It all started when I had the worst enchiladas ever, in Huntsville, Texas.
Why was I eating a plate of enchiladas in Huntsville? It’s a long story, but basically I used Foursquare (what?) to find a place to stop along the highway on the way home from Galveston after a family cruise. It was late and the #foodbabies were hungry and someone on Foursquare said the enchiladas were better than some of the Mexican restaurants in the area. WOW they were wrong. And maybe even a little bit racist. I don’t know anything about Huntsville (except that there’s a prison and a prison museum there), but I know there are better enchiladas to be found. There is no photograph of these enchiladas. I would never glorify them by preserving them in that manner. Let’s just say the rice and beans were nothing to speak of, the ground beef was fine, and it was wrapped in what may have been a decent white corn tortilla, but the whole plate was bathed in what I can only describe as ballpark squirty cheese with a distinct Velveeta flavor. That shit has its place, y’know. On nachos at a baseball game (or in hell, take your pick). But never as “queso” on a plate of enchiladas. It was like a nail in the coffin on a shitty year. And I sat there, thinking to myself, “why are folks proclaiming these the best enchiladas ever, and eating shit everywhere, giving all their money to the walmarts of the restaurant world, while places that I love are struggling and even failing? How much more can I scream from the rooftops when something is great so folks should go eat it?” The answer is, well, complicated. 1) I was in Huntsville, duh. 2) Not everybody listens to me or cares. 3) This is the way the world works in business.
Either way, 2016 can eat a bag of dicks tossed in ballpark cheese.
I’ve been feeling a rant coming on, for quite a while now.
Partially because so much has gone wrong this year socially and politically that I can barely focus long enough on one thing to rant on, but also because I’ve been out of town attempting to go on a vacation with my family, I just haven’t been able to get it all down on virtual paper yet. But I’m going to try. I’m going to make a couple of lists.
First, a Bucket List.
These are places that I resolve to revisit this year because I love them and want to give them my money and attention. I hope that my endorsement helps you choose them when you’re thinking about where to eat. Because the reason I started blogging almost a decade ago was to help folks decide which places were worth their hard-earned money, their sparse time and their nights out. I don’t like to waste a meal and I hope you don’t either.
But I do want to share a little something that’s been itching me a bit about the recent restaurant closures in town. I know it’s a sticky situation when people who aren’t personally invested in a business get all grouchy, angry and up-in-arms about places closing when they don’t know the first thing about the business, the neighborhood or the people who run it. I also think the restaurant business is practically a non-profit. It’s like these people are masochists who love to make people happy and will try endlessly to do so even when all diners do is shit one-star Yelp reviews on them, leave shitty tips and spend most of their money at chain restaurants. Customers can be assholes. But not all of us are. And it’s not the customers’ fault if a business fails. It’s more complicated than that. It’s more than “not enough of you people who said you loved this place didn’t come eat here.” I’ve seen a lot of business owners (who definitely have more than their share of frustrations to deal with, hence the whole masochists thing) make fun of their customers and would-be customers on social media over the last few weeks and it’s putting a bad taste in my mouth. I like to think I speak for the people. Restaurant owners: you actually need customers, so don’t be a dick. And customers: just never be an asshole to someone who serves you. That’s all I’m going to say. Rant: over.
So, these thirty spots are on my Bucket List for 2017. Go here and eat and drink and give them your money because they deserve to stay. These places are our gems. If they were gone I would be sad AF.
Disclaimer: I have no idea how these places are doing financially, so some of them are probably banking and in no need of our extra patronage. Either way. Go.
GET DIRTY WITH THESE THIRTY.
- Wabi House (Get the dry garlic ramen and all the apps.)
- Rapscallion (Cocktails! And the entire menu.)
- Top Knot (Everything. But go for brunch because damn. Also the karaage is amazing. As is everything.)
- Sushi Bayashi (I am such a fan of this spot in Trinity Groves. Fresh product and knowledgable staff keeps me coming back.)
- Val’s Cheesecakes (Val is a sweetheart and cheesecake in a tiny jar is the perfect small indulgence.)
- Chino Chinatown (Uno knows how to make every visit a celebration. Drunken Noodles and chicken lollies forever.)
- 18th & Vine (Class up your barbecue eating with this lovely spot that deserves attention.)
- TJ’s Fish Market (Jon works hard to provide Dallas with the freshest fish to take home or eat in his restaurants. Show him love.)
- Coffee House Cafe (Challah French Toast Sandwich, fair trade, shade grown coffee and a drive through. Live music in North Dallas. C’mon!)
- Glazed Donutworks (These are the donuts I’d miss most if all the donuts in the world were gone tomorrow. Yes, it’s because they’re gourmet and I’m a snob. Yes they’re expensive but yes they’re also worth it.)
- Stackhouse Burgers (Underrated view plus great burgers and fries. Do it.)
- Unleavened (Eat East Dallas at this local healthy spot. Everything is fresh and delicious there. Plus kids eat free every day for dinner.)
- Bisous Bisous (Because Cronuts)
- Sprezza (The best new Italian hands down. Great service at the bar, too. Don’t sleep on it.)
- Gemma (Class act. Great for date night!)
- Stock & Barrel (Double date night. Love this place and its home in Oak Cliff.)
- Goodfriend Burger (One of the best.)
- Malai Kitchen (Try the spicy green curry and talk to the owners because they’re awesome and so knowledgable.)
