Tag Archives: Dallas

Smyth: An appealing mix of swank and shag

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.

The bar at Smyth is well stocked, and on any given evening, you'll see a few bartenders behind there, busy making custom drinks. (Photo from Facebook: it's way too dark in there to take decent photos.)

The bar at Smyth is well stocked, and on any given evening, you’ll see a few bartenders behind there, busy making custom drinks. (Photo from Facebook: it’s way too dark in there to take decent photos.)

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 decor is just the right kind of retro. (Facebook)

The decor is just the right kind of retro. (Facebook)

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.

Contact: 214-520-0900, smyth@barsmyth.com
Hours: 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Service: attentive and seemingly sincere; drinks can come out slowly
Ambiance: dark and intimate
Payment information: major credit cards accepted

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Filed under Cocktails

Prego satisfies, after all

Most Dallas residents should stay indoors on the weekend of the Texas-OU football game.  Wherever one does venture out that weekend, there’s a good chance you’ll be welcomed by a host who is tired of greeting for the hundredth time that evening and a small table with a frazzled waitress.

My experience at Prego Pasta House this particular weekend of 2010 had me avoiding the restaurant for 13 months. After a delayed waitress brought two incorrect bottles of wine, our table had a plate of soggy crab claws before I had seafood linguine that had me questioning my health.

However, after passing the restaurant’s doors so many times on Upper Greenville, we decided we’d stop in again. The beginning was acceptable. A fairly friendly greeter (who appears to be an owner) walked us to a table — the same one as the previous visit — and we had the same waitress walk up to us.

We did get the correct bottle of wine, with the same wait as the crowded evening before. However, the food made the dinner an experience that we will definitely repeat.

Crab claws at Prego Pasta House

The crab claws are supposedly famous, and this time, the butter-soaked claws were of a tender consistency, with a simple lemon-butter sauce. Soon after the plate was empty, there were adequate leftovers on the plate for dipping bread.

The chicken Marsala was delicious, though, the taste was a bit of a surprise. The Marsala wine sauce came off a bit more like stroganoff, extremely heavy in the taste of mushrooms and creamier than some attempts at Marsala. Nonetheless, the slices of mushrooms and small cutlets of chicken tossed in the indecisive sauce was a plate worth ordering again.

Chicken Marsala at Prego Pasta House

The chicken came with an unnecessary side of spaghetti with marinara sauce, though. While the plain marinara was just fine, had they had the spaghetti under the chicken, mushrooms and Marsala sauce, the plate could have been near perfection.

The menu has 10 items under its “desserts” heading, a list that appears impressive. Though my next trip will absolutely involve ordering a cannoli, we went for the seemingly safe tiramisu.

Tiramisu at Prego Pasta House

The long slice laid flat on its side with a blob of whipped cream topping its soaked sponge cake. Not a traditional presentation, but the fork dove in just as easily.

The cream, mascarpone and cinnamon creation was one of the best I’ve ever had.  The cinnamon complemented its fellow ingredients, avoiding disguising them like so many other tiramisu recipes do.

Like many restaurants, Prego can have an off night, but get through the doors on a good one, and the food is worth your risk.

Prego Pasta House
Location: 4930  Greenville Ave., 75206, 214-363-9204
Hours: Monday – Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.; Saturday, 5 p.m. to 12 a.m.; Sunday, 12 to 11 p.m.
Price: $$ (entrees $8.95 to $21.95)
Ambiance:  Intimate
Attire: Casual
Payment Information: Major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: Full bar

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Filed under Dessert, Italian

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

Terilli’s reopens doors with Italchos, Italian favorites

In a city where copious amounts of cheese cover tortilla chips and French fries, loaded with meat and jalepeños, there’s another cheese-covered delicacy: Italchos.

Terilli's Italchos with ricotta, tomato and roasted garlic.

Terilli’s serves this Italian take on nachos that can take the place of any meal. These handmade pizza chips can be topped with whatever toppings you choose from the menu, but what goes beneath those toppings is a sweet pizza sauce that makes this appetizer better than most nachos you’ve had. You can keep your toppings simple with a choice of cheese and basil or go take them up a notch with options like smoked salmon. The ricotta, however, was a disappointment, blending in with the sauce, rather than adding that extra richness whenever you bite into it.

