Tag Archives: Knox-Henderson

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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Great One comes close to fulfilling its cookie promise

Great One Cookie Company has its name for a reason: If you’re having an amazing, gooey cookie that’s simply great, just one is enough. And just as the website says, “Life is too short to eat an average cookie.”

For the most part, the store lives up to the name and motto.

Carefully packaged treats from Great One Cookie Company. (Photos by TAYLOR ADAMS)

Located next to the small wine shop on Monticello Avenue, this miniature bakery offers customers a slightly small, but worthy array of fresh baked cookies. The woman behind it all, Pam Denesuk, can be found in the kitchen behind a mixer.

That may be where she stays as another employee walks up to take your order. This isn’t the best place to take a friend for a sweet treat to catch up some afternoon. The lack of music coupled with a feeling of awkwardness makes you want to get out of there with your box or bag of cookies as quickly as possible. Luckily, you will be pretty satisfied once you bite into a cookie.

While they’ve been posting on Facebook that Great One Cookie would have cookies with candy bars, such as Kit Kats, in their cookies, none were on the four cake stands where they were displayed last week. Don’t worry, you can order those candy-bar cookies if you’re really craving them. They did, however, have more than enough to calm down your sweet tooth.
The standard chocolate chip cookie has the perfect combination of dark and milk chocolate, as every chocolate chip cookie should (but many fail and choose to go one or the other). What you can tell about this cookie, and every other one here, is that it has a homemade quality to it. Everything is simple and clear tasting. It was a bit battery, as were most of the other cookies–but that may be her personal taste. Who doesn’t like a little cookie batter?

This would be the absolute perfect cookie if it were warm (which none of them were after they were placed into a white paper bag).

The oatmeal-raisin cookie (from left, clockwise) chocolate chip cookie, chocolate-pecan cookie and the white chocolate-cranberry cookie.

There’s a white chocolate cranberry cookiewith a perfectly-almost-too-much-sugar sweetness that is also a bit undercooked. The white chocolate doesn’t stay in chips when this cookie is cooked. Even when the cookie is room temperature, the chocolate isn’t a variation of crispy texture, but a gooey sweetness intermixed in the batter.  The macadamia nuts, however, give it a crunch that takes this to another level, and it’s worth ordering over the chocolate chip. It is a bit salty, though.

The oatmeal-raisin cookie was the one that was cooked through. With its mound shape, it looked more like a decadent dog treat rather than a cookie. It was also inconsistent–as though it were mixed with a wooden spoon instead of a Kitchen Aid mixer–pockets of sugar or flour surprise you.

The next cookie is one that caught me off-guard as my favorite, but it makes sense that salty and sweet could come together in one dessert of a cookie. The chocolate-pecan cookie is a chocolate chip cookie that isn’t over salted, but perfectly complemented with a salty pecan. It’s cooked thoroughly, and dark chocolate is melted through.

This little cookie shop is in an odd spot, but one that dishes out enough sweetness to have you look for it.

A dessert-filled bag from Great One Cookie Company.

Great One Cookie Company

Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Price: $
Ambiance: This is really a place where you pick up your order and go, not sit and absorb the ambiance.
Payment information: Major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: None served

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Cafe Madrid: Nibbling toward a broader perspective

Simple olives at Cafe Madrid (Photos by TAYLOR ADAMS)

As Americans, most of us are accustomed to having a full meal. Unless we’re walking over the pavement at the State Fair of Texas, general grazing of different foods at one time just isn’t really our thing.

Luckily, we have restaurants, such as Cafe Madrid, that broaden that perspective of ours.
This quaint dinner spot makes for an ideal place for happy hour.
The deals of reasonably priced, smaller plates are worthy and the house sangria is delicious. It seems every restaurant in San Antonio has almost the perfect house-made sangria, but unfortunately, that’s not the case in North Texas. Cafe Madrid does a good job so that the beverage isn’t overly fruity. It’s still not made with the best wine, but perfectly infused with fruit–none of which takes up half of your glass like it does in other establishments’ rendition of the drink.

Aceitunas fritas

The mixed olives in oil are a simple beginner, one that could be welcomed before any meal. But to take this traditional first taste to a different level, try the aceitunas fritas. Yes, they’re fried. A simple batter surrounds the small tanginess of the olives. The simplicity is overcome by the aoili that lays beneath it.

Albondigas andaluzas

As for the meatier options, the albondigas andaluzas offer a different kind of meatball than you might be used to. These Andalucian meatballs, as they call them, have a hint of saffron. The almond-piquillo sauce that’s beneath it is worth scooping over the meat. The chorizo San Martin comes in a white wine and garlic sauce.

While the sauce is far too greasy to be paired with something as fatty as sausage, the meat itself lends a tender, fresh tasting link of sausage, one that could still use a bit more spice.

But there are still other things fritas you can get. In fact, there’s a nice portion of the menu dedicated to frituras. One of these is, of course, a plate of calamari, one that’s not special and can be skipped for something better, such as the fried cheese and spinach croquettes (croquetas de manchego y espinacas on the menu).


The calamari (foreground) fell short of the simple pair of cheese and spinach fried as a croquette (background)

There’s no wonder it could be a favorite item on the menu. The simple fact that it’s fried cheese has that covered. But the spinach adds an earthiness to it, one that’s subtle enough to give the cheese a prominent role, but helps the batter create something that’s more of a fried delicacy than a fried something-or-other you can find in Fair Park.

Cafe Madrid
Location: 4501 Travis St. in Dallas, 75205, 214-528-1731
Hours: 5 to 11:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 to 12:30 a.m. Friday through Saturday
Price: $$
Ambiance:  Intimate
Attire: Casual
Payment Information: Major credit cards accepte
Alcohol: Beer and wine

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Filed under Spanish