Monthly Archives: January 2013

Never mind the decor, stampede toward Pyles’ new Texas eatery

Stampede 66 by Stephan Pyles has taken over a modest corner in Uptown with a delightfully enticing menu offering “modern Texan cuisine.”

The chicken-fried buffalo steak tops a savory pan-gravy alongside greens and mashed potatoes. (Photo by Michael Danser)

The chicken-fried buffalo steak tops a savory pan-gravy alongside greens and mashed potatoes. (Photo by Michael Danser)

So what is that culinary genre? Apparently, it consists of bocaditos (small bites), tamales, pickles, breads and butter, tacos, bowl and Texas classics, Galveston Bay oysters, meat and game, farm birds and, of course, sweets.

The passion-chile margarita has Jose Cuervo tequila, Patron Citronge, passion fruit, jalapeño and lime. (Photo by Taylor Adams)

The passion-chile margarita has Jose Cuervo tequila, Patron Citronge, passion fruit, jalapeño and lime. (Photo by Taylor Adams)

With a list of specialty margaritas, one would seem to be worth your try. The passion-chile margarita was acceptable, but maybe not for the $10 price tag with it. The thick consistency of the passion fruit was complemented by a slight kick in the back of the throat from the jalapeño taste that was in the beverage.

The Paloma pink margarita  has a Fever Tree soda, grapefruit and the expected, lime, tequila and agave. A bitterness accompanies this tequila-heavy drink.

The wine list has a selection of nice (for) Texas wines, along with a list of imports, which has offerings from Chile and Spain, along with those from Sonoma, Calif. and Virginia.

The top half of the menu has your smaller plates, but their sizes don’t necessarily warrant sharing. The mushroom and huitlacoche tamales come with two to an order. Offering a moist, traditional tamale consistency, these have a buttery inside of mushroom. (What’s the huitlacoche? Another fungus; this one’s from corn.)

The mushroom-huitlacoche tamales are served on the corn husk and topped with a creamy, subtle huitlacoche sauce.

The mushroom-huitlacoche tamales are served on the corn husk and topped with a creamy, subtle huitlacoche sauce.

While a mushroom taco sounds equally appealing, the fried oyster taco is a small tortilla filled with fried flavor and six cups of different toppings to change up each bite. The pineapple-pico de gallo is an extra sweet kick.

On another visit, the serving of shrimp and grits is sure to be worth a try, along with another type of taco.

On the bottom half are plenty of options that are worth your money. The barbecued brisket is dry and flavorful, served with a vinegar-based sauce and a simple potato salad.

The chicken-fried buffalo steak is coated with a savory, spicy batter that can be eaten on its own. Although, the salty pan-gravy that comes with it makes it even better. This plate also comes with some almost-too-thin, creamy mashed potatoes and “Gun Barrel Greens.” This bitter assortment of kale, carrot tops and other greens was created by a fellow who goes by Gun Barrel, our waiter told us. (He also said this man was from New Orleans; two sentences later, he said he was from Gun Barrel City. It’s yet to be determined. If this dish by his name were better, I might have been more curious to find out.)

This shrimp dish at Stampede is some of the best étouffée in Dallas.

This shrimp dish at Stampede is some of the best étouffée in Dallas.

The shrimp étouffée is one of the more flavorful dishes I tried, but it’s not for those who are weary of some spice. Served in a modest bowl alongside dirty rice, the étouffée has a well-made rue that every base should aspire to be. The almost dirty-like texture of it makes the heat and spice help turn that shrimp into a perfect bite.

The list of desserts offers plenty. There’s a chocolate-pecan pie that they call the black-bottom “Bama” pecan pie, which is presented as a small (but share-able) tart. The dark chocolate takes the place of the jelly portion that would normally be underneath these slightly candied pecans.

The "black-bottom 'Bama' pecan pie" (background) is great, but can't stand up to the coconut desert that maintains layers of dense, moist cake.

The “black-bottom ‘Bama’ pecan pie” (background) is great, but can’t stand up to the coconut desert that maintains layers of dense, moist cake.

Some type of cake will be on the menu when you go. The coconut has layers of dense, moist cake, separated by a sweet cream, that has just a hint of coconut. For the crisp coconut, just eat off the back of the slice that could easily feed four people, which is padded with toasted coconut flakes.

The interior of Stampede 66 is overtly “Texas.” Wire horse heads protrude from the top of a tall wall and a large, metal snake is lit from below by lights of changing colors. In parts of the restaurant, it’s a bit bright and the overall feel can seem simply cheesy until you take your first bite of food – then all that’s around you just doesn’t even matter.

