Monthly Archives: July 2012

Mac’s offers Frito pie without the bag, with more flavor

My mother insisted that the tiny, foil bag would hold it. It might look like it’s all going to fall out, but it’s necessary that every bite — which she assured was tastier than it looked — land in the mouth and not on the cement ground beneath me.

It was hot in Santa Fe, N.M., on that summer day that was at least eight years ago. For some reason, before last week, that was the last time I had even tasted a Frito pie, and the bites of Frito, chili, cheese and onion all came on a plastic fork out of that Frito bag.

The Frito pie at Mac’s is served with beans, Frito corn chips, chopped beef and cheese with a side of barbecue sauce. Photo by TAYLOR ADAMS

Years have passed since then, and my return to the greasy meal came on a plate this time, served from behind the counter at Mac’s Bar-B-Que.

As we stood in a slow-moving line, leaning against the wood-paneled wall, I considered how to get the best of all the tastes here, and almost went for the easy way out of the meat plate. I was assured, however, that the best choice would be the Frito pie.

Aside from the meal filled with packaged chips, I was at first bothered because I thought the chili had beans. I was wrong. The beans didn’t have chili.

Still, I was promised I wouldn’t be disappointed.

My turn finally came, and I told the man behind the counter I’d I have the Frito pie. He gave the order to the woman behind the register and got to chopping the beef with an oversized knife.

The plate was larger than I needed, but after a few bites, I realized it was as large as I wanted. I still didn’t consume all that was on it, but that’s because my lunch break is only so long.

I didn’t really miss the chili, as the beans were a bold flavor underneath the meal, and the generous heap of chopped beef was the perfect foundation for melting cheddar cheese.

I went ahead and used the side serving of barbecue sauce to darken the meal further and give it a sweet kick. Had this “pie” been a disappointment, I could have had that sauce in the place of a meal.

Maybe some time I’ll return to Mac’s for that meat plate. But I do know that fewer than 10 years will pass until I have another Frito pie this time.

Mac’s Bar-B-Que
Location: 3933 Main St. in Dallas, 75226, 214-823-0731
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
Price: $
Ambiance: The room without music stays active with conversation of the restaurant’s usual customers. Casual spot that inevitably provides comfortable conversation.
Attire: casual
Payment information: major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: none served

Special thanks to Tom Benning, who recommended Mac’s to me.

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Filed under American, Barbecue

Why the line at Mike Anderson’s is worth the wait

A baked potato loaded with cheese, chives, chopped beef and sauce is more than enough to leave you satisfied. Photo by MICHAEL DANSER

The line of seven people out the door at 12:01 p.m. on a July day in Dallas is usually a good sign. You can feel even more confident about the wait ahead of you as the smell of smoked meat tells you it’s worth it.

Mike Anderson’s BBQ already has a decent reputation within the medical district: at least half the people in line with you will be wearing their scrubs.

Once you make your way through the glass door, past the menu hanging on the wall and to the beginning of the buffet line, you might be scrambling to place your fork and knife on your plastic tray.

The most important matter comes first: a sturdy man with a knife asking what kind of meat you want for lunch.

Mike Anderson’s menu has the typical offerings of meat plates, sandwiches and oversized baked potatoes.

When a potato this size is piled with cheese, chives, chopped beef and sauce, you have more than enough for a meal with each fork delivering a smooth, melted bite.

On my last visit, I went for the “bbq dinner plate.” When I asked for brisket, I wasn’t asked for how fatty I like it (a treatment I’m used to at Lockhart Smokehouse). I normally wouldn’t have minded too much, except my luck of my place in line had what was left of that hunk of brisket.

The BBQ dinner plate gets you two sides and three meats of your choice. Photo by TAYLOR ADAMS

The smoke ring looked fine, though the rest of the grey meat lacked real flavor and it really needed… sauce. Luckily, the sauce here is more than acceptable. It’s smoky and not overly sweet. Other visits have proved that good, more flavorful brisket can be served here.

The sausage—or hot links as they go here—is good, the meat is creamy, as much as meat can be, though the casing could use some extra crispness.

