Editor's note: Every week, we'll spotlight a culinary treat found around Dallas-Fort Worth — whether it's a new opening, a dish at a restaurant, or a grocery find.
Dish: Chicken-fried steak, $14, comes with two sides
Location: Porch Swing, 3855 W. Emporium Cir., Mesquite
Porch Swing is the new concept from Antonio Swad, who founded the Wingstop and Pizza Patrón chains, which opened in Mesquite in late February. Swad describes it as a blend of contemporary and classic Southern touches, with a menu of tweaked and refined Southern classics, such as fried chicken, meatloaf, and chicken fried steak.
Located in a former Spaghetti Warehouse, the restaurant has a modern roadhouse kind of vibe. It's a big roomy place done in tasteful woods, with a stage, a bar, and a pie shop at the entrance. Live music is part of the mix, along with a big patio.
They warm you right up by bringing buttermilk cheddar biscuits when you sit down. For two people, they brought three biscuits, served on a metal tray with a paper liner. There were two kinds of honey already at the table, one regular, and a mildly spicy one with red chile flakes that was fun.
Whoever the last people were who sat at the table obviously had no idea how to open and close one of those syrup dispensers, because there was honey dribbling down the side. You pour, then close the stopper before righting it. This is not hard, people.
The biscuits were scone-shaped and good — moist inside, buttery, a little cheesy — but even if they weren't, the free part was great.
The chicken-fried steak was an excellent representative for its genre, with peppery flavor and a thick, crunchy crust. Fork-tender is a cliche but it was really true here. You didn't need a knife, and the meat wasn't all fatty and or gristly.
The cool thing was that the steak was not just a symmetrical plank, it had different thicknesses: thin on one side, fatter in the middle, telegraphing the sense that it was hand-done.
The cream gravy was also a cut above, with a buttery-yellow caste rather than a corn-starch white. It was rich and just a little peppery.
Sides ordered included mashed potatoes, which had a smooth and mildly granular quality, almost as if they'd enhanced real mashed potatoes with instant. It had its own odd appeal.
Collard greens were the best side, with chopped greens — along with some rough-hewn stems, very rustic — plus diced onion and bacon. The greens had been cooked until tender but they still had a pleasing heft, and the broth in which they'd been cooked was complex, with a combination of vinegar-sour and peppery-spicy notes.
The "corn bake" sounded like it would be a corn pudding type thing, but it was really just corn kernels with cream, and the corn seemed canned.
A side called "broccoli bliss" was sort of a broccoli salad. It had broccoli florets, diced red onion, diced dried cranberries, and grated yellow cheese, in a sweet mayo type dressing. The grated cheese seemed out of place. Please replace it with pine nuts, even if that's not very Southern. Thank you.
Their pies seem promising, based on the slice of apple pie we got.
The pie had a real crust (not some lame graham-cracker crumb or ground nut fake crust) with a lattice top, shiny from its egg glaze, and it was the right balance between substantial but not overly thick.
The apples had been cut into thin slices (versus chunks) and stacked, evocative of a strudel. They were tender yet firm, with a classic cinnamon-tinged flavor. Perfect, really.
The restaurant has received some mixed reviews, especially regarding its service. But it has also only been open a couple of weeks.