Bianca: Texas, where the servings are large, the BBQ seriously life-changing and some of the nicest people in the US of A. Dad had some business opportunities in Texas that required an ‘assistant’, so with mother in tow we set off on a 3 week TX adventure. We scored a pretty good deal with Qantas, $1000 return, direct to Dallas from Sydney. A bargain, but something I would probably be hesitant to do again or recommend. A 15-17 hour flight that truly tests your butt’s ability to sit in one spot, non-stop. The food was a little disappointing both legs and their ‘midnight’ snacks never seemed to make an appearance near me.
The flight, a minor inconvenience… and we arrived having time travelled to the exact same time and date we had departed in Sydney. Bless you American time-zone! We picked up our Enterprise rented GMC 4WD and made the beeline for our accommodation. The ultra-cool, warehouse loft style NYLO Dallas South-side. If you like your traditional hotels this probably isn’t for you, especially if you balk at the sight of exposed pipes and brickwork. It’s kind of in the same vein as the QT but without the polished ‘finish’ in the rooms. The bar on the 6th floor is an added bonus and everyone jostles for the primo seats near the rooftop infinity pool.
Fearings at the Ritz Carlton boasts a Southwest inspired menu in an upscale setting. Prices are on the higher end of things but the price tag is warranted and the servings don’t leave you feeling as if you’ve been ripped off. The food was truly phenomenal and really set the tone for the next 3 weeks. The complimentary bread basket was a treasure trove with our favourite being the little jalapeno & corn muffins. Texas Carpaccio was a dish for the senses, with intense salt & pepper smatterings. The wagyu beef was unbelievably tender and the interplay between the sour & sweet lemon custard and the salty elements made for a joyful eating experience.
Lobster Coconut Bisque was an intense thick red curry like sauce, velvety and smooth with a juicy plump lobster pot-sticker.
A mish-mash of ingredients made up my Nebraska Beef Tenderloin & Chicken Fried Lobster. Something I grew to learn during my TX travels, Texans know how to do good beef. I don’t think I ate a disappointing morsel of beef anywhere! Up there for one of the best steaks I’ve eaten. Every element was delicious, there was just too much going on – from the beef, to the breaded lobster ‘tender’, mashed potatoes to a corn enchilada filled with a creamed spinach.
Mum was more adventurous with her Antelope. Soft and juicy despite being very lean with virtually no fat. I was surprised there wasn’t a gaminess, it simply tasted like beef. Complimented nicely with the sweet red currant sauce, polenta and mushrooms.
Mum and I are dessert fiends and a meal is never truly over unless there has been a sweet ending. Chocolate is always the name of the game and the Double Dark Chocolate Cake $10 is everything you could want from a dessert and more. The coffee toffee ice-cream was a standout and the sharpness from the blood orange sauce balanced everything.
I’d done most of the touristy things when I went to Dallas in 2014, but just for the sake of mentioning. Make sure you go to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealy Plaza, Forth Worth Stockyards, Pioneer Plaza and The JFK Memorial.
The Joule Hotel is luxury personified and I had the pleasure of a bloody nose in the lobby which then continued on into the bathroom, at least I did it in style! I rewarded the blood loss with a decent flat-white from Weekend Coffee at the rear of the hotel.
In N Out is always a pre-requisite on any American holiday. The burgers aren’t life changing but for the price they’re kind of hard to beat. My Double Double Animal Style was a clean tasting burger without the artery clogging greasiness. The lettuce was OTT and the beef practically murdered but I’d continually go back if I lived state-side. A 3.4/5 pickles.
Northpark Center would be my suggestion for a good bout of retail therapy, they have your stock standards with a few luxury high ends to boot. As well as Forty Five Ten and Traffic in the heart of the city.
Meso Maya, a Mexican restaurant with an emphasis on food from the south of Mexico, with a focus on Aztec cuisine. With corn tortillas being the main staple opposed to flour based. Big ups to the complimentary Corn Chips & Salsa, which had a bold kick. The Guacamole $9 was criminally under seasoned.
The Pollo/Carnitas Tacos $12 were the best of both worlds. I’ve come to the realisation that white corn tortillas are king! The chicken tacos were the winner and the accompanying black beans were very tasty.
Who orders a steak at one of the best Mexican restaurants in the city? My father… Carne Asada $21 was tender with a nice charred flavour but compared to Fearing’s it was fairly uneventful. I loved the sweetness of the corn tamale and the drizzle of queso.
The Cochinita Pibil $18 shredded juicy braised pork in a tangy orange & spicy red sauce. Essentially a DIY taco plate with the rice and beans.
Dessert was worth the 20 minute wait, the Pastel De Moras –Skillet baked blueberry cake $7. Why are desserts so ridiculously cheap? And still delicious?!!