Since it has just recently reopened since the fire in the spring 2010, we thought it might be a good idea to order every course. After a bowl of creamed jalepeño soup, which I once feared and now love, I took one bite of shrimp and two bites of angel hair from my capellini di Angelo, where I really wasn’t missing much. It was fine, but I’ll make sure to go with something else on the menu.

In between these two courses was the lowest point, though. I had just stopped myself from finishing the soup, one that kicked its spice in at the back of my throat with each spoonful. I’m rarely excited when someone places a simple dinner salad in front of me, and when I made myself take a bite of this oil-slopped lettuce, I remembered why. To call it dull would be too lenient. For a restaurant that seemed to deliver above my expectations, it was nearly an insult to have the mediocrity of this salad on the table. That’s ok though, do you really look forward to the salad course of a meal? Me neither.

After my pasta, we had tiramisu, which wasn’t the top recommendation of our sincerely enthusiastic waitress, but it was better than your average restaurant’s attempt.

If you’re not crazy about a heavy meal, take a glass a wine with an order of Italchos up to the rooftop with your friends. The view of Greenville Avenue is decent (at least better than Lowest Greenville right now) and on a good night, this has the best seats in the restaurant.

Terilli’s
Location: 2815 Greenville Ave. in Dallas, 214-827-3993
Hours: Lunch, Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Brunch, Sunday , 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Dinner, Sunday through Thursday, 6 p.m. to 12 a.m., Friday and Saturday, 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Price: $$$
Service: Could be more attentive, but the staff appears happy to work there and sincere about making your dining experience a good one
Ambiance: Indoor, patio and rooftop seating– on a nice night, you probably want to be outside. But with a piano playing on the inside, you can escape from Dallas for the duration of a meal.
Attire: Business casual
Payment Information: Major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: Full bar

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Filed under Italian

Sometimes, it’s ok to have dessert for breakfast

Like a mercedes emblem can do to a vehicle, some Ricotta can make any meal evolve to a more desirable purchase—on pizza, blended into a filling for a cannoli, and especially inside pancakes. A meal that isn’t on enough breakfast menus in Dallas, ricotta pancakes can make the light and fluffy cakes into a rich indulgence. Thankfully, there’s at least one Uptown spot that offers them, and an entire list of other delectable meals to start the day.

Dream Café has a stack of what they call cloud cakes, though I would call these ricotta pancakes to be denser than a white fluff in the sky, especially since they’re topped with a sloppy dollop of crème fraiche and sliced strawberries. Despite the inappropriate name, these are a meal worth ordering (with a side of bacon). I would probably order the stack every time if they knocked off the strawberries and put blueberries inside with an essence of lemon mixed in with that ricotta.

The Sunny Side breakfast at Dream Café.

On the other side of the menu are some combos, one of which, called the Sunny Side, features a classic breakfast of eggs, sausage and bacon with French toast; but this isn’t your average griddled, day-old bread. Of course, the bacon and eggs were prepared to act as suitable co-stars to the sweet breakfast plate. Known for having some healthier options, the menu creators at Dream Café decided to crust this battered bread in granola–a style that is more pleasing than it sounds. For all of those restaurants out there throwing out limp, soggy French toast, all they need to do is throw some granola around it to create this crisp outside that encompasses a soft bread in the middle.
If you do go in for a healthier breakfast, try to the New Yorker, a plate of smoked salmon and a toasted bagel with herbed cream cheese, capers, onion and a side of scrambled egg. OK, so it’s still a plate-full of food, (it doesn’t even have the heart graphic on it that mean’s it’s a “smart choice”) but there has to be less guilt involved that the plate of ricotta pancakes. Some real healthier choices on the menu (that do get the hearts beside them) are the oatmeal and egg whites or the Glorified omelette with spinach, Swiss cheese and sautéed mushrooms.
The dinner menu changes seasonally, and looks good whenever I glance at it, but I haven’t yet had a chance to drop in any time before noon.
Dream Café
Location: 2800 Routh St., Dallas, 214-954-0486
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Price: $$
Service: Friendly.
Ambiance: Indoor and patio seating–indoor feels like a local diner (for the South, at least); the outside is in the middle of the Quadrangle, which puts you by a small, manmade waterfall and gives you a good opportunity for people-watching.
Attire: Casual
Payment Information: Major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: A small list of breakfast cocktails, sangria, margaritas

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Filed under American, Breakfast

Another weak attempt at Another Broken Egg

Many restaurants have a wait on Saturday mornings for breakfast. When I was able to park my car directly in front of the door to Another Broken Egg and have my two-person party be immediately directed to a six-person table last Saturday, I had a feeling my meal might not be a five-star breakfast.