The real focus of this meal from the beginning should have been the ribs.  These are smooth and smoky, with flavor throughout—no sauce needed.

Down the buffet lines are various, expected side dishes. The cheesy corn bake with Poblano and onion is a velvety mash of a side, with a bit of spice and plenty of cheese. It outdoes many of the other, traditional options.

The coleslaw is laced with plenty of garlic, which combats the flavor of barbecue sauce if you happen to have the two in the same lunch.

The potato salad is more of creamed potatoes packed with the salad flavor. The barbecue beans and sausage are fine, but not up to par with other options in town. Photo by TAYLOR ADAMS

The side item listed as Mama’s Dill Tater Salad actually makes for a cup of flavorful creamed potatoes. This side bowl will be empty by the end of your meal.

The barbecue beans and sausage side is savory, though it comes out more of a soup than it should be.

If you’re looking for a more reasonably sized lunch, go for the sandwich—any chopped meat with a bit of sauce is sandwiched in a well-buttered bun.

Just before noon, the sun beats down on the side of the building where the line forms. Every so often, this meal is worth  this wait in the heat.

Mike Anderson’s BBQ
Location: 5410 Harry Hines Blvd. in Dallas, 75235, 214-630-0735, mikeandersonsbbq.com
Hours: 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Price: $$
Ambiance: A local dive with crowded booths and tables throughout the lunch hours
Attire: Casual
Payment information: Major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: BYOB

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Filed under Barbecue

If you’re excited for Restaurant Week, start reserving today

KRLD Restaurant Week presented by Central Market is Aug. 13 – 19. Reservations for the participating restaurants start July 16. (Graphic courtesy of Lovell Public Relations)

KRLD Restaurant Week is Aug. 13 – 19, but “Reservation Day” kickoff is today, making it officially your time to start calling for tables.

More than 125 restaurants are in this year for a three-course dinner for $35 per person. Each meal purchased has $7 going toward North Texas Food Bank in Dallas or Lena Pope Home in Fort Worth.

As usual, some restaurants are carrying the week into two, going through Sept. 2. This is the 15h year for the annual event and some locations are offering a prix fixe lunch for $25 (each of which also gets a $5 donation).

Also, if you stop by any of the five Central Market locations in DFW today and spend $25 or more, you can receive two Fourth Course certificates instead of just one.  This “fourth course” is usually an appetizer or side dish feature.The restaurants that offer a fourth course are indicated on the restaurant list.

Is there a restaurant you’re eager to get into this year? Or will you be avoiding the crowds this time around?

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Brunch menu at the Grape offers more than Texas’ best burger

Brunch may be an excuse for many to drink alcohol in the morning, but it can also serve as an opportunity to indulge just a little bit more in the meal than a typical breakfast. At least, that’s what I liked to think as I sat on the misted patio of The Grape Restaurant recently.

Everyone knows the amazement that the cheeseburger here introduces, so it was time to look at some other options. This brunch menu gives plenty of items that venture off from the typical brunch meals, making for descriptions of actually fine cuisine. So when I ended up choosing the Belgian waffle that sounded quite typical, I wasn’t sure what I was thinking. My regret soon left me after it arrived.

The Grape’s Belgian waffle, topped with whipped cream, strawberries and pecans and served with a side of bacon. (Photo by TAYLOR ADAMS)

For the longest time, Crossroads Diner had my taste buds for the best waffle in Dallas. Soon after my fork dug in between strawberries, and pecans through whipped cream and finally into the griddled batter, my choice would have to change. The strawberries and pecans were fine, perfectly sliced and generously tossed onto the meal—already out showing many waffle presentations. Paired with the whipped cream alone, they could have made a meal. Normally, whipped cream won’t be missed if it’s brushed off the top of the waffle, but this fresh fluffiness would go to such waste on the side of the plate.

The waffle batter was more complex than others, with a true sweetness that probably could have gone without syrup. This is by no means an adventurous menu item; but it’s definitely a standard one with a fine execution. One fault, however, is that the waffle was cold. It wasn’t chilled, but it had no sign of having been warm in even the 10 minutes prior to being placed on the table.

