Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Central Market: Service from a Bygone Era

April 19, 2010

As my friends know, I love to cook and I love to eat.  Like many self-proclaimed foodies, I shop at Central Market on Lovers Lane.  On Sunday I bought a package of ground beef at CM that didn’t seem fresh once I opened it.  I saved it and took it back to the store on Monday morining.

After the explaining the situation to Jocelyn, the customer service attendant, she apologized countless times and gave me a refund.  At my request she called for someone in the meat department, who also apologized upon inspecting the package.

A special thanks to Eric in CM’s meat department.  Not only was my money refunded, but at my request he opened another package of ground beef that I randomly picked as we discussed the situation.  Then insisted on giving me not one, but two free pacakges of ground beef (shown here on my stove).  Keep in mind that this was after my money was refunded.  Now that’s service!

There are always lots of complaint-related blog posts out there regarding poor service or bad food experiences, so I thought I would share one that has a good ending. Kudos to Central Market and two special employees for their great handling of an unfortunate situation.

Smashburger: One of the Best

November 17, 2009
It has been known for some time that Smashburger is coming to Dallas. Everybody that knows me knows that I search high and low for the best burgers in Dallas. With that in mind, I got an invite to the pre-opening for Smashburger.
Leonard Davis and Marc Columbo of the Dallas Cowboys are among the investors. That alone gave me high hopes, because offensive lineman know about good food.
Ever since my beloved Chips on Cole Avenue closed (the building is STILL empty, by the way) I have been on a mission to find the best burgers in Dallas. To me, the best doesn’t mean it has to cost more than $15 and claim it’s gourmet.
(full disclosure per this new rule: I ate for free…and ate WELL for free)
Most places claim to have great burgers, and fail to live up to the hype. Other places have great burgers and terrible fries or vice versa. However, Smashburger has done a good job with all aspects.
Keep in mind that the burger is not expensive; the 1/3 lb ranges from $4.99-5.99, and the ½ lb goes for $5.99-6.99. A full meal will run about $10-12, which is not bad for fast-casual.
The restaurant’s name comes from the way they cook their beef, according to their website:

We start with 100% Angus Beef, smashed, seared and seasoned on the grill, placed on a butter-toasted artisan bun and topped with the highest-quality cheeses, freshest produce and condiments.

I would agree. I got the BBQ, bacon, and cheese smashburger with smashfries (tossed with rosemary, garlic, and olive oil). The fries are excellent, on par with the truffle fries at AMPM restaurant downtown (one of my faves for fries).
After my initial meal was served (you take a number like at Village Burger and they bring it to the table), they showed much love to yours truly by bringing two milkshakes: one vanilla and one lime (yes, lime).  The lime one was interesting; almost like key lime pie but not as overpowering as to go well with the food.  There were also fried pickles and chili cheese fries topped with jalapenos.   I found out they also have chicken sandwiches too. I’ll save that for a future trip (maybe – I’ll most likely try another burger).
Here’s their menu. I say it’s worth the trip, although word is they will open multiple franchises in DFW. For what I consider real burger prices, Smashburger ranks among the best in Dallas.

location (map):
4980 Belt Line
Addison, TX 75254

New Downtown Sports Bar Opens

August 25, 2009

Thanks to my friends at Pegasus News, I found out that the Sheraton Dallas’ new high-end sports bar was open for business.

The Draft Media Sports Bar is a great looking space to catch a game. The verdict: the food is good…service is terrible.

I had the flat bread quesadilla which was surprisingly well seasoned and tasty. The bar is a great place to watch the game, as they have a 104-inch HDTV that makes for great viewing. There are pool tables and various seating set-ups which can accommodate different sized groups.

However, the service was really bad. I’ve tried to learn from my restaurant-critic friends that you have to give a place a little slack when they first open. However, the service issues were mainly due to inattentiveness. If you have three tables, why exactly do I have to wait 20 minutes for a coke refill? No bueno. And I shouldn’t have to tell you three times about my need for a refill or the check when you keep serving the table next to me. I tipped only to not be viewed as a cheapskate and for no other reason.

The service experience ended with the check folder being left on the table as she walked to a bigger (drunker) table. Newsflash: people that aren’t sloshed tip as well as drunks. No ‘thank you’ for service, no nothing…she just dropped off the check and left. That’s why I paid with cash because I knew she’d never come back…and I was right. Conversely, I’ve been to Ten Sports Grill on Main and my server never missed a beat and had way more tables and people to serve.

(side note: when I was at Ten, I thought about this post from D Magazine’s Zac Crain. Why? Because in a sports bar with 100+ people, only me and 1 other guy were watching the Rangers game. Byrd tied the game with an HR with 2 outs in the 9th! And a grand total 2 people clapped. The guy behind me with a Rangers cap to the back in stereotypical cornball fashion never peeked at the game. Probably liked the hat for the colors.)

