There was a time in the not-too-distant past when you couldn't throw a homemade biscuit without hitting a new restaurant Dallas with a Southern-themed menu. However, this year has seen several of Dallas' bigger purveyors in Southern fare close up shop. Julia Pearl abruptly closed in the spring, and Matt McCallister pulled the plug on Filament in Deep Ellum last month. Last week, Sissy's Southern Kitchen temporarily closed its doors because of a variety of issues, some of which may make the closure permanent.
But before we prematurely stick the proverbial fork in the Southern food trend, a new kid in town has arrived in one of the area's hottest spots for restaurant openings. Tupelo Honey is a North Carolina-based mini-chain that promises unique takes on Southern cuisine and a healthy dose of "Appalachian charm" in its largest effort yet, a massive restaurant at The Star in Frisco.
With 10,000 square feet indoors and another 2,000 square feet on the patio, Tupelo Honey is indeed a big establishment. Curiously, it doesn't feel that large; the interior space is divided into several rooms that give off a much cozier vibe. The decor will feel familiar to anyone who has watched HGTV's Fixer Upper, with lots of wood floors, high ceilings and light-colored walls. The sprawling patio features a bar and wraps around two sides of the building.
Speaking of bars, Tupelo Honey puts a lot of focus on its libations; housemade syrups and mixers are the name of the game. Several creations are "on draft" and will set you back just $5 during happy hour, including the 99% Texas Vodka Tonic (Tito's, cactus liqueur, prickly pear bitters and house-made tonic) and the pumpkin-spiced Kentucky mule (Chicken Cock bourbon and soda with a house-made pumpkin spice syrup). Beer drinkers can choose from nearly 30 drafts, including several local options. There are several group cocktails to choose from as well, including a Flaming Scorpion (three kinds of rum, mint leaves, orange, lemon, pineapple and pomegranate juices, all set ablaze with an Everclear-soaked sugar cube) that will make you the most popular table in the restaurant.
When it's time for food, Tupelo Honey delivers on the Southern classics but suffers some of the same complaints we have when it comes to "elevated" Southern fare. Namely, some of the dishes are quite expensive. We were huge fans of the Cathead Biscuits with a homemade blueberry jam and whipped butter mix. We're not sure about using your pet's head as a size descriptor, and we're less sure about paying $8 for two of them. (They're also available as an order of four for $10.)
It's the same story with Tupelo Honey's signature honey-dusted fried chicken. The chicken is expertly fried, with a lightly sweet and thin batter that encapsulates the moist bird. But a half chicken (with two sides) is $24, although with that much chicken plated up, two people could easily share the dish. We spied several other pricey dishes on the menu, including an $18 cauliflower steak and a $22 bowl of shrimp and grits that would have your Southern-raised grandma clutching her pearls when the check came.
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There are more reasonable options on the menu. The blackberry habanero tacos ($4) were a hit, with the roasted peanuts giving an unexpected crunch and salty balance to the sweetly sauced pork. And the fried green tomatoes ($11) are textbook examples of the Southern favorite. Tupelo Honey also sports several steak and seafood dishes that seem more reasonably priced, such as a whole fried redfish ($28) served with a flavorful remoulade. On the weekends, Tupelo Honey opens early for brunch, with a separate menu of egg and griddle dishes, as well as a wide range of mimosas, bloody marys and Champagnes to chose from.
Tupelo Honey is the latest restaurant to open in Jerry Jones' sprawling The Star development, which already sports multiple dining options. It has successfully peddled its take on Southern cuisine for years with locations in Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas, but this is Tupelo Honey's first foray into Texas. With this addition, it seems that the Southern food boom is far from over in Dallas.
Tupelo Honey, 6725 Winning Dr., Frisco