Maybe it’s in my head, but it really does feel cooler. Not I-can-finally-wear-a-sweater cool, but cooler than triple-digit heat.
The word “swanky” hasn’t been in my vocabulary long, and since it has been, I haven’t used it often. But really, there’s no other word that comes to mind when looking at the experience at Smyth.
That’s not to say anything bad about this place that’s decked in wood paneling and has a small room devoted to shag carpeting for flooring.
While this is a place worth taking a date or group of friends for a Friday night, it’s not a place like the Old Monk, where you casually stop in for a drink after work. In fact, there’s not much that’s casual about Smyth.
First, we made a reservation – calling or visiting OpenTable: Dallas Restaurants is not a common move for us when going out for a couple of cocktails, but in a way, that just made it more special.
Once we parked somewhat close to Travis Street, we walked over to the dark doorway that had a small, white paper taped to the glass door: “Please buzz the call box,” was written in curly font next to three arrows pointing to a doorbell-like button.
All my husband said was, “Reservation for Danser,” and they let us in, telling us to go through the door – which led to more darkness through a hallway.
A savvy-looking man (admittedly, looking very trendy) guided us to our seats. We passed tables in the main room, which I can’t call a dining room because only beverages are served, and entered the smaller room. We lucked out with the space with the shag carpeting and comfortable chairs. What topped it off was a small, folded card on the miniature table between us that read, “Reserved, Michael Danser.”
Not soon after getting a couple of highball glasses of water, we were greeted by a man – who turned out to be one of the four or so bartenders – dressed in a rubber apron. He won’t offer a cocktail menu, but he’ll ask you one thing.
“What do you like?” he asked.
Don’t bother saying you’d like a Moscow mule; they want specifics. I said I loved ginger, basil and vodka. After plenty of time, our drinks came, and mine was a ginger, mint and gin concoction. Sure, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was close enough to please and off just enough to give me something different.
The second drink was sweeter with muddled fruit – a sweetness that I would have liked to have known about beforehand. The Old-Fashioned-like drink (with rye bourbon and Applejack) was a solid choice, too. It’s a safe bet that anything you sip from here is a well-crafted cocktail.
Smyth isn’t far off from Cedars Social, its sister establishment, in that regard. But this experience is over-the-top – in a good way, yes, but not in a way you would want every week (which you definitely would want at Cedars Social).
So, give it a shot. Just make sure to make a reservation and be prepared to pay a less-than-modest bill.
When the smell of frosting fills a room, you know it’s fresh. And when that creamy, sweet frosting protects a delicate moist cake, you know you don’t want to share your piece.
This is how I felt as a toddler trying out the baked goods of Dallas Affaires Cake Company. Of course, at the time this Lakewood business was functioning out of one of the owner’s homes. Today, it stands on Abrams Road still serving and delivering my favorite cakes in this city.
So when it came to picking a bakery for my recent wedding, there was really no discussion on where we would go. But, my then-fiance, my parents and I went for a tasting anyway.
When I was a child, I remember going to tastings and having owner Sibby Barrett serve me entire pieces of cakes (and my mom claims I ate each one all by myself as a small – surely gluttonous – child).
For this tasting, wedding cake consultant Margaret Gragg gave each of us two slices of cake, one chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and one white cake with vanilla frosting. Cups of various frosting flavors took over the center of the table. The best, creative ones were the champagne frosting for a simple, sophisticated flavor, and the orange-cream, which lent a sweet creamsicle-like taste – the latter was a final option in our auditions. But I couldn’t resist the birthday cake of my childhood – that sweet, with a subtle hint of saltiness – the Italian cream frosting.
I have never in my life had better tasting frosting than that center filling that graces the layers of this cake. I’m not the kind of person who prefers to swipe the frosting off of a cupcake and eat the sweet topping by itself, but I could easily do it with this Italian cream frosting.
