What do you think of when you hear Dallas, Texas? Maybe J.R. Ewing, the Cowboys football team, big hair, or Southwest Airlines? It is time to add food to the list. Great food. Creative food.
I had the fortunate opportunity to go back and visit Dallas this past weekend with my family. And as soon as the trip took shape, my mouth began watering for some delicious Tex-Mex at Avila’s. Don’t I get enough Mexican food in California?
Mexican food in California and Tex-Mex simply are NOT the same. Tex-Mex is as different as the English language spoken in London compared to Fargo. For example, Tex-Mex has the idea of Chile Con Queso which is a lovely melted cheese, typically with peppers, sometimes adding in beef, all for dipping in your crispy tortilla chip. The idea of queso in California is a plate of shredded cheese.
Avila’s Restaurant serves the best Tex-Mex I have ever devoured. Everything is fresh made in the kitchen and you can really taste that difference. No assembly line food here. Not a fancy place but cozy and comfortable. Family still works here and some of the staff have been around for many years.
For the main dish, I vacillate between the Mole Con Pollo and the Beef Brisket Tacos as they are both quite delicious. The Mole sauce is perfection, not sweet, not grainy, but smooth, earthy, and rich. The beef in the tacos tastes like it has slow cooked for the whole day, still nice and moist, chopped into appropriate small bites, and a fun roll on the back of your teeth texture.
Next on the list is a brand new restaurant I had never visited, Sissy’s Southern Kitchen & Bar. This place really plays up its southern roots. Dress code appears to be loafers, jeans, checkered shirts, and bow ties.
The corn bread and biscuit basket is the way to start here. Not only was a light and sweet honey butter served, they also had an assortment of house-made jams to choose from including blackberry-lime, blackberry-raspberry, strawberry-rhubard, and jalapeño.
I then went straight for the gusto, chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy as companions. Now for all of you who have never visited the south, you might think why in the world would you chicken fry steak and what in the world does that mean? I used to think that too, until I tasted it. A simple cube steak fried up in a pan with flour spiced with salt, pepper, and whatever else the chef decides to mix in. There really is nothing like it. Imagine fried chicken but steak inside! Sissy’s really does the chicken fried steak justice. Just the right spices in the flour added a spicy tone to the crisp, the steak was well tenderized, and just the right amount of juice remained, not too much to drip and spill but enough to slide around.
After making my way through the CFS, I spotted a dessert item that I just had to try, strawberry-rhubarb cobbler. Now when I was a boy my mom would pick fresh rhubarb and raspberries from our backyard and make an amazing crumb. Sometimes we’d get strawberries from the next-door neighbors and she’d make strawberry-rhubard crumb which was always my favorite dessert. The tart twist of the rhubarb mixed with the sweet of raspberries or strawberries all topped by a brown sugar sweetened crumb. Yum. Sissy’s did it up just right. The tart rhubarb, the sweet strawberries, a light and thick pastry top with a sprinkle of powdered sugar. It was amazing.
I could go on to describe the goodness of Huevos ala Mexicana at the old school El Jordan Cafe in the trendy Bishop Arts district, or the proper fried chicken at Rathbun’s Blue Plate Kitchen, the handmade chocolates and ice cream at Chocolate Secrets, but I want to give you just enough to know. To know that the next time you go to Dallas for a conference or meeting or whatever, break away and go explore the awaiting gastronomic experiences the cosmopolitan Dallas metroplex has to offer.