Katherine Clapner of Dude, Sweet on the End of "Exceptionally Shitty Italian" in Dallas
Katherine Clapner makes magic happen with her confections at Dude, Sweet Chocolate. Yesterday in our first interview, she told us about her pastry background and today we discuss the Dallas food scene.
What are some of your favorite restaurants in Dallas?
Lucia (they're neighbors), because Dallas has had exceptionally shitty Italian for so long. So, when they opened it was spectacular. El Jordan for a Mexican breakfast. Eno's Oddfellows, Vercruz and Gloria's. There are really so many, I can't name them all.
When friends come to town where do you take them?
I like to take friends to Bolsa -- it's very farm-to-table and Dallas-oriented. Smoke and Taquería El Si Hay. Some places I go to because they're indigenous, then there are others I go to all the time because they're part of my staple. There are a few places I like because you're not necessarily going to get the experience in another part of Dallas or you're not going to get it in another city.
Any favorite hole-in-the-wall places?
Sweet Georgia Brown's. Just don't go on Sundays after church, it's insane. They have soul food barbecue and it rocks the house. A lot of people will go there and think they've completely screwed up. They'll think, 'Oh no, what have I gotten myself into.' But, it's amazing.
What do you think the Dallas food scene needs more of?
Good Chinese. I'd be happy with that. Or Indian food south of 635. The Oriental grocery store is out on Old Denton Highway, wish there was something closer. More local growers and a better farmers market.
Not too crazy about the Dallas Farmers Market?
They've got a tiny little Texas representation. I buy 75 percent of what I cook with at Tom Spicer's place (Spiceman's FM 410). I buy meat at Rudolf's and fish at Rex's. I buy my pasta from the pasta person and cheese at Dallas Mozzarella Company. To do all that is a royal pain in the ass! Why can't we get all these things in one place? Instead we have to schlep all over the place. We carpool just to get everything. We need more neighborhoods like this.
What do you like about being in Oak Cliff?
When I was looking for a retail space, it was the only area I wanted to be in. There's a tremendous sense of community here with all the shops, restaurants, schools, parks, there's stuff going on in some capacity all the time. It's a great area that has its own personality.
Do you think the Dallas food scene is evolving?
Yes, I think we're getting better all the time.
How is it getting better?
For me I just look at one small piece and so I'm not able to give a good testimony on that. One thing, I wouldn't expect people to like the things they like in my store.
(Writer's note: yet, they do. See our Best of Dallas list.)
We're seeing more independents. Chefs that worked for other people are going out on their own and doing very well. That's a great thing to see. People are starting to go outside of main areas, like Highland Park Village, to eat. They're leaving their comfort zone to come to restaurants here in Oak Cliff, which is great that they're coming to unfamiliar territory for good food.
When you think of your childhood what kind of food comes to mind?
Well, my mother stopped cooking when I was 12 because she went to school to be a dentist. She was done. Food in the house was done. When I was 15 I became a total latchkey kid. I started driving when I was 15.
Did you start cooking for yourself?
No, I ate fast food. My mom was great cook, she just didn't have time.
Are there any foods in particular from your childhood that stand out?
My grandmother's chicken and dumplings, for sure. But for me growing up, when I think of food, we went out to eat a lot. I grew up eating Vietnamese, Indian, Korean and Lebanese. We would go to Fort Worth to Hedary's. We'd go to Dallas because that's when Indian Palace was there. I would go to eat at Kalachandji's. I grew up eating a lot of different culture foods.