Truck me!

Dallas’ food truck trend hits terminal velocity at massive meet up

dining
FOOD ON WHEELS | The lines were long at every truck in the Sigel’s lot last week, as Dallas foodies turned out for the first major food truck event. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

The food truck has been an American tradition — as expected as corrupt politicians —  for decades. But if you don’t recall seeing them in Dallas much in the past, there’s a reason for that: a city ordinance that required them to move every hour. Being itinerant is one of the joys of the food truck, a mobile kitchen that can bring its unique flavors to where the people are and migrate with them. If they high-tail it like the revenuers after a moonshine still every 60 minutes, it seems less like a convenience and more like a grey market transaction. And how do you follow a restaurant that moves all the time?

The solution has been two-fold: Repeal that pesky ordinance (the City Council did that in June), and let folks track you via GPS and Twitter. Now, a truck can hole up for as long as the business is booming, and when it goes on the move, it’s easy for tech-savvy foodies to follow. I first saw the new semi-permanent advantage put into practice this summer at the Bath House Cultural Center along White Rock Lake during the Festival of Independent Theatres: Patrons didn’t have to scarf down Doritos or speed a few blocks to a Whataburger to eat between performances, they could just go outside and sample the automat-on-wheels.

It’s become hugely trendy in the past few months — In-N-Out Burger with mobility. It reached, arguably, its peak last weekend with a festival in the Sigel’s lot on Greenville Avenue, as half-a-dozen trucks set up shop for three hours to show Dallas what it has been missing.
But it ended up as something of a clusterfuck.

Organizers underestimated the demand for rolls that actually roll, even on a sweltering evening in August. There was simply too much demand and not enough supply.

One truck, Ruthie’s Rolling Café, announced it would not take new orders for its gourmet grilled cheese sammies until it caught up with its backlog. “Half-hour, 45 minutes,” the girl there sympathetically apologized. Ninety minutes later, my order still hadn’t been taken.

I could hardly blame the chefs, who worked like 8-year-olds in a Chinese shoe factory to get the dishes served but still couldn’t seem to get their heads above water. And honestly, looking at the menu whetted my appetite to finally track them down. The Bomb cut off new orders of its fried pies well before the event was set to end. (Not so Nammi Truck, which has a long line and a two-hour wait for their bahn mi bites.)

The only dishes my party and I were actually able to sample were from 3 Men and a Taco. Figuring this might be my only chance at actual food, I tried a trio: beef charkalaka, pork and pico and an alligator taco. The gator, which I generously spritzed with the spiciest of their spicy salsas, was tender, and the sauce didn’t cause my eyes to roll back in my head (a failing — I like spicy — but tasty nonetheless). There was something unnerving about the texture of the pork, which had the consistency of wet cottonballs, though the flavors were solid. I’ll return to try the rest of the menu, just not when the line’s so long.

In the end, we ditched the parking lot and scooted over to Mariano’s Hacienda for frozen swirls and some flautas. It cost more, but at least we left with our bellies full in less than an hour. Food trucks are meant to sate you, not sap you.

Ah well. Kinks will be worked out. By the time the permanent food truck lot opens next year on Lower Greenville, there’ll be a rhythm. Until then, it’s back to playing Twitter detective and seeking out the trucks when the lines are shorter. It might be less communal, but at least you get fed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

2011 Readers Voice Awards: Dine

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EVEN STEPHAN | Texas’ most acclaimed chef has two restaurants downtown and a legacy of inventive cuisine. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

ULTIMATE CHEF
Stephan Pyles

Stephan Pyles
1807 Ross Ave., Suite 200
Open for lunch Monday–Friday,
open for dinner Monday–Saturday
214-580-7000
StephanPyles.com

Samar by Stephan Pyles
2100 Ross Ave.
Open for lunch and dinner,
Monday–Saturday
214-922-9922
SamarRestaurant.com

It’s not like we discovered Stephan Pyles, but we sure are proud to claim him. Wait, strike that: We did discover Pyles, acknowledged nationally as one of the finest chefs the Southwest — America — has every produced. But he didn’t start out that way. The West Texas native worked in his parents’ truck stop before moving to Dallas, where he immediately settled in the gayborhood as a line cook at The Bronx. He worked his way up the ladder, continually impressing casual diners and genuine foodies (before there was such a term). It’s been almost 30 years since he reinvented Southwestern cooking by opening Routh Street Cafe (then Baby Routh, Star Canyon, AquaKnox and his two current eateries, Samar and his eponymous Stephan Pyles). He’s a celebrichef of the first order, a TV host for an Emmy-winning cooking show, a successful cookbook author and James Beard winner, but he hasn’t forgotten where he came from. Maybe that’s why his food is so damn good.

