-spicy Sriracha ketchup. It’s a no-brainer. Order it.

It’s early, but Red Stix feels like an agreeable addition to the SMU neighborhood. There’s a great casual vibe to the dining room, which has big pictures of food on the walls, a handful of beers on tap and, during my visit, a TV showing Keanu Reeves action movies. The staff are friendly and full of recommendations.

Maybe most importantly for a college-neighborhood restaurant, the menu is affordable and easy for a large group to navigate. This is a place where you can bring a vegetarian friend, an unadventurous kid who just wants grilled meat and waffle fries or a spice fiend who thinks they can tackle the “damn damn” noodles.

To find its natural home, Red Stix had to venture forth from the food hall. SMU’s hungry students are fortunate that it did.

Red Stix Asian Street Food, 6501 Hillcrest Ave., University Park.
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Brian Reinhart has been the Dallas Observer's food critic since spring 2016. In addition, he writes baseball analysis for the Hardball Times and covers classical music for the Observer and MusicWeb International.
Contact: Brian Reinhart