By Jose Ralat Maldonado
The Trains at NorthPark, holiday-themed electric train exhibit for children, knee-high and hunched-over, is in town through January 1. With it comes a host of logistical dilemmas, namely: What to eat after riding the rails that doesn’t involve the NorthPark Center mall food court. Below are some suggestions.
La Duni Latin Kitchen & Coffee Studio
From their McKinney Avenue location, husband and wife Duni and Taco Borga have built a SMALL network of high-end eateries serving Latin American-inspired entrees and desserts, not to mention sweet cocktails. The NorthPark location is a full-service restaurant with an Argentine café feel. Notable selections include the classic empanadas, the meat parade that is the Argentine parrillada (mixed grill) and the tequila-lime-guava baby-back pork ribs. For the kids, there are several wonderfully kids-menu items presented in non-kids menu ways. We’re talking kid’s calamari and chupacabra quesadillas filled with steak, chicken and ham—mythical creature not included—washed down with gourmet lemonades. Get a seat in the Center Park courtyard, accessible via the restaurant, to decompress safely separated from the shopping jam. Order the pampas fries. Trust us.
Maggiano’s Little Italy
Carbo-loading at this family-style Italian-American palace—this restaurant is huge—could be beneficial before running the gauntlet that is The Trains at NorthPark. If you decided that cozying up to a big bowl of Chef KB’s Lobster Carbonara, a signature pasta dish, or a cracker-crisp order of pepperoni and arugula flatbread is more appropriate for a wind down. Then, look no further. Also in the mall, Maggiano’s Little Italy offers all the comforts of necessary for gently cooling from the hot holiday rush. Think of Executive Chef David Duron as nonna (Italian for grandma), quick to “whip up” whatever will fill your belly—it makes you happy, it makes him happy. Duron is at adept at spinached-stuffed mushrooms and grilled asparagus as he is with veal Marsala and tremendous steakhouse cuts. Cap it with New York-style cheesecake or tiramisu. Buon appetito!
Blue Mesa Grill
Liz and Jim Baron have cornered the market on small-chain Southwestern restaurants with Blue Mesa. The pair have done so through locally sourcing their larder (chicken from Gonzalez, Texas, cheese from Dallas Mozzarella Company, seasonal veggies from Texas’ breadbaskets). The committent to supporting area producers has gone a long way in producing a great Sunday brunch buffet, one of the best in Big D. Two superb enchiladas on the menu are chicken and mushroom with chipotle-cream sauce and the blue corn cheese three-chile red sauce are featured on the menu, along with an anchoring omelet bar. But then there’s the brisket, the fresh guacamole, huevos rancheros and cinnamon churros. It’s worth crossing Northwest Highway for.
El Rincon de Villa
Whereas Blue Mesa offers fantastic border food, this Lilliputian restaurant against the DART Red line on Greenville serves hearty Mexican food. There is no need for story here. The tacos (try the pastor) are brilliant, and the enchiladas de mole go from the ground to the clouds with one saucy bite. Spend some time reading the writing on the walls littered with quotes attributed to Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. Two favorites are “Man cannot live on bread alone. He also needs tacos”” and “I’ve been enamored with the same woman for 30 years. If my wife finds out, I’m a dead man.”
Kuby’s Sausage House
Farther afield but no less gratifying, Kuby’s is the place to link up—pardon the pun—with friends and family who passed on the elaborate scenerios threaded with locomotives. The house-made encased meat emporium has a tiny dining room that comes off as an afterthought. What isn’t thrown together is the history of the establishment and the family that has operated it for 50 years. The sausage saga began in 1728, when Friedrich Kuby opened a butcher shop in Germany. Karl Kuby set up shop in the Big D in 1961, and quickly earned a reputation for a delicious craft, which certainly has nothing to do with the fact that his business processes field-dressed game nor the outstanding jalapeno sausage. The menu also offers an assortment platter, the Wurst teller (sausage plate) with house-made sauerkraut, potato pancakes, schnitzel, an array of sandwiches and daily specials.
Bliss Raw Cafe & Elixir Bar
You will be dumbfounded that the bruger on your plate is raw and meatless. The “burger” taste like a burger! There is cheese! But that’s how it is at Bliss, Chef Kelly Dennis’ veggie and vegan-friendly eatery off Northwest Highway. The head-scratching isn’t isolated to the food. The dining room ceiling is supported by metalwork with earthtones and natural materials below. The tables are covered in white cloth upon which is found pho. If you’re thinking, “But pho is served hot. Bliss is a raw joint,” that’s OK. Raw foods can be heated to a temperature of 115 degrees. The Greek pizza with tahini-hummus is popular. Wash down the so-not rabbit food with vitamin-stuffed elixirs, like the goji paradise (goji berry and aloe lemonade with tocotrenols, agave nectar and coconut oil). Ahh…