— Arnold Wayne Jones


HUNKA HUNKA | Hunky’s, now in a new location on the Strip, has been serving gay Dallas’ favorite burgers for nearly 30 years. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

BEST PLACE TO EAT FAST AND CHEAP

BEST BURGER

BEST CHEAP DATE
Hunky’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers

3930 Cedar Springs Road
214-522-1212
321 N. Bishop St.
214-941-3322
Open for lunch and dinner daily
Hunkys.com

What can you say about Hunky’s that hasn’t already been said? The longstanding burger joint in the gayborhood is legendary for its generously-portioned burgers and crisp fries as well as its retro look and campy name (not really campy when you see some of the staff, either). And with the recent upgrade moving to new digs, everything seems fresh and new. We liked the burgers in the old spot, but could swear they taste better now. Hunky’s has a renewed energy about it but didn’t lose any of the charm from its former location across Throckmorton. Whether you’re hitting it up for a workday lunch to slake your hunger, or just want to take your boyfriend out for an inexpensive but endearing impression, Hunky’s is winning — and, likely, you are, too.

— Rich Lopez

 

BEST BARBECUE
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

2525 Wycliff Ave. (and additional locations)
Open for lunch and dinner Monday–Saturday
214-780-0999
Dickeys.com

If you’re in need of just a really great meat fest, Dickey’s is your place — especially now that they’ve added the sublimely spicy cheddar sausage to their menu. The new addition has only upped the ante on their already delicious and quality selection of beef, pork, chicken and ribs, whether sliced, pulled or roasted. And what’s up with those coupons and frequent dinner loyalty cards? Keep an eye out for those because you can easily walk out of there with a full stomach for way cheap. Just stay away from our stockpile of ‘em. They’re sticky from all the barbecue sauce anyway. Sweet.

— Rich Lopez

 

HOT AND COLD | The gooey cheese on an Eno’s ‘central’ pie is nearly as creamy as an ‘original’ frogurt from Red Mango. M&Ms only go well on the latter, though.

BEST ITALIAN / PIZZA
Eno’s Pizza Tavern

407 N. Bishop St.
Open for lunch and dinner daily
214-943-9200
EnosPizza.com

Voters in this category had a range of Italian cuisine to concentrate on, whether the rich red sauces of the toe of the boot or the fresh cream sauces of northern Italy. But in picking Eno’s they sent a clear message: We. Like. Pizza. Pizza is an idiosyncratic cuisine, like the comfort food you grew up with. Maybe you prefer Chicago deep dish. Maybe New York’s thin, floppy slices. But Eno’s stakes its own claim with a crisp cracker of a crust, like on the “central pie” (our server’s favorite and ours, too:  a strong scent of rosemary wafting over the cheesy center). The serving plate looked like it had been ravaged by wolves within five minutes. It had. Wolves who love pizza and are willing to put in the gym time to enjoy it.

— Arnold Wayne Jones


 

BEST YOGURT
Red Mango

4123 Cedar Springs Road (and other locations)
Open daily at 11 a.m.
214-522-6886
RedMangoUSA.com

A few months ago, America, and especially North Texas it seemed, experienced an invasion of epic, summer-action-movie proportions. Fortunately, instead of flesh-eating aliens with their crosshairs set on Big Tex or the downtown Dallas skyline, our fair city was overtaken by something much friendlier, but equally motivated to dominate: Frozen yogurt shops. A new storefront popped up on nearly every corner, each more gimmicky than the last. But in the end, all people really want is frozen yogurt that tastes great — and tastes like yogurt —with high-quality toppings and friendly service. Red Mango quickly became a favorite rising above the competition — not just in the gayborhood at its ilume location, but in Uptown, NorthPark Center and several other Metroplex outposts. Whether it’s all-natural Madagascar vanilla, the wonderfully addictive tartness of the pomegranate or one of many other great flavors, they’re equally good all alone in a cup, accentuated with fresh fruit and crunchy toppings, or blended into a smoothie for a more portable, fast-lane-friendly way to enjoy Red Mango. Here’s hoping they continue to open new stores because this is clearly a case where world domination wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.

— Steven Lindsey

 

ULTIMATE BREAKFAST
Original Market Diner

4434 Harry Hines Blvd.
Open for breakfast and lunch daily;
open for dinner Thursday—Saturday
214-521-0992
OriginalMarketDiner.com

 

ULTIMATE BRUNCH
Mattito’s

3011 Routh St.
Open for lunch and dinner Monday–Saturday,
Sunday brunch from 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
214-559-0720
Mattitos.com


DIVA DINER
Original Market Diner

4434 Harry Hines Blvd.
Open for breakfast and lunch daily;
open for dinner Thursday—Saturday
214-521-0992
OriginalMarketDiner.com


BEST VEGGIE RESTAURANT
Cosmic Cup Cafe

2912 Oak Lawn Ave.
Open for lunch and dinner daily
214-521-9195
CosmicCafeDallas.com


BEST ASIAN / SUSHI • TIE
Oishii Sushi & Pan-Asian Cuisine

9525 Wycliff Ave, Suite 110
Open for lunch and dinner Monday–Saturday
214-599-9468
DallasOishii.com

Thai-Riffic

3068 Forest Lane, Suite 212
Open for lunch and dinner Monday–Saturday
972-241-2412
ThaiDallas.com

Zen Sushi

380 W. Seventh St.
Open for dinner daily
214-946-9699
ZenSushiDallas.com

 