Despite all of my adoration for this perfect frosting, at the wedding, I actually ended up eating more of the groom’s cake, which was a standard chocolate cake – it boasts a richer, darker flavor – with chocolate frosting on the outside and a chocolate-amaretto frosting on the inside. Yes, chocolate-amaretto: now you can understand why I ate so much of it. It’s an almond-sweetness, but balanced out with the decadence around it in the cake.
And, of course, the team at Dallas Affaires makes pretty good looking cakes.
I was lucky enough to have these cakes at every birthday – Italian cream for me and my mom, and chocolate with chocolate-covered strawberries for my brother and dad – and it was even more exciting to have that cake for my wedding. Now, I need an excuse other than a life step to get my fork in a slice of that dessert.
Dallas Affaires Cake Company
Location: 2307 Abrams Road in Dallas, 75214
Contact: 214-826-9409, email@example.com
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
Service: If you’re just going in to grab a cake ball, they’re friendly enough to get you in and out with a sweet treat. If you’re meeting for a wedding cake tasting – you’ll have fun, and they’ll make sure of it.
Ambiance: It’s a bakery – it’s cool, well lit and smells like frosting.
Payment information: All major credit cards accepted
Some of my earliest, fondest memories are of passing over U.S. Highway 75 on Mockingbird Lane in Dallas. The reason wasn’t the not-yet-existent Mockingbird Station or the La Madeleine that’s still there. It’s something much simpler.
The smell of baking bread is something that goes through your nose and fills your body with comfort – and it’s something you don’t want to let go.
Of course, the Mrs. Baird’s bakery that was once on that southwest corner is long gone. But what still gives me that warm feeling on an afternoon drive is a local bakery that opened up on my route home not too long ago.
Village Baking Co. is, unfortunately, no real local secret. It isn’t terribly packed, but it surely is getting attention with the growing number of farmers markets its products are getting into. Step in the University Boulevard shop on a Saturday morning and you’re greeted with a smile from someone behind an island topped with baked goods, but you’ll be waiting a bit to order your sweet breakfast.
For that meal, the scone is a safe bet. Any flavor available that day is lively enough to keep you full for the morning. The cranberry scone has a subtle flavor that comes out in every bite of the bread that has a crunchy exterior and soft, dense inside. It’s delightful, warm, and sweetly satisfying.
Another expected option on this wooden table of baked assortments are croissants: plain, au chocolat, and ham and cheese. In my visits there, the ham and gruyere croissant was the most popular order by most people around me. I always go for the pain au chocolate. This one is fine, but doesn’t strike me as terribly fresh, even as it takes me to a sidewalk cafe in France or to any other scenario that evokes French delicacies.
There’s a crisp exterior; the inside is soft and delicate, but it’s a bit dry, as is the tiny bar of chocolate that runs throughout it. I’ll go for a ham and cheese next time, but the plain croissant does come out in a manner that seems fresh – just as you would expect from the aroma that fills this space. It’s smooth on the inside, subtly sweet, and one just won’t be enough.
But it’s not all sweetness in this tiny bakery. Its breads are worth the carbohydrates, too. The white sandwich rolls couldn’t be softer: they’re simple, but the freshest you’re going to get around here.
I’ll surely try a baguette on my next visit. Sitting in a wicker basket nestled in the east-facing window, they look like perfection, and they sound like they must be fresh. On a recent visit, a customer asked for one of the tall baguettes – the woman behind the large island reached up for one – “Oh! Still hot!”
Really? I need to get myself one of those.
Village Baking Co.
Location: 5531 E. University Blvd. in Dallas, 75206
Contact: 214-265-1170, villagebakingco.com, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily
Service: friendly and fast
Ambiance: naturally-lit and spacious inside, picnic tables full of breakfast-eaters outside
Payment information: major credit cards accepted
Want to catch them at a farmers market? It shouldn’t be too hard. This Saturday, you can find them at those for Coppell, McKinney, White Rock, Collin County, Saint Michaels, Rockwall, Frisco, Little Elm and Keller.