Final verdict: at Draft Media Sports Bar the food is on point and the layout is fantastic. But to truly become a destination for people other than lay-up business from hotel guests, some major service training should be required. I suggest the servers work here for a week.

Deck Park is Moving Forward

August 19, 2009

As you all know, the Woodall Rogers Deck Park is continuing to move forward. Here are some highlights of the press release from Joanna Singleton at Jackson Spalding:

Thomas Phifer and Partners Announced as The Park’s Restaurant and Performance Pavilion Architect

DALLAS (Aug. 19, 2009) — The Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation has named Thomas Phifer and Partners as the architect for the 6,000 square-foot restaurant and the performance pavilion, two central amenities planned for the 5.2 acre deck park that will span over the freeway between Uptown and Downtown Dallas. Phifer was released to begin developing the construction documents this week.

Plans call for a full restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating as well as a quick, casual café for people who wish to pick up a meal to enjoy in the park. The restaurant will also include space available to rent for private events. The adjacent performance pavilion will be a central gathering space in the middle of The Park and serve as a place for free concerts and events. When not in use, the performance pavilion will have movable tables and chairs for additional outdoor dining.

Restaurant Concept Aims to Reinforce Connectivity

Phifer’s restaurant design is conceived as a simple park pavilion which will encourage a connection with the surrounding landscape through glass walls, skylights and a sculpted ceiling that transitions from the indoor to the outdoor space. All four walls of the restaurant will be constructed with glass from floor-to-ceiling.

On the south side, the glass wall will have retractable glass doors that can open for patrons to enjoy the outdoors. A covered terrace will complement the retractable doors and allow patrons to sit outside and enjoy parkside dining. The terrace will have a direct view onto the Performance pavilion stage so that restaurant guests can enjoy the park’s entertainment programs.

The event space will feature a private dining room which will accommodate up to 80 seated guests with access to an outdoor grill and bar area.

The ceiling of the restaurant will appear to sit lightly on the glass walls and will be constructed of a series of coffers, each with a small skylight to animate the ceiling and to allow restaurant guests to enjoy the day’s changing light.

Environmentally responsible design features such as geothermal radiant heating and cooling and a green ‘planted’ roof will be considered during the design phase.

The Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation will celebrate The Park’s groundbreaking in September 2009. The base park is expected to be complete in late 2011 with amenities, like the restaurant, expected to be complete in 2012.

Cliff Cafe is Closed

July 9, 2009

As reported by several news and blog outlets, the Cliff Cafe is closed until September.

After recently having lunch with a friend there, I had already been back to eat again. I tried going for one last meal yesterday, but the windows were already covered with a friendly sign posted on the door.

Now they are undergoing a renovation and “will debut as brand-new concept this September,” according to the press release. The new concept will be managed by the owners of Oak Cliff’s Bolsa Market & Cafe and local chef Tim Byres, who recently served as executive chef at Stephan Pyles.

Cliff Cafe seemed to draw a good crowd; This will likely give the new place a good head start once they reopen.

I request that they leave the grilled chicken sandwich on the menu, as well as the mac & cheese. See you in September!

More than A Grocery Store in Oak Cliff (with Video)

June 10, 2009

Yesterday was a great day in Oak Cliff. The Save A Lot grocery store had its official ribbon cutting for the brand new Save-a-Lot store at the Crest Shopping Center in the 2600 Block of Lancaster (map). Note: the Google street view also shows how it looked before the renovation.

Dwaine and I, along with the Mayor, city staff, neighbors, and the shopping center developer have been working on this for nearly two years. We were first looking at putting the store across the street from its current location. Everyone settled on keeping the store in the shopping center. The neighbors’ input was used in creating the store, from the items stocked on the shelves and beyond.

Save A Lot is an important part of this community. In these times, Save A Lot provides the opportunity for a family to get a healthy, balanced meal for $5. Compared to buying fast food every night for dinner because it’s cheap, a void is being filled in this neighborhood. People couldn’t wait to get into the store, as you can see people pushing carts by us even as the press conference progressed.

One major bonus: Save A Lot donated 5,000 pounds of food to the North Texas Food Bank! According to one of their reps that translates into 100 full carts of groceries for needy families at a time when donations are shrinking.

As I have said from the beginning, this is bigger than just a new grocery store.

In the process, the new store also provided us an opportunity to get rid of the asbestos filled theater that was on the north side of the center. The theater had been vacant for years and could not be rented due to the aforementioned issues. Now there’s a new grocery store in its place.

Mickey’s Catfish, owned by Vincent Hall, has just opened in the last couple of months. The mall and the neighborhood has a lot more energy now vs. before Dwaine took office.

