A website called Tasting Table included Dallas in a listicle called "American's Most Underrated Food Cities," advising readers to eat their way through these "under-the-radar culinary gems."
Under whose radar, they do not say, but the inclusion on this list is something for which Dallas should be supremely grateful. Getting recognition from a national website, especially one based in the all-important city of New York, is always a feather in any flyover city's cap.
But before you pop the champagne, some scrutiny of said list is warranted.
The piece begins: "There's nothing we love more than eating our way through a fantastic food city, indulging in the Michelin-starred hot spots and local haunts that put our chosen destination on the global map. But from Rust Belt fine dining to seafood shacks down south, there's more to this country than blockbuster cities and their tourist traps."
That's some wordsmithing. It lets you know that #1, Dallas has no Michelin-starred hot spot and is therefore not a culinary destination, and #2, alternatively, that people who flock to Michelin-starred restaurants are dumb tourists.
Dallas joins a list of underrated food cities that includes such blazing metropolises as Boise, Idaho; Cleveland; Honolulu; Jersey City, New Jersey; Memphis, Tennessee; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Salt Lake City; and Omaha, Nebraska.
If you read the Dallas blurb, you get a sense of the mindset:
"While Houston might be the 'next big thing' and Austin the reigning champ, few other Lone Star-ers show more culinary promise than Dallas-Fort Worth. But before you complain about the sprawl, think about what all that space allows: areas with their own distinct flavors, like trendy Deep Ellum and blossoming nearby Plano; a diverse array of immigrant communities boasting spots like authentic Tex-Mex joint Avila's or pho master Peja Krstic's Một Hai Ba; and, obviously, the room to develop Texas-sized projects, like Legacy Food Hall, a star-powered dining and entertainment mega complex featuring Top Chef alum John Tesar's Knife Burger, Roots Chicken Shack from fellow TC alum Tiffany Derry and an on-site brewery called Unlawful Assembly. Elsewhere, Downtown's CBD Provisions, with its pig's-head carnitas and cocktail program helmed by booze legend Christy Pope (Little Branch, Milk & Honey), is killing it, and the tasting menus at fine dining stalwart The Mansion are always on point. Saddle up, partner!"
Yikes, who wrote this? The author listed is Tasting Table editor Meredith Heil, a resident of Brooklyn. Certain phrases jump out. Let us deconstruct.
1. "While Houston might be the 'next big thing' and Austin the reigning champ-" See, in New York circles, Houston and Austin are aces. Dallas is "underrated."
2. Note the casually inserted, "But before you complain about the sprawl." Was anyone complaining about sprawl? Isn't sprawl more of a Houston thing?
3. And this: "blossoming nearby Plano." Of all the "nearby" suburbs to name-call, why Plano? (The answer seems to be the "star-powered dining and entertainment mega complex" Legacy Food Hall.)
4. This part is odd: After a nod to our immigrant communities, the story applauds "pho master Peja Krstic's Mot Hai Ba." Mot Hai Ba is a fine restaurant, even if it is no longer owned by its founding chefs Jeana Johnson and Colleen O'Hare. And Peja Krstic is a well-regarded chef. But he's from Serbia. And of all the great phos in town, from Ten Ramen to Pho Is For Lovers to Pho District to Wabi House, is MHB really the restaurant you would tout for its pho?
5. Last but not least is the distasteful concluding quip, "Saddle up, partner!" — more of that prevailing, misguided, outsider-y perspective that Dallas is an absolute sea of cowboy hats. Giddy up!
Lists generate traffic and are certainly not easy to write from remote locations where you don't have your finger on the local pulse. And Dallas diners know that the restaurant scene is currently in crazytown bustling mode; a voucher from out of town is meaningless. It's just funny to see how the city is perceived, and how stereotypes get propagated.
The list also includes San Antonio, Texas' other sad second-string city to "next big thing" Houston and reigning champ Austin. The intro to San Antonio begins, "Coming in right alongside little brother Dallas, Alamo City is an equally important stop."
That's you, Dallas: San Antonio's "little brother."