Biscuit beignets at Another Broken Egg.

My anxiety changed when the waiter seemed sincere in wishing us good morning, bringing us coffee and convincing us to get the “famous” biscuit beignets before we even opened our menus. The honey-marmalade combo in the cup next to the petit beignes was a little too bitter for the morning, but I’ll choose any jelly before opening up a marmalade. I asked for honey, dipped my mini-scone-looking pastry in the smooth sweetness and took a bite. I didn’t mind the flavor, actually, I just felt like I was at Uncle Julio’s. The fact that I was eating biscuit beignets, though, made for a dense sopapilla gone bad.

Because I wasn’t giving up because of an appetizer and I still hadn’t surpassed the limit of sugar for the morning, I gave the French toast a try.

French toast with bacon and eggs at Another Broken Egg.

I’m a big French toast fan, and I really don’t set the bar terribly high for grilled, soak bread. I’m wowed by few places, and Another Broken Egg proved to serve an “acceptable” breakfast. The presentation was an odd one, with the pieces placed in a spiral, the grilled batter flowing off the edge of the bread. The plate was full of pieces with good flavor, but a flavor resting in a grilled bread that never quite met that awesome crispness that keeps in heat and holds up syrup.

As you may have guessed, this wasn’t my first breakfast here. Months ago, I had gone to this restaurant, waited on the benches with numerous other people to get a coveted table and tried this chain restaurant that had just opened on Upper Greenville. I decided to give the brand new restaurant a chance, ignoring the aloof waitress, the flavorless, heatless eggs and the spider that joined us for breakfast that day. Seems my recent meal there wasn’t so bad.

This restaurant wasn’t a total failure, by any means. With the plethora breakfast options in town, though, it’s probably going on my “don’t-go-to” list of restaurants.

Another Broken Egg
Location: 5500 Greenville Ave., Ste. 1300, Dallas, 214-782-9927
Hours: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Price: $
Service: Friendly.
Ambiance: The brightly colored wood paneling and wooden stools at the bar (yes, bar) makee you feel like your in an East Coast establishment.
Attire: Casual
Payment Information: Major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: Beer, wine, various versions of a bloody Mary, mimosa and coffe with liqueur drinks

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Filed under American, Breakfast

Pho is for Lovers adds some delicious culture to Upper Greenville

I’m no expert on Vietnamese food, but I can say that I found some that serves up a delicious lunch for $6. In my recent article for neighborsgo, I wrote on Pho is for Lovers and its owner Diana Tang, who’s lucky enough to have her mom leading the cooking in the back.

Grilled pork banh mi at Pho is for Lovers. Photo: Taylor Adams

I had the grilled pork banh mi sandwich for a recent lunch. Tang relates this to a french baguette, which is probably valid with the soft roll of bread. It veers from French with the fillings, though. The pork was crisp on the outside with a surprising burst of flavor when you bite in. This sandwich is really worth dissecting and having the meat to itself, but the vegetables complement it quite perfectly. Cucumber, pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro and some weak jalapenos may make you keep the sandwich in tact.

Beef pho at Pho is for Lovers./Photo: Taylor Adams

Rusty Fenton, owner of Rusty Taco, tells me the Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk is a must-try; but various teas and a Vietnamese jelly drink also grace the beverage list and Tang says bubble tea may come later on. The menu is fairly simple, says Tang, who might incorporate different dishes as weekend specials later on. For now, the banh mi sandwiches and pho are big sellers.

The menu at Pho is for Lovers was created to be simple and easy for anyone to order, according to owner Diana Tang.

Diana Tang with her mother, Ha Le, at the restaurant./Photo: Taylor Adams

Pho is for Lovers
Location: 5521 Greenville Ave., Ste. 105, Dallas, 972-708-1028
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Price: $
Service: Friendly. Walk-up order, to-go orders available.
Ambiance: Clean, modern feel.
Attire: Casual
Payment Information: Major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: None served
Seating: Indoor

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Filed under Sandwiches, Vietnamese