By June Naylor
To experience the most interesting dining in Dallas, you’ll have to cross the river. For a lot of Dallasites, that’s asking a lot. Folks from North Dallas dread the trek downtown. Uptowners don’t want to travel all the way up to Addison. But usually, a destination dining adventure is worth the trouble.
And that’s more than the case when we’re talking about the Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff. This is where people from all over North Texas go for a taste of Austin-style cool; best of all, it’s just a minute or two southwest of downtown Dallas.
The Bishop Arts District, a neighborhood with spruced-up, century-old buildings and a wealth of vintage chic, proves ideal for anyone craving a leisurely day or evening of gallery browsing, boutique dawdling, pub crawling and cuisine sampling. Its growing fan club comes also for the mood, best described as liberal and inclusive, engendered by the diverse, creative population living and working there. Best of all, nothing about Bishop feels contrived or fabricated; instead, the neighborhood hums with authenticity.
The list of reasons to eat there goes on and on, but we’ll keep the discussion here to a manageable length. Please note that there’s no intention to leave anyplace out; this collection of snapshots only scratches the surface.
Herewith, five food destinations worth your trip to Bishop Arts.
For most of 2011, this has been the hardest table to book in Dallas. Since opening last winter, the 36-seat dining room has stayed wildly busy, thanks in no small part to the exquisite dishes put forth by David Uygur, former chef at Lola in Dallas, and the front-of-house hospitality extended by his wife, Jennifer, who managed the wine department at Central Market before the couple pursued their dream of owning their own place.
This isn’t the place for heavy red-sauced plates. Instead, you’ll find a deft talent for compositions of bold flavors and delicate touches. From the Antipasti section of the menu, I love the crostini with chicken liver and Black Mission figs; and the eggplant soup. Among Primi picks, the elegant tagliatelle with chanterelles, thyme and breadcrumbs tickles me pink; and the braised rabbit with polenta is my Secondi choice. For Dolci, Davi had me at toasted brioche with chocolate mousse, sweet ricotta and orange confit.
Years before anyone thought of this stretch of Oak Cliff as a regular gathering place, Gloria’s revolutionized our way of eating food from south of the border. Putting together a menu that blends Mexican and Salvadoran dining, the original location that blossomed into a local mini-chain finally outgrew its original digs. Recently moving down Davis to a much larger new home within a beautifully restored historic firehouse, Gloria’s still pleases with its ceviche tostada with lime-marinated orange roughy, as well as the chicken soup, starring large, torn pieces of chicken breast bathed in its deep stock, floating along with chunks of potato, carrot, onion and celery. There’s also grilled whitefish with black beans, rice and sautéed fresh veggies, but it’s hard to top Gloria’s sampler plate, laden with the tamal wrapped in a banana leaf, cheese-filled pupusa, fried yuca and plantains, the latter best for dipping creamy black beans and sour cream.
Even when temperatures soared and seared this past summer, the picnic tables at this little watering hole stayed full. Now that the afternoons and evening are delightful again, those tables are nabbed quickly by a faithful following eager for handcrafted drinks and plates bearing goodies sourced from local farmers. At brunch, we always tackle the bruschetta tasting, which includes toasted breads topped with Marfa-grown tomatoes, Caprino Royale chevre and basil; prosciutto and Medjool; smoked salmon with crème fraiche and capers; and Fuji apple and almonds. Among flatbreads, we cannot resist the fresh mozzarella with pepperoni and herbs, nor the wild arugula, goat cheese and oven-roasted grapes. From the dinner menu, the butternut squash soup soothes my soul, and the petite file with asparagus, goat cheese mashers and mushroom jus is more than satisfying.
This place gives you the feeling of being hugged by a favorite grandmother, the homey food is just so good. My brunch go-to picks are the Oddfellows Benedict, a pairing of Texas honey ham, spinach, hollandaise and Texas farm tomato slices atop an English muffin; and the huevos rancheros, with a nubby red ranchero sauce that rivals some at the best Mexican restaurants. The pickled-okra-stopped bloody mary is a jewel, too. The food coma you’ll experience can be ratified somewhat by the magnificent coffee, strong and stout. At lunch, the mac and cheese with buffalo chicken provides plenty of taste thrills, and at supper, the fried chicken with buttermilk waffles and peach syrup warms the heart – and inspires another half hour on the treadmill.
This “roadhouse” pretty much launched today’s Bishop Arts excitement. Opening originally as Tillman’s Corner and offering good food and drink at reasonable prices, a fashionable redo turned the hangout into an even more stylish place for quaffing and noshing. This is where you go for stick-to-your-ribs food that’s made with panache. Everyone’s favorite snack is the trio of fries, served in a wooden box. You get parmesan-black-pepper-dusted Kennebec potatoes; chile-flecked purple potatoes; and sweet potato fries coated in sea salt. Alongside, there are dipping sauces including a housemade ketchup and a horseradish pickle mayo. The crispy, cornmeal-jacketed fried pickles come with a spicy ranch dressing, so you may as well go all the way. From the menu of plates, I’m partial to the smoked Cornish game hen with Dr Pepper BBQ sauce and the coffee-crusted prime rib.