Monthly Archives: October 2011

Dive into Snider Plaza’s seafood

Casual seafood dining is less than abundant in our landlocked city of Dallas, making a menu like that of Dive Coastal Cuisine look appealing to many diners.

Chef Franchesca Nor has an excellent list of items on the chalkboard menu above the ordering counter. A number of people take their time looking at this hand-written list, which doesn’t seem extremely welcoming by most behind the register who quickly question if the customer’s ready.

The curry shrimp wrap at Dive Coastal Cuisine. Photo by Taylor Adams

The cool colors of white, teal and blue tones throughout cool a customer’s mood and reflect Nor’s Southern California upbringing. She is there much of the time, making the experience the best you’ll be able to get at the restaurant. This care is translated to many of her food items, including the mahi-mahi, prepared to a tender meat with flavor throughout.

The ahi tuna wrap is another satisfying meal on the menu, which has more than these two items making it a healthy one. Ginger slaw mixed in with cucumber, avocado and a mildly coconut rice makes the seared ahi tuna scrumptious in any bite of the wrap — it’s probably that chili ponzu sauce covering it.

One to avoid, though, is the curry shrimp wrap. They might as well leave out the unseasoned shrimp and make it a veggie-curry wrap. The rest of it is fine, filling the spinach tortilla with coconut rice, greens, cucumber and the sweetness of granny smith apples that pair perfectly with the curry. Disappointment ensues when biting into a chunk of shrimp. Even the extra sauce on the side won’t save this one.

A couple of sides really excel, giving hope to others on the menu. Though they look like nothing special, the mashed potatoes carry a richness in every bite that could make them worthy of an entire meal. The French green beans are the salty and simple perfection that they should be.

The mahi-mahi with mashed potatoes and green beans. Photo by Michael Danser

The little neck and clams come tossed in a perfected pesto and angel hair pasta. Grilled bread makes it an even more indulgent meal.

The menu also has a long list of salads and cocktails. Beer and wine are served, which are probably the better alcoholic choices. The twisted mojito is a drink too tart to sip. The different iced teas at the “iced tea bar” (a small counter to the right of the ordering counter) has refreshing options.

Though Dive offers plenty of options to keep diners on a diet, the sweet list is a decent one, with an ice cream-covered Heath bar that sounds interesting and a key lime pie that has become a staple of the joint (at least, according to the handwritten menu). Shortly after the restaurant opened, Nor tested the pie on her menu, working on the granola, ginger snap and graham-cracker crust.

As with many healthy dining options, it’s not a cheap dinner for two. It’s a place to go with the safe and simple items that are more likely to be worth the money.

The twisted mojito at Dive Coastal Cuisine. Photo by Taylor Adams

Dive Coastal Cuisine
Location: 
3404 Rankin St.  in Dallas 75205, 214-891-1700
Hours: 
Monday – Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Price:
$-$$
Ambiance: Indoor seating. A walk-up ordering counter makes it feel like a quick and easy dining spot.
Attire: Casual
Payment Information: Major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: Wine, beer and special cocktails

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Filed under Seafood

Olivella’s provides crisp pies, rustic atmosphere

Thin crust pizza is everywhere lately, so when one place serving Neapolitan-style pizza has a line out the door almost every night, it’s doubtful you’ll walk out disappointed. Southern Methodist University is lucky to be across from Olivella’s, a small restaurant serving up crispy pies topped with fresh tomato sauce.

The regina margherita pizza at Olivella's. Photo by Taylor Adams

This isn’t your hearty, greasy, guilty-but-pleasing pizza, but it’s one that has a light satisfaction, with less guilt and more than enough flavors. The menu has enough pies to choose from, as well as salads, pastas and sandwiches.

The margherita is a good choice here, though the regina margherita, for $1 more, is worth the small investment for the blend of housemade cheeses, rather than the housemade mozzarella in the classic.

Even in the winter, these tomatoes seem fresh enough to make your pizza soggy with tomato juice (which is one reason you don’t take your time eating a pie here with tomatoes on it).

Some other pies load the thin, bubbled crust with meat, any of which are satisfactory, but whichever piece you pick up from the metal pan will have a stream of grease coming from it.

Salads are typical and a good intro for your pie, but they aren’t worth filling up on before your meal.

The cramped restaurant of mismatched, wobbling tables gives you a feeling you’ve stepped into a pizza joint outside of Dallas, and there’s a good chance you’ll start your wine before the meal. The wine list is a short one, listing domestic and Italian wines, any of which typically come out a bit too warm.

The pizzas are also available for carry-out if you don’t feel like waiting for a table in the restaurant or on the sidewalk in front of it.

Olivella's is located at 3406 McFarlin Blvd. in Dallas.

Olivella’s
Location:
3406 McFarlin Blvd., Dallas 75205, 214-528-7070 (The second location, Neo Pizza, provides a rather different experience in Victory Park)
Hours:
11:45 a.m. “until the oven closes,” which is listed between 10-11 p.m., daily
Price: 
$$
Ambiance: Indoor and sidewalk seating. Wobbling, wooden tables that provide minimal elbow room with a pie and drinks on them.
Attire: Casual
Payment Information: Major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: Wine and beer

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Filed under Italian, Pizza

Autumn, pumpkin pancakes return to Café Brazil

As it’s finally October, we’re all hoping that the temperature outside is done reaching triple digits for 2011. Football is the topic of conversation in the office (as are our Rangers!) and I’m hearing more people ordering pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks. But I’m really excited about what one restaurant has on its fall menu, and it starts today.

Cinnamon-pumpkin pancakes with cinnamon butter at Café Brazil (El Gordo crepes in the background). Photo by Taylor Adams

I’m not one to boast about chain restaurants, but at least this one’s a local. Starting in Lakewood in 1991 before branching out in North Texas, Café Brazil is a frequent destination of mine, mostly for breakfast–especially in the fall, when the kitchen starts beating a pumpkin pancake batter.

These pancakes don’t pack the pumpkin-spice kick that a pie will, but I’m not craving that kind of punch first thing in the morning. What these do accomplish, however, is a rich, moist flapjack, with a hint of pumpkin blended with a smooth cinnamon finish. What pushes this breakfast from one to crave to one to order is the butter Café Brazil dollops on top of it: cinnamon butter. It sounds simple, but when smoothed over these pancakes, it brings a sweetness like icing to pumpkin bread.

Oct. 4 also brings the return of the pumpkin cheesecake, an item gracing many dessert menus around town, but one that’s up to par with many of them. Oct. 11 adds even more to the menu with a s’mores latte and something that may replace my pancakes: bananas foster French toast. (I’m refraining from stealing their photos, to see these items and what else will be offered go to Cafe Brazil’s blog.)

Not Just Another eggs Benedict at Café Brazil, topped with a spicy cream sauce instead of the traditional Hollandaise sauce. Photo by Taylor Adams

If your palate isn’t craving autumn spices, you can’t go wrong with the normal menu (breakfast or otherwise), the crepes and French toast won’t disappoint your tastebuds, and there’s no beating that undisclosed recipe of their spicy cream sauce, topping the eggs Benedict or El Gordo Crepes.

Café Brazil
Location:
6420 N. Central Expressway in Dallas, 214-691-7791 (check here for other locations)
Hours: 
Central Expressway location is open 24 hours/seven days a week
Price:
$
Ambiance: Indoor and patio seating. A feeling of a local, grungy and delicious diner.
Attire: Casual
Payment Information: Major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: None–but there is a good coffee bar

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Filed under Breakfast, Dessert, Latin American