When he's not gently placing foraged herbs on one side of a plate at FT33, Matt McCallister has to rest his tweezing hands and take a break from cooking some of the city's best food. You won't find him eating any trendy dishes drizzled with truffle oil or pulling into any of the area's many Jack In The Box drive-thrus, but even a chef like McCallister has to eat somewhere outside of his own kitchen.
When McCallister wants good old fashioned comfort food, he heads to Houston's. The Highland Park location has since turned into a Hillstone, but you can still find an original Houston's at Belt Line and the Tollway in North Dallas. "I've eaten at Houston's since I was 13 years old, and I literally eat the same thing every time -- a french dip sandwich and fries."
At Nonna, Chef Julian Barsotti's regional Italian restaurant in Highland Park, Chef Matt recently had one of the best meals he's ever had in Dallas. A fritto misto, basically just breaded and fried vegetables, stayed on McCallister's mind for a few days after the meal. "I texted [Chef Julian] two days afterward to ask him exactly how he did that. I've had very few meals anywhere that have stuck with me like that for multiple days afterward."
McCallister is also part of the growing list of chefs who rave about Tei An, Chef Teiichi Sakurai's soba house in the Dallas Arts District. For McCallister, dining at Tei An is almost a matter of convenience -- FT33 is closed on Mondays, but Tei An is open. At least once a month, you'll find McCallister at Tei An, unwinding from his hectic schedule of traveling, cooking, and hosting chef dinners.
Even though he's earned a reputation as a picky eater, no chef can eat exclusively at fine dining restaurants. Everyone craves a greasy burger from time to time, and McCalister is no exception. He raved about Maple & Motor's cheeseburger to Travel & Leisure in a recent interview, but McCallister is also a fan of the burger at Off-Site Kitchen, which is just down the street from his own restaurant in the Design District. He does make it a point, though, to stop by Maple & Motor owner Jack Perkins' barbecue restaurant The Slow Bone from time to time, because he "loves what those guys are doing."