Drive-by tasting: Start

Posted on 10 Jun 2016 at 7:20am

This gayborhood restaurant could be the Start of something good (for you)

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A wrap and tater tots (with organic ketchup) are some of the healthy items at Start that have fast food appeal. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES
Executive Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Here’s the dirty little secret about Americans: we want our fast food. We like our fast food. But deep down, we want to feel good about liking our fast food. And that’s where a place like Start comes in.

It has the trappings of fast food. It’s open early for breakfast, and stays open for late snacking. There’s a drive through — the essence convenience eating.

But then there are the non sequiturs: Beer and ciders are sold here (organic). So is granola (same).

Selling itself as “handmade, wholesome food,” Start — with two locations, one on Lemmon in the gayborhood, one near SMU on Greenville Avenue — boasts a hipster vibe where the menu filled with ingredients so free of preservatives that eating them won’t pickle you before you’re dead: Organic, hormone-free meats. Grass-fed beef. Salads made of protein-rich quinoa — indeed, there are an assortment of vegetarian selections (see “hipster” reference above — hipsters are either vegans or subsist solely on edibles and housemade game sausages. That’s just a fact). Start even strives to diminish its eco-footprint by not offering water bottles and minimizing waste. “Real food fast” their logo announces. That’s very different than “real fast food.”

You pay a bit extra for that sense of social responsibility, but you are rewarded for it. The hamburgers are a specialty, touting the option of gluten-free buns as well as build-your-own-burger possibilities. It’ll cost you anywhere from 7 to 10 bucks, depending on your mood. But the flavors are fresh and satisfying, and considering how many actual fast food joints serve mystery meat faster than Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop, there is a smug bit of self-congratulation that comes with knowing the provenance of your meal.

The other entrees deliver as well. The turkey and swiss wrap was dry in bites, washing it down with a bottle of cider was more than sating.

No value meals here; the value is in living a cleaner lifestyle. That means you shell out separately for garnishes and sides, like tater tots (which, if I’m being honest with myself, probably were not hand-cut by an Irish farm girl). But honestly, who really wants that anyway? Isn’t it enough that they are, apparently, baked? (Start restaurants  don’t own a deep-fryer, according to the menu.) Just ladle on the organic ketchup and indulge in a bit of childhood comfort dining — only the kind your nutritionist would approve of.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 10, 2016.

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