- Lake Highlands Creamery (He makes the stuff from scratch. Like really. Nobody is doing that. The spots you think might be doing that? They’re not. Go try it.)
- Madrina (This place has it all. It’s worth going to Highland Park for… )
- Pakpao (Best fancy Thai in town)
- Off-Site Kitchen (My number one burger, especially important now that my fave burger spots are dropping like flies.)
- The Grape (Also a great burger, but seriously just a Dallas CLASSIC for dates, brunch, any meal that needs to be just a little bit more special.)
- Whisk Crepes Cafe (We have a crepe place? YES. Go eat there.)
- Casa Rubia (Tapas done right. Best patatas bravas I’ve ever had.)
- Bangkok at Beltline & at Greenville (My choice when it comes to Thai delivery (Greenville) or dine-in (Beltline).)
- Montlake Cut (Fancy? Yes. But an instant classic that you should definitely visit if you haven’t already.)
- Resident Taqueria (You can’t see this place from the street very well, but East Dallas/Lake Highlands residents know where to get amazing tacos and it’s at Resident. Don’t wait. Go eat them. Seriously.)
- Mudhen Meat & Greens (Healthy stuff that is organic and carefully made is a bit more expensive but it’s also worth it. It’s good for you to eat at Mudhen. Go shop at the damn Farmers Market while you’re at it. That place needs love too.)
- Carbone’s (Another quiet Italian type. Get in there.)
I’m also going to include a Kick-The-Bucket List.
It’s a wish list, of sorts. Like, I wouldn’t cry if I woke up tomorrow and these restaurants had disappeared forever. If you go to one of these regularly or semi-regularly, I’ll do you a solid and slide you a great spot to swap it out with. Happy New Year! Fix your foodie failures! Yes, this is about to get harsh, but they don’t call me foodnicelady so listen up.
Zuzu’s (Substitute with literally any other Mexican food restaurant that has cleaned its floors within the last twenty years.)
Manny’s (While I am happy for them that they’ve been able to be SO successful in that previously cursed spot at Mockingbird/Abrams, queso that bad cannot be excused.)
Ozona’s (A good patio does not equal awesome. Sorry not sorry. Go eat at Henry’s or The Rustic.)
Nodding Donkey (The ND used to have a banner out at the former SMU location touting: “BEST BRUNCH IN DALLAS” and wow was that a joke. That’s just poking the bear (me). They covered every brunch dish in some sort of kitchen sink-style queso that made everything look like puke. Nope.)
The Eberhard (This bar and restaurant has a beautiful, gorgeous space. But honestly some of the worst food and drinks I can remember having in Dallas in a long time. I sincerely hope they can fix their shit, or that they were having a really off day when I came in. Go eat at Madrina or Filament, and go get drinks somewhere sexy like Midnight Rambler.)
Fuzzy’s Tacos (Seriously WTF. There are so many tacos of strong to quite strong quality to be had in this city. Why must people continue to consume something called Fuzzy? And something soooo mediocre?? Just stop it.)
Taco Diner (Two words: BAD CHIPS. Dallas, we’re better than this. Or are we?)
Baker Brothers (Okay I know this is a chain but honestly I think it’s one of the worst and saddest. Well, it’s a tie with Jason’s Deli. Go get yourself a baked potato at a BBQ spot like Lakewood Smokehouse or Ten 50 BBQ or something. Support local. Don’t spend $10 on a stupid-ass sandwich.)
Al Biernat’s (SO OVER IT. Go eat at Knife or Pappa’s, depending on your steaky styles.)
Primo’s Tex Mex (Now that they’ve moved away from their McKinney Avenue spot where you could hang out with Big Al from KISS FM there’s really no reason to ever eat their shitty food again. Right?!)
Picasso’s Pizza (This spot sprung me into action when it came to finding kid-friendly spots that didn’t suck. Thank goodness because it’s still my most popular post on this blog by FAR. Good pizza is easy to find: see Coal Vines below.)
Tortaco (It’s not working. Wayyy too much smoke, not enough fire. Too many chains and motorcycle shit everywhere. Some of the food is good but it’s been overcomplicated. La Ventana and Meso Maya are far choices with supremely better execution.)
Coal Vines (This place is just not good. There are several better pizza places in town: Cane Rosso, Pie Tap, Fireside Pies, Americano.)
VERTS (I don’t care if you lose the KEBAP or whatever. You are not a good kebab joint. You are the Subway of Mediterranean food, and I’ll bet you can guess whether that’s good or bad. Better options for Mediterranean/Greek/Lebanese food: Ali Baba, Little Greek, Ziziki’s.
Digg’s Taco Shop (See Taco Diner, Primo’s, Manny’s, etc. There’s just no excuse to eat mediocre tacos right now.0
Note: I don’t have a problem with taco places that aren’t “authentic” either. I’m not like a taco snob or something. I like Taco Joint, Good 2 Go Taco, Torchy’s and spots like La Banqueta and Tacos Mariachi. What I don’t tolerate is mediocrity and shittyness.
Another note: I have over the years been treated to meals at some of the places on both of these lists. That doesn’t make me any less honest about the way I feel about them. Shape up, or ship out. I don’t want to lose one more place that’s awesome because a place that wasn’t took its business. But by the same token if you’re good, don’t rely on just being good. Be awesome: at marketing, customer service, and not being a dick. Good things will happen.
LET’S PUT A BULLET IN 2016, TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND WHO THE F KNOWS?
HAPPY NEW YEAR!