Offbeat Eats: Consuming Hidden Dallas
A metropolitan region can be judged as much for its dining experiences as by any other metric – air quality, availability of mass transit and its biking/jogging trail network. Dallas shines by this measure: from Chinese dumplings, to schnitzels to baba ghanoush, dining options well reflect the region’s diverse population of 7.2 million people. But where to start? The “Say Yes” crew met that question with steely determination, producing this list of best off-the-beaten-path drinking-and-eating experiences. The disclaimer for this list is the same as our others: Regional favorites like Spiral Diner and Pecan Lodge are gems, but they are far from hidden. And this list doesn’t concentrate on bars in the region (we’re still working on that one *hic*). In case of food-quality toss-ups, the immersive nature of the establishment would be the tie-breaker. Because a dining experience should be just that. Thus, the Dallas Region’s top hidden dining and potable gems are, not necessarily in this order:
Address: 3908 Cedar Springs Rd, Dallas, TX 75219
One of Dallas’ coziest restaurants can be found off Cedar Springs (to put it in perspective: a 30 second walk from Cedar Spring’s famous Out of the Closet) in the Oak Lawn neighborhood. You know you’re in ORNO when you see their impressive wine collection along the wall and fire in the kitchen’s oven (and also on the bar’s TV). Some menu musts: the Grilled Caesar Salad with lettuce that gives an unmatched smokey taste, the Orno Burger with finger-licking fries, and the shareable Italian Meats Flatbread that everyone will want a piece of. The speciality drinks, made by owner Nael Rodriguez himself, are poured to perfection (and we recommend the ones that use Katy Trail Vodka).
Address: 317 N. Zang Blvd. Dallas, TX 75208
This Bishop Arts beauty is the place to be for a fancy brunch with friends or a quick afternoon tea. Specializing in the “casual elegance” experience, there’s an instant welcoming feeling the minute you walk through the door. Though we’ve never experienced a wait, you can pass time by taking a look at all their fresh pastries, boxed tea sets, and their beautiful teapot and teacup collection. On Saturdays, you can see large brunch groups and sometimes, tea parties with fascinators and all. Not convinced yet? Take a look at their menu to get in the mood for something fresh.
Kalachandji’s Palace & Restaurant
Address: 5430 Gurley Ave, Dallas, TX 75223
Currently open for takeout. No respectable vegetarian in North Texas would miss an opportunity to visit Kalachandji’s. Aside from providing the chance to visit a Hare Krishna temple, the restaurant’s food is unnervingly great. Perhaps something mystical is in play: dal (a soup with Indian lentils), rice pudding (also known as “kheer”), and crispy pappadam (a spicy wafer) and other selections are available buffet-style, but the food doesn’t suffer heat-lamp fatigue. The back story to the restaurant’s namesake: 500 years ago, a Krishna deity named Kalachandji drew thousands of devotees, who built him an elaborate temple and accompanied him with drums, cymbals and sumptuous foods. “Kalachandji” translates to “the beautiful moon-faced one.” Aside from all that mystical business, the restaurant’s outdoor patio is underneath a huge tree that grows in the middle of the temple.
Address: 3311 Sylvan Ave, Dallas TX 75212
Outsiders might not understand the notion of Tex Mex comfort food. These outsiders need to plant their wheels outside Herrera’s and pull up a seat. The individual elements that comprise Herrera’s – from the tile floors, to the plastic jugs of salsa, to the refried beans, to the pollo mole enchiladas – ooze comfort. The main dining area has a dining room feel, and its occupants resemble Dallas’ melting pot. Herrera’s is considered a Dallas institution for its food as much as its down-home feel. There are generational blood feuds over whether Herrera’s or Ojeda’s is best, but Herrera’s is arguably more hidden.
Address: 318 E. Main St., Richardson, TX 75081
Vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike take refuge in this Mediterranean oasis, cleverly hidden on Main Street (Richardson), U.S.A. Yelper Ida W. put it this way: “You know how sometimes everyone in the department is forced to go to lunch together for whatever reason? THIS is the place to go, as there is something for everyone and there’s enough space that you’re not forced to sit next to Judy from accounting.” Afrah’s menu is loaded with shwarma, kababs and folds French fries into those sandwiches, old-school. Warning: The garlic baba ghanoush has been known to give diners the garlic sweats. Comes with fresh-baked pita.
