In September, one's thoughts turn to a certain category of food: the fried kind. Blame the State Fair of Texas, whose Big Tex Choice Awards plants a seed. A seed covered in batter and fried.
This year's State Fair lineup was notable in that the entries were elevated to a higher foodie level than years past, including a deep-fried lobster tail from Mr. Choice Awards himself, Abel Gonzales. For our September edition of Where To Eat, we follow their lead with some high-end fried food offerings at restaurants around Dallas-Fort Worth.
Recently opened branch on Greenville Avenue of this local Asian-fusion chain feels noisy and bright. Rice bowls are the thing, which you can order in a pre-set menu or customize yourself. Diners are liking the fried chicken but look for the semi-regular special of tempura eggplant. It's the smaller Japanese eggplant, cut into big bites, coated with a light, crunchy crust, then drizzled with sweet and spicy glaze. The texture of the eggplant is almost still firm but melts in your mouth.
Brick & Bones
The menu at this Deep Ellum bar-restaurant is focused primarily on fried chicken. Although there's no shortage of fried chicken around Dallas, B&B owner Cliff Edgar does an interesting rendition, with his chicken bone-in, marinated first, and coated with a dark, crunchy crust notable for its extra-spicy flavor.
This quiet, barely noticed local pizzeria chain is known best for its certified Neapolitan-style pizza with its sourced-from-Italy ingredients, monogrammed ovens, and incomparable crusts. But the "Red Dog" also does "carciofini fritti," aka fried artichokes, that are an excellent version. The artichokes are dredged in cornmeal and fried so that the shell is crisp but light. They're baby artichokes and you get mostly hearts, so they're nice and meaty; they're served with a chili aioli.
Sarah Green was recently promoted to head chef at this charitably minded restaurant in downtown Dallas, and her background in pastry promises that the cafe will serve good desserts. Those include fried pies, with impeccably flaky crusts whose flavors such as peach often reflect the season. The fried apple pie has become a talker, thanks to its accompanying scoop of smoked cheddar ice cream.
Favorite Fort Worth chef Grady Spears (Reata, Dutch's) returns to the dining scene with this intimate (60 seats) cafe in the Stockyards, dedicated mostly to chicken-fried steak. Not too many chefs are dedicating themselves to CFS these days, and Spears has it down. He offers it with five toppings: traditional peppered cream gravy, chili con carne and queso blanco, chili gravy and fried egg, ancho cheese enchiladas, or cheese chile relleno.
Greenville Avenue bar has earned praise for its above-average food and execution, not to mention its avant-garde attentiveness to craft beer. Its menu includes pub classics like fish and chips and steak sandwiches, but there are also fancy twists like the grits laced with jalapeño and cheddar. Its portobello fries are a standout, with the mushroom cut into thick slices and fried in a crunchy, almost flaky crust. The texture of the mushroom — firm, yet tender – kills. It's served with a roasted garlic aioli.
Chef Nick Badovinus' popular American mini-chain does feel-good food, with a menu that begins, rightfully so, with a keen appetizer of fried asparagus. Presented on a long narrow plate to accommodate their length, the asparagus stalks have their own grilled flavor, which is then enhanced by a crunchy, almost tempura-like batter and a drizzled creamy dill dressing.
Unusual Deep Ellum restaurant-bar has an excellent menu of bar snacks, from charred okra to chicken wings to beef satay. Yucca fries are hard to beat, but the fried pick is the cashews, stir-fried in a wok tossed in chili paste and garnished with lime, scallion, and cilantro.
Greenville Avenue restaurant observes a Southern theme, directed by chef Nathan Tate. The specialty is chicken, done a number of ways, including Nashville-style. But the offbeat fried dish here is the sorghum, more stir-fried than deep-fried, with Napa cabbage, smoked oyster mushrooms, peas, green onion, and sesame seed;it's topped with a fried egg. The discovery is the chewy yet firm texture of sorghum.
The main mission at this Greenville Avenue restaurant is ramen, but there is much to be fried about. One appetizer features pork ears cut into thin ribbons, battered, and fried. There is also vegetable tempura featuring shishito peppers and green beans, served in a stainless steel cylinder lined with paper, and a side of batter-fried shiitake mushrooms. But the fried surprise is the chickpea appetizer, consisting of fried chickpeas in a salty, curry spice mix.