You will also see that the entire mall is undergoing an extensive renovation and repaving, which was spearheaded by everyone working with the owners of the center as part of our Lancaster Road Initiative.

One of the comments that struck me the most were the ones made by Rick Meyer from Save A Lot:

“I’d like to take Dwaine on some road shows with me, (and) teach some folks in other communities what it’s all about to be a good partner.”

A comment like that makes it all worthwhile. When you see the various articles and conferences held with respect to what Southern Dallas needs to bring growth and development, this is what it’s all about. You can say it and claim you’re a leader all day long, but just like a World Series Championship baseball team you need a starter and a closer. We have that in our Mayor and Dwaine. This is one of the reason that I’m glad they’re both in office and in leadership positions on City Council. In his remarks, the Mayor also hinted at another store to be announced for District Four pretty soon!

This store and center will always be special to me. It’s where Dwaine’s campaign office was located when he first took office. The neighborhood was promised that this center would be a catalyst for positive change in that part of Oak Cliff and along Lancaster Road. I can’t count the number of nights we walked the center hoping that we could someday be a part of its turnaround. It’s here, but there’s more to come. The work is not done, but we’re moving in the right direction.

Video is below:

Remarks from from Rick Meyer, Vice President of Save-A-Lot.

Remarks from Vanessa Foster from Save-A-Lot and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert.

Remarks from Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway.

Remarks from Cathy Misko and Vanessa Foster of Save A Lot and officials from the North Texas Food Bank.

Tweeting for Food

May 13, 2009

Nancy Nichols of D Magazine (whose food recommendations have made me look good on more than one occasion) found this article in WaPo. It’s about a food truck that tweets its location as it moves through the city.

This is the kind of cool stuff that I want to make its way to Dallas. Tell me: would you sign up for tweets for lunch? I know a few restaurants that send out their specials via Twitter, so to me this is the next step.

Hot Dog Vendors = A Real Downtown

May 12, 2009

I saw this article in the paper, where a local restaturant owner is trying to get rid of a hot dog vendor that’s on the corner of Main and Ervay.

Vinny Navarro, the cart owner, got a permit from the city. He followed the rules.

Maybe the restaurant owner should think about it this way: someone walks by on their lunch break to get a hot dog…while waiting, they notice the restaurant and make note to check out the restaurant for dinner. Everybody wins!

According to the article, Vinny even sells hot dogs until 3am on club nights. To me, that’s genius. Back home, when the clubs let out there are certain food places that get tons of business. Go by a Williams Chicken at 2am and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

We were real excited when we saw the hot dog vendor on Main. To us, It’s a sign that downtown is growing and foot traffic is increasing to the point where someone is trying to make a living as a vendor. You want a “real” downtown? Well, a real downtown includes vendors along with sidewalk musicians and people like that.

As long as no one is down there selling gold chains from the inside of their trench coat, I’m cool with it.

Brothers Chicken is Gone?

November 11, 2008

I had heard rumblings of this, but a post from Teresa at Pegasus confirms it: Brothers Chicken on Gaston is closed. Teresa talked to one of the owners, who confirmed that it was due to the economic climate.

Brother’s was my favorite chicken place. Your favorite restaurant places are the constants in your life as you get older and try to remain cool. I just got over Chip’s on Cole being closed.

Some things about Brothers stick out in my mind: The friendly saleslady with the candy-colored car always made sure you had enough seasoning on the fries, and always cooked new chicken for you if there were only a couple of pieces left. The best cherry limeade in the city. The peppers that were ridiculously hot.

Gone are the picnics with Brothers chicken my wife and I used to have at Exall Park. The memories.

Remember the withdrawal we all suffered when they closed for a while when a car drove through the front of the store? I felt your pain. The time they were down to ‘wings only’ for two weeks when they got a great review in the paper…I was right there with you.

I am depending on Brothers to re-open somewhere else in the future. There’s always hope.

All the cool spots are closing one by one.

2505 Turtle Creek is gone

April 20, 2008

Earlier today, 2505 Turtle Creek which was just noted as one of the city’s finest examples of midcentury architecture in today’s DMN is now a pile of rubble.

As one of the people that voted against the plan to turn the building into a hotel and condos with a liquor-serving restaurant, I can say that I voted against it because I thought various aspects of the plan needed work e.g. the traffic plan and having liquor near the park. We can only vote on land use and not issues of preservation (except in landmark commission appeals).

I realize that the building wasn’t protected, but this still sucks. And yes, maybe preservationists didn’t buy the building to save it but this still sucks.

I often vote for developers in many cases if I feel a zoning change is merited, but this ones burns me a little bit.

Maybe next time it would be nice to take the asbestos and freon out first before they demo the building. And oh yeah, post the demo permit next time. Nicely done.