It’s also not bad when Pyles himself drops by your table to make sure your dining experience has been more than copacetic.

Worth the price and multiple visits, Stampede better be here to stay.

Stampede 66
Location: 1717 McKinney Ave. in Dallas, 214-550-6966
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 6 to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 6 to 11 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday
Price: $$$
Service: Very attentive, extra friendly (If you haven’t ordered the “signature” Modern Star Canyon Margarita, there’s a chance a friendly fellow with a rolling cart will roll over to your table, attempting to persuade someone at your table to purchase the $16 beverage.)
Ambiance: Modern Texan, a little louder and quite bright
Attire: Dressy-casual
Payment information: All major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: Full bar

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The Cedars Social: Bar fare worth a (very) short trip south

Just a few minutes in the car from my office is a bar worth visiting. The only reason I hadn’t made the short trip was a lame one – that trip was just south of downtown.

Across from where I had sipped coffee at South Side on Lamar and seen The Fray perform at the Palladium Ballroom is an intimate space full of books, booze and unsuspecting plates for dinner.

The double bone-in pork chop, purple and sweet potato hash is just an example of the tempting plates at Cedars Social.  (Facebook)

The double bone-in pork chop, purple and sweet potato hash is just an example of the tempting plates at Cedars Social. (Facebook)

The Cedars Social boasts on Facebook about its full rows of alcohol bottles behind the bar. The pride continues onto the pages of the cocktail menu that lists the drinks around $12 each (and many are higher).

The bartender here makes a worthy potion. The old fashioned and Tom Collins were acceptable standards. Any of the seasonal cocktails or “misfits” are more creative and worth experimenting.

The bar area is quickly packed on a Saturday night, but if you’re able to snag a table in the small dining room, you can explore some more flavors beyond muddled fruit in alcohol.

Expect to have a lot of paper on your table while you make your selections through the sharable small and big plates. One item is a blue file folder that has the pages of cocktail options. If you’re here on a weekend, one small sheet will be the weekend menu. Check that one if you’re in the mood for a selection of oysters. These offer some more explorable plates (with a bit higher price tag). The standard, two-sided sheets have the full menu.

There’s plenty to pique your interest on the small plate list. The truffle macaroni and cheese will take the spot as a favorite. I always use hesitation when knowing a chef is using truffle – whether it be fresh, salt and especially oil – but this pasta is only delicately laced with the flavor that takes the bowl to a whole new level of savory.

The shrimp and grits is also a plate you’ll want to share with your table. Texas Gulf shrimp are lined up on top of white cheddar and Parmesan grits. While the shrimp were standard, even someone who doesn’t get excited about grits will scrape up the last of this cheesy side item. The Kobe meatballs are small, tender balls of meat, ones that have a surprisingly crisp exterior to a warm, tender center. Most important, they’re perfectly seasoned and topped witha  simple, traditional sauce.

The lamb chops could be a meal on their own. They’re simply seasoned and cooked perfectly, just below medium rare. What takes these a step beyond an area steak joint is the Luxardo cherry jus that sits beneath them, waiting for you to swipe the tender meat through it for a sweet pairing. On a recent visit, we tried for the grilled oysters, which caught our attention with garlic butter and Parmesan cheese, but the kitchen was out of them. A small plate that should be ordered on your own (only because sharing doesn’t seem like a realistic option) is the oxtail ravioli, a special that hopefully will make a regular appearance. Each bite is a buttery and savory meat encased in a (just under al dente) fresh pasta.

The small plates kept our interest. Large plates that look worth a try are the truffled, roasted chicken with lentils, Mediterranean olives and cherry tomatoes and a Berkshire pork rack with cassoulet and crispy brussels sprouts.

We did test our stomach sizes a little further by going for the hand-cut garlic-Parmesan fries, where more truffle oil is poured out. Salty, a little oily and plenty crunchy, these are the consistency all garlic fries should be.

The special desserts, listed in chalk on the wall with other specials, listed a German chocolate cake that had run out before we had the chance to pursue a slice. By that time, we were too full to test out the Italian cream that was also listed.

Witha  menu so extensive and items passing expectations, this one is worth another visit. Very soon.

The Cedars Social
Location: 1326 S. Lamar St. in Dallas, 214-928-7700
Hours: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday
Price: $$
Service: laid back, just attentive enough
Ambiance: cozy, noisy and intimate
Alcohol: full bar

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