As part of our Tastes of the Season series, we focus this chapter of "Where to Eat" on restaurants that have earned a reputation for serving local, seasonal fare.
To be honest, going truly local is next-to-impossible in Dallas. We don't have the climate to sustain crops year round. But restaurants have come to recognize that there's an audience that appreciates a local focus.
Our population of local artisans has boomed, from pioneers such as La Popular Tamale, Mozzarella Co. and Empire Baking Co. to an ever-growing list that includes Tassione Farms, Eden's Organics, Pure Land Organics, Hip Pop popsicles and Cultivar Coffee.
Hats off to these 10 restaurants who go the extra distance to find goods in their own backyard.
It's easy for a small restaurant to buy local; no big organization to wade through. That makes the efforts of Asador all the more notable. Local suppliers confirm that when this restaurant at the Renaissance Hotel says it buys local, it means it. Check out the concoction of Brussels sprouts mashed potatoes — like a new-age version of the Irish dish called colcannon.
This Oak Cliff restaurant was an early trailblazer in the "go local" trend when it opened in 2008. Owners Chris Zielke and Chris Jeffers have never strayed in their goal to encourage food sustainability and support local farmers and purveyors. Their commitment extends to their other concepts, including Bolsa Mercado and Smoke. Cross your fingers for their fingerling potato and chickpea stew with English pea purée.
Dish Restaurant & Lounge
Some chefs talk about what they do, but Dish chef Garreth Dickey is one of those people who just does it. He's been sourcing local, seasonal ingredients whenever possible ever since he joined Dish in mid-2011. His use of local goods is matched by his quiet inventiveness, as seen in his cauliflower "steak" with grilled cauliflower, cipollini onions, Calabrese peppers, black radish, kale and golden raisins in a brown butter sauce. Hot dish: salmon with vegetables.
Dive Coastal Cuisine
This Snider Plaza restaurant has a sweet modesty that makes it a favored drop-in for neighbors and moms. It's also a destination for diners who want to follow the example of owner Franchesca Nor and eat "clean," without preservatives or pesticides. Produce suppliers testify that Nor orders their wares whenever they're available. Recent seasonals include butternut squash soup and Brussels sprout salad.
Chef Matt McCallister picked up the local and seasonal baton from Bolsa and has run with it. He's made his own Design District restaurant a reliable place to eat local foods, and he has also set an example that other restaurants have followed. Struck with a touch of DIY, McCallister often goes out and forages for goods himself. Of the moment: a salad made with Rocky's lettuce, McKinney apples, pickled pecans and Eric's chèvre.
This small East Dallas neighborhood restaurant wins over all others merely because it has a farm on the premises. If you catch them after a harvest, you might be able to even buy some of their extra collard greens. Chef Mark Wootton is on a journey to make things as local and sustainable as possible, including his search for eggs that are pasture-raised and organically fed. Look for his kale salad with avocado and chopped pecans.
Though better known for its beer selection and quarterly beer pairing dinners, Libertine gets nods from local suppliers for its consistent support (and purchases) of local fodder. This is a good example of a place whose small size allows it to chart its own destiny. If there's a crop of snap peas that comes available, Libertine can grab it and go. And of course they stock local beer. Menu pick: tempura portobello "fries."
On its website, this McKinney charmer lists all of the local vendors it supports, and it's a who's who with 40 cheese purveyors, bread bakers and candy makers. Owners Kaci and Robert Lyford work with local and responsibly operated sources and give back a taste that seems uniquely North Texas. For your consideration: cranberry and pumpkin seed quinoa beets, red chili slaw and turnip bisque.
Homey Arlington cafeteria-style spot caused a stir when it opened in 2009 because of its unusual payment structure: It suggested that you pay what you thought the meal was worth. But owner Cynthia Chippindale is an active supporter of local farms and ranches, even going out to Gnismer Farms in the morning to pick the fruits and vegetables for the meal that day. Menu changes daily but always has wonderful squash.
Mitch and Kristen Kauffman, owners of this venerable neighborhood Italian bistro, take local to the microcosm level by buying, literally, from their neighbors. Lucky for them, they're next-door to best-case purveyors such as Tom Spicer's FM 1410, Jimmy's Food Store and Civello's Raviolismo. Go East Dallas go with the 1410 salmon salad over mixed greens with candied walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes and herb goat cheese.