When I started Booing Kiki almost two months ago, I made a lot of promises to the demanding public. I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to fall in love with the Mavericks since I was brand new to following the team, but it wasn’t going to be for a lack of effort. I wanted to immerse myself in the history of Dallas Mavericks basketball, to learn about its heroes, its rivals, and even the culture of the city that claims the franchise. When it comes to mastering an area’s culture, I believe it should begin — and possibly end — with the food.
Texans have a reputation for trying to match the size of their state with the size of their bodies, and that sounds like a place I want to eat. I do have family in the area, so I’m not entirely unfamiliar with northern Texas, but I can’t say I’ve actually set foot in the Dallas metro region itself. I live roughly an eight-hour drive away from the city, but while a road trip is on my near-future to-do list, I’m not quite ready for it yet. In the meantime, I’m going to present a list of area restaurants that have local foodies and fatties freaking the fuck out. With luck, I’ll be able to visit one or two of these places before the season ends. In the meantime, I’ll just write about them and gnaw on my arm until my stomach stops growling.
If I could only try one of the restaurants I’m writing about here, it’d have to be Lockhart Smokehouse. While Texas is also home to some outstanding Mexican cuisine establishments, I’d prioritize that more if I were heading deeper into the state. I don’t have a ton of experience with Texas-style barbecue, and I’d love to change that. Lockhart Smokehouse’s owner Jill Growbowsky Bergus grew up around barbecue, as her grandfather personally operated a market for decades. The restaurant, which also features a full-service bar, doesn’t bother much with frills. Diners order at the counter and receive their orders wrapped in butcher paper (no plates), and the only utensils available are plastic. That’s okay, because most customers prefer to get to work using only their hands, and the meat is so highly rated no one seems to mind the mess. Naturally, the restaurant specializes in beef brisket but also offers pork chops, ribs, and sausages, including an enticing jalapeno cheese variety. Coupled with sides such as smoked baked beans, potato salad, and different kinds of coleslaw, I’m starting to run out of arm to eat here.
Pepe’s & Mito’s Mexican Cafe
I said I’d have to sample Texas barbecue first, but second on that list would probably have to be Mexican, even if it falls into the Tex-Mex category. After all, it should be okay to enjoy Tex-Mex in Texas, right? That said, Pepe’s & Mito’s sounds like it has plenty in the way of authentic Mexican cuisine. Open since 1994, this unassuming little restaurant is run by owners Pedro and Sandy Rojas, who take pride in serving family recipes made from scratch. Standout menu items include pork tamales, beef enchiladas, and chipotle shrimp, which features the restaurant’s signature chipotle sauce. Even Guy Fieri himself, doubtlessly in the midst of his one-way journey to Flavortown, stopped in on an episode of “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives” to give Pepe’s & Mito’s a try.
Ellen’s Southern Kitchen
Listed by the Dallas Observer as one of the best places to eat before a Mavs game, Ellen’s Southern Kitchen is praised particularly for its chicken-fried steak. Yes, this restaurant serves Southern fare at its finest, and it’s so close to American Airlines Center that even Dirk Nowitzki would probably pop in occasionally if he wasn’t so busy eating only healthy German food. Diners also love Ellen’s for its breakfast offerings, especially the grits. You can order up all kinds of interesting items here, from the famous grits Benedict to chili and eggs, and that’s just the breakfast menu. Tasty dinner options include Joe’s Mac & Cheese, which consists of a big bowl of smoked macaroni and cheese with a choice of toppings such as avocado, bacon, ham, mushrooms, and onions, and the B.L.T.E.A., a sandwich served on multigrain toast with lettuce, tomatoes, a fried egg, fresh avocado, and what the menu describes as “thick cut Texas hickory bacon.” Yum, Ellen. Yum.
Uncle Uber’s Sammich Shop
No matter where in the world you happen to find yourself, there’s never a bad time for a sandwich — or a sammich, in this case. Uncle Uber’s is a casual restaurant that only opens for lunch and features nostalgic decor, unique sandwiches, and memorable craft beers. The menu isn’t complicated; diners can either order a burger and customize it with toppings or choose from one of the dozen-or-so sandwiches. If you want a side, you’d better be okay with a salad, chips, or fries, but that obviously isn’t the main draw here. At a place like this, you’re expected to stuff yourself with a sandwich such as the Shaved Ribeye Steak, a combination of Black Angus beef topped with grilled red onions, blue cheese crumbles, lettuce, tomatoes, and garlic mayonnaise served on a baguette, or perhaps The Cuban, which features slow-roasted pork, Boar’s Head ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles. Hell, even the grilled cheese sounds amazing here, as it consists of melted provolone, roasted red peppers, and garlic mayo on toasted sourdough. Wash down the sandwich or burger with a Deep Ellum Double Brown Stout or a Four Corners Local Buzz, and you’ve peaked from a dining perspective.
Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill
This list just wouldn’t be complete without including a steakhouse, and Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill ranked up there among the very best the area has to offer. As the name suggests, this restaurant focuses on wood-fired meals, and it excels in steaks and seafood. This is a casual, affordable establishment that doesn’t seem bound by any strict corporate policies, and customers love how flexible the staff is. Attentive service is one thing, but how is the food? Well, it wouldn’t be on my list if it wasn’t considered top-notch, smart guy. Not only does Kenny’s boast a wide selection of wines for pairing purposes, it also features a great mix of soups, burgers, and steaks. Diners love the pork chops, and the filet mignon supposedly ranks among the best steaks one could ever hope to eat in the Dallas area. The seafood portion of the menu is not to be ignored either, as it includes Ahi Tuna steak, Chilean sea bass, and even bacon-wrapped shrimp. Ron Swanson would be so proud.