BEST SEAFOOD
Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen

3520 Oak Lawn Ave. (and additional locations)
Open for lunch and dinner daily
214-521-4700
Pappadeaux.com


BEST MEDITERRANEAN • TIE
Fadi’s

3001 Knox St., Suite 110
(and other locations)
Open for lunch and dinner daily
214-528-1807
FadisCuisine.com

Ali Baba Mediterranean Grill

1901 Abrams Road
Open for lunch and dinner daily
214-823-8235
AliBabaCafe.com

 

BEST STEAKHOUSE
Bob’s Steak & Chop House

4300 Lemmon Ave.
Open for dinner Monday–Saturday
214-528-9446
Bobs-SteakandChop.com

 

BEST MEXICAN / LATIN
Cyclone Anaya’s Mexican Kitchen

3211 Oak Lawn Ave. (and other locations)
Open for lunch and dinner daily
214-420-0030
CycloneAnaya.com

 

BEST DESSERT
La Duni

4264 Oak Lawn Ave. (and other locations)
Open daily for lunch and dinner (no dinner
Sunday); open for morning coffee Monday
214-520-6888
LaDuni.com

 

ULTIMATE DINING EXPERIENCE
The French Room

Inside the Adolphus Hotel, 1321 Commerce St.
Open for dinner Tuesday–Saturday
214-742-8200
HotelAdolphus.com/Dining

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Tasting notes • 11.12.10

If your last name is “Wines,” you’re probably destined to become a sommelier, and that’s just what Emily Wines is. In fact, she’s one of fewer than 100 people in the U.S. to earn the title master sommelier (even fewer are women — Barbara Werley at Pappas Bros. is another). Wines works for the Hotel Palomar in San Francisco, but she’s coming to its Dallas cousin Thursday for a fundraiser for Resource Center Dallas. For a $20 donation, you can enjoy Emily’s “Wines for the Season” intro to white, red and sparkling vinos, as well as Central 214 executive chef Blythe Beck’s tasty bites. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 18.

Landmark Restaurant inside the Warwick Melrose Hotel is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its parent company with “Three for $30 Dinner” during the month of November. Come in an order an appetizer, entrée and dessert, and even taste some house wine, for 30 bucks. To book a res, visit LandmarkRestoDallas.com.

Kent Rathbun’s three local restaurants — Abacus, Jasper’s and Rathbun’s Blue Plate Kitchen — will do something they haven’t before: Sell the same item on all the menus while raising money for the North Texas Food Bank.

At a tasting this week, local foodies chose from among three yummy entrees to pick one that would make it on the menu. Anyone ordering that dish for $15 through Nov. 17 will get a complimentary pumpkin pie empanada dessert and earn a contribution to the NTFB, courtesy of Capital One Bank. The winner: A phenomenal chile-seared sea scallop on chipotle corn mash, pictured.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Local eateries help you ‘go vegan’ for a week

Here’s the problem I have with most vegans: It is all-or-nothing with them. Sure, I like soy burgers on occasion or a big leafy salad (no egg or cream dressing!) for my entree every once in a while. But I also crave veal scallopini and foie gras occasionally — so sue me. (No. Don’t.)

But this is why my friend Eddie Garza is different. Eddie’s not a proseyltizer. He’s a true vegan, and I avoid ordering steak tartare when I’m with him, but he’s not the kind to throw blood on me as I exit a meat factory. He just wants people to be aware of the damage done to animals for the sake of food, cosmetics and the like. But he knows I drink milk and he’s still my friend.

He’s also the local organizer for Mercy for Animals, the national vegan-friendly organization established by a gay guy, Nathan Runkle. And he wants everyone in Dallas to go vegan … at least for a little while.

First there’s “Vegan Day at the State Fair,” which takes place on Saturday. Local chefs and foodies will judge the best fried vegan foods and no-kill lovers can commune with Big Tex. (Hint: Steer clear of the corny dogs — not exactly vegetarian, despite the word “corn.”)

CORRECTION: The Texas State Veggie Fair is NOT affiliated with the State Fair of Texas. It takes place at 406 S. Haskell St. on Oct. 16. DallasVegan.com

Then there’s MFA’s planned “Go Vegan for a Week” initiative with area restaurants. From Oct. 24–31, five upscale restaurants — Salum, The Second Floor, Bijoux, Tillman’s Roadhouse and Stephan Pyles — will offer vegan options — “compassionate, sustainable and healthy” — on their menus. That’s in addition to already-vegan and -vegetarian places like Bliss, Kalachandji’s and Cosmic Cup Cafe.

Many of the options sound yummy: tempura cauliflower and broccolini with white bean puree at Salum; soba noodles with bok choi and Thai chile vinaigrette at The Second Floor — which may prove you don’t have to give up flavor to save an animal.

You can learn more at DallasVeganWeek.com.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones