We recently packed our bags and headed to Dallas to taste-test what the large-and-in-charge city had to offer. Although our Dish Trip crew dined happily at a few spots that whipped up the expected—but delicious—big and bold flavors of Texas, there was a farm-to-table scene bubbling underneath the surface that quickly caught our food-loving attention.
We explored several sophisticated eateries and high-end selections, all the while paying homage to Tom Spicer, a man who jump-started and sustained the farm-fresh, local movement in this booming city. Our close encounters with Tom, the locally sourced restaurants and chefs standing behind the movement led us to discover how unbeknownst Dallas might be to fellow foodies across the country. As short-lived as our Dish Trips so tauntingly are, we were still able to cover a balanced mix of Dallas bites from classic Texas BBQ to sweet artisan chocolates. Catch the video of our trip and the bite-by-bite recap below!
We always like to ask locals for their advice on where we should get our best bites in a new city, so who better to ask than our door man at the lovely Joule Hotel. He pointed us in the direction of the All Good Cafe for the first stop on our grassroots Texas food journey. The welcoming venue is disguised by day as a charming bistro in the Deep Ellum near East Dallas. At night, however, this homegrown breakfast and brunch spot quickly transforms into a Bohemian Bistro and live-music venue.
The perky hot spot boasts a delightful dinner menu, and a sea of origami paper cranes adds charm to the cafe. We were there for breakfast, and our hearts melted for the tasty sandwich bites loaded onto our plates. We savored bite-by-bite the fresh tomato, avocado and shaved ham blended with tabasco mayo, egg and cheese and squeezed between two toasted pieces of sourdough.
Our second stop landed us at the Charlie Palmer Restaurant in the Joule Hotel. We had a chance to sit down with Sous Chef Connor Sargent and Executive Sous Chef Joel Harrington. The kitchen duo made us welcome guests in the 1920′s era building located in Downtown Dallas as they told us about their philosophy for creating classic steakhouse dishes with a twist and lead us into the heart of the Dallas dining scene. What was on our plates? A signature item, the 28-day dry-aged NY strip served over horseradish-creamed spring onion potatoes and highlighted by its smoked ramp pesto and a red-wine reduction. Aged in-house and made with locally sourced ingredients, which Chef Harrington spoke passionately about, we talked more about how Chef Harrington planned his dishes based on seasonal offerings and decided to plan a trip to the farm where he sourced his local flavors.
Stop 3: Farm Market 1410
1410 North Fitzhugh Avenue, Dallas
Farm Market on Facebook
What a treat that a fine-dining, OpenTable.com restaurant would lead us to an urban farm to meet the man behind the local food scene, the “farmer who started it all,” Tom Spicer.
We drove down the streets of Dallas to an urban farm to meet Tom, the owner of Farm Market 1410 and the main producer of all the greens, herbs and spices for many of Dallas’ most intriguing restaurants. We walked into his quaint urban farm storefront to find Joel (of Charlie Palmer’s) and Tom sharing glasses of whiskey, overlooking the farm greens and discussing what menu they will be planning for the week. Joel’s two children were along and quickly became our new best friends. They made themselves at home on this urban oasis petting the resident doggies and exploring the new crops, assisting to pull fresh carrots.Tom explained how his operation stretched beyond the usual Texas produce of potatoes and peaches and that his focus was on garden to table, with emphasis on tender greens, root vegetables and garnishes. We tasted chocolate mint, fresh carrots and enjoyed time breathing in the fresh air of a farm in the city. All seemed right with the world as we sat at his rustic farm table, laughing with Joel’s children, tasting seasonal produce that was grown steps from our seats and listening to Tom play music on his acoustic bass with finger harp attached. We had to force ourselves to move on from this level of comfort.
Like a scavenger hunt, we asked Tom Spicer where we should go next. It just so happened to be the same restaurant that Southwest Airlines’ very own Brooks Thomas loves to frequent. Our next stop was to meet with John Kleifgen, the Chef at The Union Bear, a charismatic Clark Kent look alike with a personality that mirrored the restaurant’s inviting decor. With an indoor/outdoor bar, modern but simple art and an extensive beer selection, the spot was casual but sophisticated, and not afraid to color outside the lines.
It was our pleasure to tackle their Cubano Sandwich comprised of only the finest, all-natural and local pork butt. They cured the meaty goodness in-house, then added their house-pickled jalapenos, house pickles and a little provolone.
We sampled a salad of greens, carrots, radishes and other goods picked by Dish Trip crew and Tom Spicer earlier that day and, quite honestly, we think about this salad at least once a day since having the first bite (the thought to have the Southwest Airlines cargo team ship these salads to Philly weekly has crossed our minds). The lightly dressed locally-harvested greens and the yolk of a 5:10 egg topper in particular sent this salad over the edge. The hand-cut beef tartar and coddled egg finished up the show up at The Union Bar, and was the camera crew favorite, but left the Town Dish crew begging for an encore.
While stomping our foodie feet around Texas, it seemed only necessary to sample some of the area’s best barbecue. This stop at Lockhart Smokehouse brought us up close and personal to the way beefy, saucy, juicy barbecue always should be.
We were told “no forks allowed,” which was not a problem with ribs; however, the no-utensils rule proved a bit difficult when it was time to sample the plethora of sides that accompanied our mega meat sampler. It may have been Lockhart’s location in the active Bishop Arts District that led us to get creative. We used crackers, bread and lickable fingers to assemble all sorts of meats and an array of sides, which needed to be washed down with a Victory beer. Good thing we brought some and were eager to share with our newfound barbecue friends.
We decided to stray off the path of fine cuisine, plated meals and messy barbecue for a glimpse into the most unique chocolate company within the Bishop Arts District, and possibly all of Texas. Nestled among outdoor cafes and street fairs, we swore it was the scent of this chocolate haven, and not our itinerary, that led us through the doors.
Once inside we found all dark-chocolate selections that customers know change with the season. Creative ideas are credited to chocolatier Katherine Clapner and her sweet team, ranging from exotic selections to chocolates made from dehydrated blue cheese!? With quirky selections and a name that’s fun to say, “Dude… Sweet Chocolates!” their chocolates are often the first that come to mind for locals who seek a sweet adventure. A pretty sweet fact about this spot is that they too use products and produce from Tom Spicer in their chocolate concoctions.
The Joule Hotel provided us with lovely accommodations for our locally focused Dish Trip. Their exquisite decor, a 10th floor pool and one-of-a-kind wine cellar made memorable impressions. Cocktails from the friendly staff at the open-air bar and a soothing ambience made our stay at the Joule Hotel seamless and very enjoyable.
Our camera team (and burger “experts”) have deemed the poolside burger “in the top three burgers” they’ve ever had.
After stepping outside our dining comfort zones with messy barbecue helpings and unique local produce, we found a little bit of home at our final stop. Our team ran into Bill Covaleski, owner of Philadelphia’s Victory, at The Cedar Social. We shared Victory’s Prima Pils at Cedar Social’s blast from the past ‘70s theme bar.
Their restaurant was another popular Dallas foodie destination reaping the benefits of Tom Spicer’s green thumbs. Their culinary crew represented with a killer menu of signature sandwiches, soups, salads and more. With the freshest ingredients, coming right from the backyard, you couldn’t go wrong when selecting from their assortment of one-of-a-kind items.
The journey to Dallas left our Dish Trip crew feeling full of community camaraderie and delicious Texas cookin’. Our revelation of the local movement happening between Tom Spicer and most Dallas restaurants was one that we realized warranted a closer look. Each bite helped us grasp how incomparable their operation was to other farm-to-table movements around the country. Dallas had no problem representing their culinary skills on many levels and we can’t wait to come back for more. In the meantime, follow us on our next unique journey when we tackle another city’s finest food destinations in a whirlwind of a trip.