We all know starches and sugars are bad for us – but they’re so good, too. Bread, pasta, pizza and potatoes. It can be hard to go without because they’re so satisfying, but worse, there aren’t great substitutions. (I know this from an unlucky attempt at homemade, coconut-flour, paleo pizza. Don’t try it.)
Luckily, my fiancé stumbled upon a local company making take-and-bake pizzas with carbohydrate-free crusts. We didn’t wait. Our next dinner would be pizza.
My expectations were low. Was there really a chance we could find something that fills the void of grease-topped, sweet tomato sauce over a soft, dense crust?
That’s what Lindsey and Daniel Crouch asked themselves last fall.
“We wanted to try to make something healthy, but we wondered, ‘How do we substitute the grains and the flour that’s in your traditional crust?’” Lindsey said. “We were on vacation in Crested Butte [Colorado], and the big man upstairs told me, ‘Seeds.’”
They went to the farmers market in the Colorado mountain town and started testing recipes right there.
“We came home and we started working ferociously on the crust,” she said. “Once we got it right, it’s just been amazing.”
It took the couple three months to get it perfect.
Lindsey, who was previously a personal chef, whipped up the recipe along with the sugarless tomato sauce. Daniel is the only other employee of the operation and is a personal trainer.
The couple has been selling since January – customers order on their website for pies Monday through Friday. The couple makes their pizzas in a commercial kitchen in Garland, then bring them back to Uptown to be picked up.
They’re getting about 75 orders a week at this point, said Lindsey, who is also seven months pregnant. I was one of these customers recently, and made the trip to the small street across from North Dallas High School to get my own order of the carnivore pizza.
The crust itself was pretty satisfactory. You won’t bite into it and think you bit into a just-ordered pizza from Piggie Pies, but it’ll do for pizza when there are no carbs in the crust. The only carbs in this pie come from the tomato sauce and vegetables you choose to top it.
(That’s as far as I’m willing to go for an early review. For my full opinion on Guiltless Pizza, check back with Bites of Dallas in a few weeks.)
The Crouches won’t be shocked if you find just one piece of their pizza to be hearty.
“It’s so filling that you’re satisfied after two slices, and you can’t go on; you’re not going to eat a bunch, carb-load, and get a carb-coma,” she said.
The Crouches say they aren’t bluffing when they talk about a healthy but still delicious alternative to traditional pizzas.
“The value in it is it’s full of fiber and protein, omega-3 and 6, the seeds are anti-cancerous and anti-inflammatory – it’s almost like you’re meeting requirements of your daily needs,” Lindsey said.
This isn’t the first healthy food endeavor by the couple. Previously, they had a crust-free quiche business called Quiche Queen, but they quickly learned there wasn’t a high market.
After starting the low-carb pizza gig, though, Lindsey thinks they’ve found their place, she said.
“We’re just really proud of the nutritional value that it boasts,” she said. “It has to be healthy. We’re not going to put anything out there that’s just frivolous and tastes good, and people can go get fat on it and waste $28.”
What’s the next step? Guiltless bread — which they’re already selling. (Though, it’s still not showing up on the website’s menu.)
“It’s a loaf and based off the same premise as guiltless pizza. No gluten, wheat, yeast, or any of those things in it. It’s delicious and moist,” Lindsey said.
They plan to franchise this concept, so it’s available to everyone. When you pick up your order, you’ll notice Daniel introduces himself to you and gets to know you a bit. He’s used to repeat business.
“They’re return customers because it becomes part of their diet plan and meal plan. We’re just really thankful that it’s not a splurge thing or a one-time deal,” Lindsey said. “We feel really amazing about not only being delicious but that it’s really good for you. We’ve had customers and clients who have lost 20 and 30 pounds by incorporating Guiltless Pizza into their lives … It really has just become part of people’s lifestyles.”
To order, visit the online order form and request your special pie from the menu. Do this by the early morning of the evening you want to pick up a pizza, and you’re set. Lindsey will send you an email on where exactly to go to pick up your dinner.
Online ordering only? Setting up a location for the pizza-money exchange? And you’re pizza’s low-carb? Yep, this is definitely a different kind of pizza company.
How it compares
The nutritional values are drastically different compared to your typical slice of pizza in the area – particularly if you’re watching your net carbohydrate intake. Their website provides some comparison for a piece of pepperoni pizza.
Protein: 15.8 grams
Net carbs: 5 grams
Net carbs: 26 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Protein: 14 grams
Net carbs: 38 grams
Fiber: 2 grams
Breakfast and brunch can be the best meals of the day. But sometimes, what makes this meal the best part of the weekend is when it goes beyond Belgian waffles, blueberry pancakes and perhaps the “adventurous” cherry crepe.
Inside Komali, there are tables among the sleek decor with a large bar stocked to ensure satisfaction. But what’s better than the naturally lit dining room are the menus boasting “contemporary Mexican cuisine,” and a recent visit took advantage of the offerings around brunch.
Among the appetizers are the pork confit quesadillas. Don’t be fooled by what is described as a “lightly fried tortilla.” These three small quesadillas are puffed and perfectly crunchy. Filled with plenty of tender pork confit, there’s just enough Oaxaca cheese to smooth things off.
Order two plates of those quesadillas and a glass of a tamarind mimosa, and you’re set for the morning; quite possibly, for the day. Try not to fear this brown-colored mimosa. After one sip, the earthy sweetness will become a craving. And at $2 a drink, that’s really not too much of a problem.
Some other items on the list look like they could please a full table, such as a queso fundido, which has your choice of chorizo, sauteed chile poblano or sauteed mushrooms.
For those who are crazy about their Benedicts, you’ll find a version here, with, of course, a bit of a twist. A side of warm, perfectly salted black beans topped with a bit of cotija cheese frame one side of the poached eggs. On the other side are crisp breakfast potatoes simply seasoned with salt and pepper and chopped somewhat inconsistently: Some bites offer a crisp exterior and a smooth, soft inside; other bites are delicate, little crunch of potato.
The main attraction on the plate consists of two corn sopes (small rounds of fried masa) topped with two delightfully round poached eggs. Splurge the extra $4 for the filet mignon. The pieces sandwiched between the egg and sope are small, but more tender than you’d expect for a steak posing as breakfast meat.
The towered assortment is then topped with a pasilla hollandaise. Of course – again, for those passionate about a Benedict – the sensation of using the side of your fork to cut through it all, letting the smooth yolk flow out and blend into the sauce, is almost the best part. The hollandaise, kicked up only slightly with chili pepper, is fine, but nothing extravagantly experimental.
It’s necessary to note that if you do want a pancake, you can get one here – it’s just not your typical American type. The corn pancakes come with whipped goat cheese, piloncillo molasses, walnuts and caramelized bananas. There’s no doubt this savory-sweet assortment is executed pretty well.
For those of you really striving to get out of a typical brunch menu item, the beef and potato hash is much more enticing than the name implies. The name in Spanish (listed beside all items in English) is cazuela de papa, if that has you more interested.
This comes in a small pot (as that name implies ) nearly bubbling with a greasing beef broth, pico de gallo, crema, queso fresco and topped on the side with a fried egg. As the English translation implies, there is supposedly a potato hash in this meal, none of which was to be found when we ordered it.
Even so, what seemed like a starch-free meal was a savory brew that wouldn’t stop delivering flavor. The menu description is too simple for this plate that had spice and perfectly seasoned meat. Served with both corn and flour tortillas, it can all be eaten without a fork, as long as you don’t mind the grease running through the other side of the open tortilla.
For desserts, there are a couple that might catch your eye, such as a pineapple tres leches cake and crepes with cajeta (which sound even better once you know they come with caramelized bananas, strawberries and toasted walnuts alongside an appealing cotija cheese ice cream).