There are plenty of places that serve adequate bacon; many of these are slices of apple-wood bacon. So it was an odd surprise when the bacon on the side of this waffle surpassed so many others. The taste was fairly typical, but the slices were incredibly thin and crunched to perfection.

The breakfast on a bun at The Grape Restaurant. (Photo by MICHAEL DANSER)

On the other side of the menu is the breakfast on a bun. Two eggs are cooked over medium and paired with sausage and American cheese on pain au lait bun. A cup of fruit and a side of hot sauce are served with the glorified egg sandwich. Perhaps sandwich isn’t the best label as a fork and knife is necessary to consume this. The sausage is good, nothing thrilling, and the bread is impressively hearty and slightly sweet—almost too much so for the meal inside of it. If ordering again, I’ll be switching out the cheese. The American, while a fine choice for a burger, takes this meal down a notch, holding it back from being something of an interesting taste and bringing it closer to an Egg McMuffin (on superb bread, of course).

If the brunch party’s large enough, the cinnamon pull-aparts look like a good choice to start (or end) the meal. The fried polenta cheese fritters serve as another acceptable start or companion, especially if you plan on indulging on the waffle. Topped with sour cream, cotija cheese and sriracha, these golden rectangles seem more adventurous, but not exciting after finishing the first one.

The Grape’s fried polenta cheese fritters, topped with sour cream and sriracha. (Photo by TAYLOR ADAMS)

The Grape is great beyond brunch, of course. If church keeps you away from the one day this restaurant offers the brunch menu, go on any night. The cozy, intimate interior of the restaurant provides the perfect space for a fine bistro meal of mussels and pommes frites.

The Grape Restaurant
Location: 2808 Greenville Ave. in Dallas; 214-828-1981
Hours: Happy hour: 4:30 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Dinner: 5:30 p.m. nightly. Brunch: 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
Price: $$
Ambiance: Intimate dining on the inside easily transcends to the patio of small tables
Attire: Dressy
Payment Information: Major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: Beer and wine served

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Filed under Breakfast, French

New York Subs a Dallas standard

In Philadelphia, it’s a hoagie. In Boston, a grinder; in Chicago, a sub; and in some parts of New York, it’s a wedge.

While growing up, my mother would always call it simply a sandwich; it quickly became known as a sub to me.

My brother and I didn’t grow up in Chicago, but we did live near New York Sub in University Park.

It was a favorite destination for bike rides with friends, but even when going to school at SMU, it remained a convenient and desired lunch spot.

It is the kind of ordering line where you have to know what you’re getting. Don’t go up to the person behind the high counter and waste time, asking what kind of cheese is available. It’s best to pick your favorite and hope they have it (and they probably do, as long as it’s nothing too daring.)

A sandwich of ham, salami, provolone, lettuce, oregano and oil from New York Sub. (Photo by TAYLOR ADAMS)

The best option here is to go with the cold cuts. The thinly sliced meat is perfectly folded underneath the shredded lettuce. Even more importantly, on top of the lettuce is the adequate amount of oregano and oil.

The pastrami is a good slice of meat, though it’s not the best “hot” sandwich to get here. Though the bread is warm and soft, your selected cheese won’t be.

A simple pastrami and Swiss with mustard is easily achieved at the Eastern U.S. chain D’Angelo’s, where the pastrami is appropriately griddled with fresh slices of Swiss on top.

A pastrami and Swiss sandwich with mustard at New York Sub. (Photo by TAYLOR ADAMS)

In Dallas, even, there are probably better choices for this. The bread is fine, but not worthy of saving this sandwich.

Go with the cold cuts and oil (on white bread, of course) and you’re golden.

New York Sub

Location: 3411 Asbury St., Dallas, 214-522-1070
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Ambiance: Casual, worn booths filling the dining space for those who don’t take their sandwiches to go
Payment information: Major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: none served

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Filed under American, Sandwiches