On the Road Again, In Search of the Missing Boudin
Nothing gets me on my bike faster than the words "boudin stand." So when I heard a Lafayette transplant had opened a shop around Duncansville, I filled my water bottle and went -- after first charting a course that would allow me to dip a bit deeper into Dallas' culinary canon.
Breakfast of champions
I'm fairly new to the breakfast taco game. Tacos aren't served at even the most ambitious breakfast joints in western North Carolina, where starch and meat in the morning typically means grits and livermush. So I have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about when I lament along with Dallasites ruing the local breakfast taco scene and pining for some sacred egg-and-bean spot in Austin. But I've heard the conversation repeated frequently enough that I know the customary rejoinder is, "Well, they do a pretty decent job at Fuel City."
I'm still a trip to Austin away from approaching expertise on the breakfast taco front. Figuring out whether the Fuel City call-and-response was legitimate seemed much simpler -- and probably more prudent in 98-degree heat.
Breakfast tacos at Fuel City, which, I understand, are not the tacos that propelled the gas station to fame, are relatively simple: Eggs and breakfast meat scrambled together and strewn across a flour or corn tortilla, served with a spot of salsa verde. I ordered the chorizo, and liked it. I'm not sure I've yet had my revelatory breakfast taco moment, but eating a $1.50 taco in the company of a longhorn steer felt satisfyingly Texan.
I was thrilled to discover that Wingfield's is officially known as Wingfield's Breakfast and Burger, since my route took me past the fabled burgerteria before 10 a.m. I showed up just as a staffer was flipping the "closed" sign to open. Even though the grill wasn't warmed up yet, he ushered me inside, which is how I ended up spending 20 minutes on my tiptoes in a back corner of the cramped restaurant, my face wedged between the air conditioner and a TV tuned to ESPN's World Cup coverage. How 'bout those Argentineans?
I've been tremendously impressed with burgers in Dallas, and so approached Wingfield's with ridiculously high expectations. I'd heard the burger was the best in the city. And the state. And maybe the nation. I genuinely considered whether the sandwich might be so good I'd just turn my bike around, abandoning all hopes of ever finding a better meal.
Wingfield's serves a very good, hand-pressed patty, encrusted in salty seasoning and cooked just short of dryness. It's pretty delicious. But I wonder if its stratospheric reputation isn't wrongly rooted in some sort of sideshow appeal: Nearly every review of the place I've read -- both professional and amateur -- has marveled at the massive size of the burgers and cracked wise about the working-class neighborhood. Wingfield's is selling a serious product, one that should be judged without resorting to romantic notions of "slumming it." I'd love to taste it side-by-side with a burger from Maple & Motor.
Since the morning was supposed to be devoted to boudin, not burgers, I then made a beeline for Da Reel Boudin Spot, which opened in the Southwest Center Mall about two months ago. I learned that from a handyman who was behind the darkened counter, taking down the last framed picture of sausage when I arrived. "I don't know where he went," he told me, gesturing at a framed photo of the owner. The photo, presumably taken in happier times, shows a large man eating boudin and flashing a thumbs-up sign. It's labeled "hungry dude."
What? No boudin? Damn.
The food court at Southwest Center Mall -- where stores turn over so rapidly that tenants who stay for a year receive a certificate of appreciation -- is apparently a regular target of local entrepreneurs' edible dreams: Antojitos Puertoriqueno's opened one month ago in a space just across from the vacated Da Reel Boudin location.
The man working the counter didn't know too much about the various dishes on offer -- "I'm from Mexico," he said -- but steered me toward a fabulous garlicky stewed chicken, freshly made by the Puerto Rican-born caterer who launched the eatery. The rice served with it had been burnt by reheating, but the accompanying pink peas were perhaps the best thing I ate all day: slowly-cooked in a tomato-based sauce with a terrific whole green olive flourish, the dish bespoke islands as clearly as sunscreen and a straw hat (both of which I probably could have used for my trek home.)
Who needs boudin anyway?