I was drawn to Grayson Social more for the interiors than the menu, as it’s quite limited. Prices are higher and portions smaller than your typical. But this is part restaurant/ part bar come night-time. And the crowd is more corporate. Country Breakfast $12 has your typical Southern staples, bacon, over easy eggs, grits and a big ol biscuit. The Avocado Toast –w/ a poached egg $14 was a one way ticket to snooze-ville. Dad probably had the more adventurous dish with the Killer Biscuit Benedict $14, with a thick piece of smoked country ham and the grits/ sawmill gravy being the real stars. Also one of the first cafes we experienced the dreaded “We just have cawfee”, the never-ending refills of black sludge. Sorry Merica, you need to sort your coffee out.
Flora Street Café needs to be bumped to the top of anyone’s list if they’re planning a trip to Dallas. Stephan Pyles, championed Southwest cuisine in his native Texas, is a James Beard recipient and quite honestly – up until my recent trip, a complete unknown to me. So this was perhaps the greatest discovery of the TX holiday. Viewed from outside, the restaurant is exceptionally striking, with floor to ceiling windows, dark wooden hues and soft lighting make for an intimate yet subdued atmosphere. Don’t be mistaken, this is some serious fine dining, which is why the name is so puzzling. It’s location in the Dallas Arts District, lends for a few quirkier pieces. Such as a 3 dimensional silk tapestry, a vast open plan kitchen and perhaps the focal point. The Shylight, from Amsterdam’s Studio Drift.
The whole operation is slick, service was flawless and finessed, with that ‘rehearsedness’ that I find so common in American hospitality. And with a mixture of 80’s rock and classical music, the ambience shifted from prim and proper to loose and fun.
They were a little slow at the start of the meal, with a 10 minute wait to even see a food menu and a further 30 minutes to receive some bread. And with some vino already lining the stomach, food was needed immediately. Thankfully the bread was worth the wait. Particularly the little Blue corn & jalapeno muffin and the blueberry and nut roll.
We were told the Lobster Tamale Pie $28 was quickly becoming a signature dish and I can see why. Velvety buttery lobster pieces, the theatrical crunch of the ancho sugar shard, a corn custard and the corn masa was absolutely delicious! With the corn masa cooked down with water and some spices added to give a kick, we are in Texas of course. The greatest compliment I could pay about the caviar, was that I couldn’t taste it…
Beef continued to be the name of the game and the Texas Akaushi Wagyu Ribeye $52 was utter perfection. Perfectly cooked and seasoned but the texture was odd. Similar to a dry brisket, I couldn’t say it was a ‘juicy’ piece of steak but delicious, yes! Loved the crunchy tamarind crust on the outside. The melody of root vegetables kept things interesting. The potato gratin with melted brie was buttery and creamy. The dotting’s of mole Negro added a bit of heat. The black truffle in the dish description was virtually non-existent, so if that is your selling point you’ll be disappointed.
Another strong dish was the Hoja Santa Striped Colorado Lamb Loin & Belly $43. I gravitated more towards the crispy lamb belly but the loin was a perfect medium rare and exceptionally juicy. I love the nuttiness of black rice and its inclusion here was both bold in appearance and flavour. The chewy beet had a hint of smoke and was almost caramelised. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the mushy texture of the caramelised banana, it was just weird.
Mum took charge with the dessert ordering and she settled on the Chocolate Almond Sponge, hazelnut cremeaux and ruby-red grapefruit sorbet $14. A vibrant hazelnut flavour, with a hint of coffee in the mousse. The biscuit crumbs added some great texture and to cut through all that richness, the sharp sorbet. Not a life changing dessert but solid. No hesitation, go!
Breakfast was an old favourite, after a Southern Contiki trip in 2014 I just had to take the parentals to Ellen’s Southern Kitchen. Now, if big American serves get you excited, you’ll be wanting to make a visit to Ellen’s. He was waiting for a meal like this to pop up on our trip and I thought our last day would be the perfect time to surprise him with the gluttony overload.
First things first, they have coffee. And not ‘Cawfee’, espresso’s, cappuccino’s you name it. Serves here are HUGE! Dad was so chuffed when his Big Ol French Toast Breakfast $13.99 hit the table I thought he might cry. You have your eggs, sausages, bacon, hash-brown and a separate plate with French toast, insanity!! I wasn’t blown away by the French toast, so I’d probably recommend my breakfast(s).
Yes, the extra ‘S’ was tacked on for a reason there. The Big Ol Pancake Breakfast $13.49 was equally crazy. Everything was done well, I wasn’t a fan of the potato hash, finding it a little bland and under seasoned but god those pancakes. Drenched in maple syrup they were heavenly. Fluffy and soft, with just a dash of saltiness from the pat of batter. I got into the habit of ordering pancakes with a side of bacon just to alleviate the sweetness, I didn’t choose the #fatlyfe it chose me! But in all honesty, I struggled with the food wastage here, I was literally served two meals.
Dallas was both our jumping point and finish mark in our Texas adventure, it’s chic, urban and probably completely different to how you’re imagining it. The direct flight makes life easier but I’d be lying if I joyfully recommended that flight. It’s a killer!
Keep an eye out for our Austin, San Antonio & Houston posts!