VH Oak Cliff Opens Tonight in Oak Cliff

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It's a party.
This past weekend I was on my way home from a relaxed evening in the Bishop Arts District. It was late and I was tired, but not so tired I couldn't have been talked into staying out a little longer. As I rounded the corner of Beckley Avenue and stepped on the gas I noticed the old Outpost space was lit up and had a new paint job. Music was playing and I stopped hard.

There was a party.

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Kitchen LTO Chef Blythe Beck on Global Culinary Domination and Sexism in the Kitchen

Categories: Interviews

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In her relative short time as executive chef of the former Hotel Palomar's now-defunct restaurant Central 214, Blythe Beck quickly made a name for herself. Known as "The Naughty Chef" from both her Oxygen reality show and the combination of "booze, butter and bacon" that made her famous, Beck is now back in Dallas after a two-year hiatus as a consultant in Arkansas.

Surprisingly enough, Beck isn't helming her own "swanky Southern" joint, but has been chosen as the next executive chef at Casie Caldwell's permanent pop-up restaurant Kitchen LTO. Even though she'll only be there for four months, Beck is beyond excited to be bringing her flavors back to the city that helped propel her career to new heights. I sat down to talk with Beck about why Dallasites love her food so much, why she chose Kitchen LTO, and her quest for global culinary domination.

What has it been like for you to come back to Dallas and have such a great reception from people who clearly loved your food at Central 214?

Being back in Dallas is the best thing ever. Arkansas is great, and it was really great to me, but the whole time I was wondering what was going on at home. The reaction has been humbling, but it's also been very exciting. To be back in a brand new kitchen with an entirely new staff doing my own thing again is going to be really great.

What about the short-term nature of Kitchen LTO appealed to you?

Everything about it appealed to me. It's actually a double-edged sword because you work with these people in the kitchen and front of house, and they really become your family. It's sad to leave them, but as chefs, we get itchy to move onto bigger things. I've known [owner] Casie Caldwell for years, I consulted on Kitchen LTO in its beginnings, and the timing of Kitchen LTO 4.0 was just perfect. I spent all summer shooting some television, so it was a perfect time to come back to Dallas. I love cooking in the fall here. I was pretty much willing to do whatever it took to come back to Dallas, and I got lucky in that this was just a perfect opportunity.


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Tasting the Banh Shop's Banh Mi No Matter How Offensive the Logo

Categories: Food News

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The red star is missing from the Banh Shop on SMU Boulevard.
If you've read anything about the Banh Shop, Yum! Brands' test site for the development of a fast-casual, Vietnamese-inspired restaurant, you've probably read about the controversy surrounding their logo. The big red star perched above the garage doors at the front of the restaurant reminded Vietnamese expats of the communist forces that wreaked havoc on their homeland -- not exactly an image that conjures delicious sandwiches served in crusty French bread.

But this week Yum! Brands announced they'd rework the logo, and the sign was recently removed from the restaurant's façade. Now we can turn to matters more pertinent to the restaurant itself: whether or not those banh mi sandwiches are worth eating.

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First Look at Cake Bar at Trinity Groves

Categories: First Look

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It's cake!
If you haven't paid a visit to Trinity Groves in a while, and you're into such things, you might want to head back. A number of restaurants have opened recently as the back side of the main building continues to fill with incubating restaurant concepts.

The latest is Cake Bar, and if you can't figure out what they offer you're probably having a blood-sugar crash. You should think about letting someone else drive you there.

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100 Favorite Dishes, No. 12: Emporium Pies' Pies

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No Star Wars jokes allowed.
To prepare for this fall's Best of Dallas® 2014 issue, we're counting down (in no particular order) our 100 Favorite Dishes. If there's a dish you think we need to try, leave it in the comments, or email me.

It's the quintessential ending to just about anything: Something sweet that might otherwise induce a nap, paired with something bitter with a bit of a jolt to keep you moving. The pairing works so well that the folks at Emporium Pies decided to stuff them both into a pie tin creating Java the Hut, a caffeinated cream pie that comes with a buzz.