But there’s a classic street food that’s simple and well executed. The churros are nothing but crispy bread seemingly infused with cinnamon and sugar, then doused in it all over again. Really, it’s great. Dipped in the small cup of Mexican hot chocolate, it gets a little better. My only wish here was that this hot chocolate were hot in temperature and spice.
While the lunch and dinner menus will make you want to get a reservation for later, there’s enough on the menu to return for brunch alone, especially when considering all the restaurant options you can glance over when you’re craving something more than bottomless mimosas and a strawberry-topped waffle.
Location: 4152 Cole Ave., Suite 106 in Dallas
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to close Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
Service: Attentive, not overly friendly
Ambiance: Sleek and modern, space becomes more noisy as people come in with the later brunch crowd
Payment information: Major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: Full bar
We had driven by the neon lights reading “chowder house” for years. Wedged in between other small establishments on the east side of Lower Greenville, it just took us a while to finally stop in. Finally, a recent Saturday night presented us with a free schedule and a reminder to check out Dallas’ Daddy Jack’s.
Not surprisingly, we had to delay before walking through the front door, which led to two swinging doors that folded out into the small, packed dining room.
A woman, who is clearly accustomed to being in charge of the front of the house here, told us it would be 45 minutes. As she took our name, I looked around for a bar, a place to sit, a place to loiter. Nothing. Our option, she said, was to go next door to the Crown and Harp, a name I only recollected as some joint that has karaoke.
We walked over to this establishment, which had to be just barely smaller than its restaurant neighbor, and had a couple of drinks. (They do proudly pour a worthy Lakewood Brewery wheat from the tap.)
Our waitress was over fast enough, offering us a list of specials and the restaurant’s “famous crab fingers.” While sounding passionate enough about the paella, these little crab claws soaking in a butter were something this woman seemed to already assume we’d order. Of course, we did.
The small plate came out, presenting these oily little claws, limping in an oil that proved to have a welcomed, copious amount of garlic. But, any chef can throw a bunch of garlic in some oil and let crab claws sit. These were fine, but not the “most amazing thing,” as I heard our waitress also tell the table next to us. Maybe had their been less hype, there would have been less disappointment in this average appetizer.
What is worth skipping the crab fingers here for are the soups. The New England clam chowder is hearty with plenty of chunks of clam and aromatic with generous flavors of rosemary. The lobster bisque is smooth and just rich enough, seeming to get more savory with each spoonful.
For our main course, I asked our waitress if I should go with the special seafood paella or the plate of the small surf and turf. I neglected the fact that she recommended the pricier dish, but really, this wasn’t an average surf and turf. The small lobster tail was heavily seasoned but perfectly balanced when dipped in butter. The small filet was a cut of meat so tender that any person would be smart to order beef in this seafood spot.
While this plate was fine, another was superb. The lobster Fra Diavlo here starts with an ambitiously sized plate filled with linguini.
Then, there’s half a lobster, clams, mussels and shrimp. But what makes this dish one to crave is the spicy marinara in which it all drowns. It never runs out of flavor. If it were pasta and sauce alone, a diner would be in heaven. The added bonus of some shellfish helps; unfortunately, the lobster was a bit overcooked, clearly tougher than the lobster tail sitting on the surf and turf plate.
There was no need, but our persuasive – and incredibly friendly – waitress convinced us to indulge a few bites further. The key lime pie was worth it. A crumbly crust topped with a smooth, light tart was a perfect end to this evening.
Location: 1916 Greenville Ave. in Dallas, 75206, 214-826-4910
Hours: 5:30 to 10 .m. Monday through Thursday, 5:30 to 11 p.m. Friday through Saturday, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday
Service: Extremely friendly and knowledgable
Ambiance: Intimate and dark, the low lighting seems to reflect a red atmosphere from the checkered tables
Payment information: All major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: Beer and wine