Dallas’s newest breed of dining rooms take the classic flavors of the Lone Star State up a notch
By Natasha Dragun
From his perch in the open kitchen of his Design District restaurant—all wood and cement with filament bulbs —young chef Matt McCallister gives the humble spud an haute twist, tweezering smoked fingerling potatoes between maitake mushrooms smothered in herbed butter and droplets of Thai-chili mayo. It’s so good that it’s a permanent menu feature at FT33, McCallister’s first venture and arguably one of the hottest tables in America at the moment. Other dishes can change daily and might include Windy Meadows chicken with morels, bacon jam, and bacon-and-chicken sweetbreads; or perfectly pink heritage pork loin with brilliantly colored pickled cherries. Whatever you order, you can expect it to be playful, extremely pretty, and utterly delicious (Suite 250, 1617 Hi Line Dr.; 1-214/741-2629).
He’s regarded as a pioneer of Southwestern cookery, and Stephan Pyles’s newest restaurant continues to celebrate Texas in all its yeehaw! glory. In the reclaimed-wood dining room, guests sit beneath longhorn chandeliers with plates delivered to cowhide banquettes. Yes, there are cowboy clichés, but for the most part Pyles—a fifth-generation Texan—puts a whimsical spin on the state’s culture and cuisine. There’s a wild roster of soft tacos—fried oysters with jalapeño jelly, chicken adobo, brisket—plus shrimp and grits, deviled eggs with chili-infused popping candy, and irresistible honey-fried chicken with butter- milk biscuits. The servings are very generous, but don’t let that stop you from ordering inspired desserts such as the lemon tart with cactus-pear meringue or, better still, the signature margarita, mixed tableside using liquid nitrogen to unite tequila, prickly pear fruit, Patrón Citrónage liqueur, and lime foam, all topped with pieces of candied jalapeño (1717 McKinney Ave.; 1-214/550-6966).
If it can be pickled, cured, or smoked, chances are that chef Tim Byres has pickled, cured, or smoked it. Adjoining the retro-chic Belmont Hotel (where the Smoke team manages the bar, whipping up a mean maple-wood-infused Jim Beam rye whiskey cocktail), the modest space is a jumble of mismatched chairs and framed family photos. Peer past the kitchen and you’ll spot Byres’s wood grill and smoke pit, where meats, fish, and vegetables are prepared daily from scratch. House-made sausages might include smoked pork andouille, spiced rabbit, or beef and paprika; the fork-tender brisket is cured in coffee to give it a rich, inky color; and the mountain of barbecued meats—whole hog, lemon-and-sage turkey, dry-rubbed pork spareribs, beer-can chicken—can be ordered as they come or in a sandwich. And if you like what you eat (you will), then pick up a copy of Byres’s new cookbook, Smoke: New Firewood Cooking, and bring his recipes back home (901 Fort Worth Ave.; 1-214/393-4141).
This article originally appeared in the October/November 2013 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Texan Trio”)