Buon Giorno Coffee
Address(Grapevine): 2350 Hall Johnson Rd Grapevine, TX 76051 Address(Fort Worth): 915 Florence St, Fort Worth, TX 76102 Address(Southlake): 1901 W Southlake Blvd, Suite 100, Southlake, TX, 76092
A percentage of the world’s population has adopted coffee as a life philosophy. Buon Giorno’s David and Leyna Clarke are among them. But they have taken their obsession 10 steps further, opening three of their own coffee shops and constructing their own roaster. Clark describes his origin: “I was 18, hitchhiking from the Netherlands down to Rome with my friend Chris. When we arrived in Italy, I tasted that rich, dark nectar they call espresso and I was hooked! I had never tasted coffee quite like this – it would stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Lucile’s Stateside Bistro
Address: 4700 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth TX
Lucile’s Stateside Bistro’s checkered tablecloths, chalkboard menus, prominent bar and open kitchen (which reveals a serious pizza oven) transport North Texans to a foodie enclave. Entrees are eclectic, leaning toward rich seafood dishes, including a serious lobster bisque. Diners strongly recommend the steaks, and any iteration of lobster Lucile’s produces. Reservations strongly recommended anytime, but especially for brunch.
Address: 13000 Trinity Blvd., Euless, TX 76040
What can one say about a place where you can fill up your car, your stomach and your growler? This: Bru City has 60 beers on tap, three walls of floor-to-ceiling beer coolers and bar stools for those who want to partake in conversation and a pint with locals. Woody’s Bar-B-Q and Famous Joe’s Pizza help soak up the suds. Patrons strongly recommend Joe’s stromboli. Florescent lights and traditional service-station trappings – fudge by the pound, a selection of beef jerky and salty snacks, over-the-counter meds, and other convenience store items – prevent Bru City from exuding a bar vibe.
Address: 400 N. Greenville Ave. #11, Richardson, TX 75081
“You’d be a fool to go there and not get dumplings,” writes a Dallas foodie/lawyer, familiar with the Dallas Region’s Asian dining scene. Jeng Chi’s menu is sweeping, with a variety of soups, noodle dishes, stir fries and … dumplings – juicy, boiled and steamed. Fans recommend meeting at Jeng Chi in large groups, and ordering family-style, for the opportunity to sample from a broad swath of the menu. Jeng Chi is located just north of an international dining enclave in old downtown Richardson, which features Vietnamese, Middle Eastern and African restaurants.
Jorg’s Café Vienna
Address: 1037 E 15th St., Plano, TX 75074
Alas, the “Say Yes” crew again betrays its bias toward European cafés with the inclusion of Jorg’s. Yet many of Jorg’s patrons don’t immerse themselves completely in the Euro experience. Our tip? Ride the DART red or orange lines, hop off at the old Downtown Plano station and take the four-minute walk to Jorg’s. Once inside, patrons swear they’re in Vienna. “We went on a Friday night, and the place was packed,” writes Yelper Tina S. “The atmosphere is very fun and inviting, and you feel like you’ve just entered a restaurant in Vienna or Germany. The girls are wearing Lederhosen, and the walks are draped with German [sic: Austrian] memorabilia. I give the atmosphere an 8/10.”
Address: 2822 Elm St., Dallas, TX 75226
There is no middle-ground in Dallas’ Ramen wars. One of the newest Ramen joints in Dallas – Oni Ramen – has quickly earned a fervent following since its opening in Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood. Enormous brown bowls of steaming noodle dishes issue forth from Oni’s kitchen, stuffed with pork bellies, soft-cooked eggs, sprouts and chopped green onions. The Deep Ellum location is the second Oni; the original is located on 7th West Street in Fort Worth. They share virtually identical menus, including the Oni Reaper, which is haunted by ingredients so hot, it comes with its own chef’s challenge. Vegan and vegetarian options available.
Address: 3011 Gulden Lane, Suite 102, Dallas, TX 75212
A restaurant’s veggie burger is arguably the litmus test for a restaurant’s kitchen staff. Perplexed by the challenge, many default to the Frozen Black Bean Patty. At plate is V-Eats, located at the trendy Trinity Groves dining district, which rather than avoiding meat cravings, attacks them head-on. The restaurant offers vegan versions of Salisbury steak, brisket (they call it Bar-V-Q) and even chicken-fried steak (seitan). And the V-Eats burger? “The Beastless Burger is one of the top 3 ‘Vegi Burgers’ in town, great flavor, a little bit of crunch on a nice bun with avocado (just wish it had more quinoa to reduce the density of the bean patty),” writes Yelper Jacobie D. Diners compliment the dog-friendliness of this place as much as they do the food. V-Eats is located in the trendy Trinity Groves dining district.