The only problem is you can't have a slice because Java the Hut was a summer pie and has since been removed from the menu. Mark your calendars toffee-bottom-with-an-espresso-filling-pie-lovers: you can see it again next June if you're lucky.


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How Meat Church's Matt Pittman Smokes His Brisket

Categories: Barbecue

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In "Shigging," we ask barbecue experts to give us some specifics about how they smoke their meats. In the spirit of barbecue secretiveness and competitiveness, they're allowed to lie once.

This week, for Shigging, I'm doing something a little different, and speaking with a competitive barbecue champion. I've heard that in these competitions, there's a lot of injecting and spritzing and that the strategy for smoking meats in a competition is different than when you're smoking meats for the masses. To find out whether or not those awful rumors were true, I spoke with Meat Church's Matt Pittman.

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Texas Department Of Agriculture Commissioner Disagrees That Kids Should Eat More Beans

Categories: Complaint Desk

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An educational slide from the Texas Department of Agriculture's Square Meals program.
September has been a long one for Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. At the month's start, Staples drew some heat for an op-ed he fat-fingered for the Austin American-Statesman. It denounced efforts to get school children to eat less meat and sparked an Internet backlash that preceded Staples' resignation from the Texas Department of Agriculture, which was announced yesterday morning.

Elementary schools in Dripping Springs, a suburb of Austin, had recently embraced Meatless Monday as part of their school lunch program. The movement encourages participants to give up meat on the first day of the workweek, in the hopes that the behavior will curb Monday meat consumption and also shape mealtime choices the rest of the week. The push towards flexitarianism is said to benefit the participant in terms of healthier choices, and also the environment, which suffers negative impacts from unfettered meat production.

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In Praise of Short Menus

Categories: Food News

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Menus don't have to run for days and days.
This week The Washington Post published an article noting a trend towards smaller menus in large, corporate restaurants. The Olive Gardens and TGI Fridays, among others, have found increasing utility in streamlined menus, compared to their previous offerings, which literally read like a book covered with sticky honey mustard sauce.

The article made me think back to a review I wrote two years ago of Ten Bells Tavern in Oak Cliff. I praised chef Carlos Mancera's short, tight menu that I said was leading the charge on improving the state of bar food here in Dallas. Even though that WaPo article was written with regards to large restaurant chains, there's a lot to be gleaned for a local restaurant scene. In fact, it would be nice to see an increasing number of local restaurants take this cue from the big, commercial restaurant businesses. (How often does one say that?)

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Spec's and Total Wine Are Battling for Wine Supremacy, and You're Drinking the Benefits

Categories: Drinking

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Spec's opened its Walnut Hill behemoth in late 2011.
Want to buy a variety of brand-name wine, beer, and liquor practically at cost? Or shop an almost unprecedented number of Texas-made whiskeys, craft beers, and wines? Or choose from thousands and thousands of alcoholic beverages, a selection that dwarfs almost every other retailer in the area?

Then thank the battle between Spec's and Total Wine for control of the Dallas-Fort Worth liquor market. Over the past couple of years, the two chains -- Houston-based Spec's and Maryland's Total Wine -- have turned what used to be a gentlemanly and often price-controlled environment into the booze business' version of a pro wrestling cage match. This includes two lawsuits against Total (though none filed by Spec's).

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100 Favorite Dishes, No. 13: Hanger Steak and Eggs Taco at Good 2 Go Taco

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Hanger steak and eggs done the taco way.
To prepare for this fall's Best of Dallas® 2014 issue, we're counting down (in no particular order) our 100 Favorite Dishes. If there's a dish you think we need to try, leave it in the comments, or email me.

This is not your every day breakfast taco. Before Tamale House closed in Austin, you could make a reasonable argument that it was worth the three-hour drive just for those loosely scrambled eggs. Factor in a warm tortilla and scratch-made salsas and it was worth the same distance as a walk.

But Tamale House did close, and its shuttering has shifted the breakfast taco galaxy. It may not be the best example of taco simplicity, but it is a damn fine example of fill up your belly, quickly and efficiently. Meet Good 2 Go Taco's Paris in Texas. And you don't even have to fill up your tank to get one.

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