Green Papaya: Don't Ever Let Them See You Sweat
Green Papaya on Oak Lawn was the first restaurant I ate at when I moved to Dallas nine years ago. My dad had driven with me to Dallas only to find out my apartment wasn't ready yet, so he suggested we stay the night at the Melrose Hotel because it was within walking distance of a Starbucks. My dad drank a Caramel Macchiato or some other Starbucks coffee drink most every morning. He routinely took one with him to the gym and placed it in his treadmill or stationary bike's water bottle holder -- a lot of good that did him in terms of his exertion level -- but that's a whole other story.
Green Papaya's bo luc lac
Back to Green Papaya. It's a good, laid-back date place. Not much has changed since I first dined there except the expanded seating area. I've always had attentive, quick and friendly service, even during lunch when the place is a madhouse teeming with hungry yuppies. And the food always comes out looking fresh.
I crave Green Papaya's goi cuon tom, shrimp spring rolls. These rice paper rolls are full of shrimp, vermicelli, and lettuce, and are served with peanut sauce. After the spring rolls, I typically order No. 30 on the lunch menu, bo luc lac, which is pan-seared, diced tender beef with garlic sauce. This dish is served with rice and fresh vegetables. Bo luc lac is a bargain during lunch when it costs $9.50. But once the sun goes down or it's the weekend, bo luc lac moves to No. 50 on the menu and costs $13.
Green Papaya has a great patio. But on a sunny Dallas summer day, even the misters aren't enough to keep you comfortable, or at least not me. The last lunch date I had at Green Papaya was during the summer, and I'd been rushing to meet my date there on time. He made it to the restaurant before me and had already chosen a table outside. I usually love eating on a patio even throughout a Dallas summer. But something was off that day and I couldn't stop perspiring. OK, fine, I was sweating...a lot. Maybe my date didn't notice the heat since he'd just moved back to Dallas from working on a project in the Middle East. He didn't flinch and I didn't see even one bead of sweat.
But the sun victimized the valet too. After our date ended, my date and I waited in line for our cars. (That's an unfortunate thing about Green Papaya -- the parking is scarce and you almost always have to valet. Or, if you're like one of my friends who loathes all the valet parking in Dallas, you could park at the Walgreens down the street instead. She hasn't been towed yet, but I'm nervous for her every time I see her walking up to meet me at the Vietnamese Bistro.) The valet ran to get my car and delivered it first. I hopped in, grateful to crank the air conditioning. But I found myself sitting on a sweaty wet seat, gripping onto a dripping wet steering wheel, and resting my head against a sopping wet headrest that the valet had left behind. Then I looked in the mirror and noticed eyeliner had run down both my eyes and now lined my cheeks. I drove away knowing I'd never hear from my date again and made a mental note to stash a beach towel in my car for the next sweaty valet.
My recent date at Green Papaya fared better in terms of temperature control. It's been cold lately, so the patio wasn't an option, which meant any sweat problems were nixed. I'd convinced my date to share an order of shrimp spring rolls rather than the chicken version. The chefs at Green Papaya will cut the spring rolls into bite size pieces for you, which I highly recommend. They're so much easier to eat that way and you don't have to worry about double dipping if you're sharing the peanut sauce.
My date and I polished off our rolls and had moved on to our dinner entrees. I'd just bitten into a piece of broccoli when my date announced: "I know we've only been out a couple times, but I think we should go to Houston to meet my parents. I showed my mom your picture and she thinks we make a great couple." I stared dumbfounded trying not to choke on my vegetable and wondering when he and I took a picture together. I told my date I was flattered and that I'd think about it. But in my mind I wished I were eating dinner with my dad or with anyone else who was only trying to convince me to try a bowl of pho.