Brazil: On the World Stage

In honor of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, I thought I’d explore some must-try Brazilian restaurants in Dallas.

First, and probably most famous, is Fogo de Chão. The Brazilian steakhouse gives guests a beautiful, highbrow dining experience while maintaining the excellent richness of a steakhouse. As is Brazilian tradition, the meats are prepared over an open fire. The restaurant is lovely and inviting, with warm South American tones and a beautiful wine cellar open to all guests.

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Photograph: Fogo de Chao, June 2014

The dining experience at Fogo is different from that at many typical steakhouses: first, you’re seated, offered drinks. Then you’re encouraged to visit the salad bar for fresh vegetables and Brazilian side dishes. Once you’ve decided you’re ready to begin the main course, you flip your card (one is provided to every guest) green side up. This signals to the chefs that you want whatever delicious choice of meat it is that they are serving. Each chef moves around tables offering different kinds of meats including, pork, chicken and beef flavored in a traditional Brazilian fashion. Once you’ve had your fill, simply turn your card to the red side.

If, after all of this, you have room for dessert, I highly suggest the Fogo de Chão Signature Papaya Cream.

The second South American restaurant is Joyce & Gigi’s Kitchen. The cozy modern take on cultural dining is run by mother-daughter pair and chefs Gigliola Aguilera and Joyce Stenvall, who describe their culinary creations as “home style cooking with soul”.

As a starter I would recommend the Empanada Trio or the Chicharron (pork ribs) with your choice of Brazilian wine. As you move into the second course, be open to every option-they are all delicious! Whichever you choose, definitely order the Eggplant escabeche to accompany your dish.

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Photograph: Joyce & Gigi’s Kitchen, June 2014

The atmosphere at Joyce & Gigi’s is comfortable and each dish is exquisitely presented-with a taste to match!

If you’re following the World Cup as avidly as I am, comment the country you’re supporting and I’ll find that cultural cuisine here in Dallas! For me… ¡Viva España!

Sushi Sake

I have to admit, although I try new kinds of food almost twice a week, I frequent sushi restaurants the most. Any time I walk into Sushi Sake with my family and friends, the head chef gives me a nod (which may mean “hello” or that he’s acknowledging my addiction to fresh sashimi) and continues to prepare our food most excellently. 

If you are searching for an upscale sushi restaurant, look no further than Sushi Sake. While I love sashimi and sushi, not everyone shares my obsession with raw fish. Their cooked menu and sushi rolls are phenomenal and there is something for everyone to enjoy. If you have a large party, ask to be seating in the private dining room. The authentic Japanese decor and floor seating is very quaint.

Photograph: Sushi Sake, May 2014 

Coal Vines

I am always partial to a wood-fired pizza and a great selection of wine to accompany it. Coal Vines, located in the Shops at Legacy, has a wonderfully modern take on Italian eating. Their menu changes seasonally to feature delicious soups, salads and pizzas that are all unique and flavorful. Their reviews on Yelp are great, but take my word on this one-you need to go in and try it for yourself!

Photograph: Coal Vines Plano, May 2014 

Daddy Jack’s

Foodie Alert! You have just stumbled upon a fabulous seafood find. 

Daddy Jack’s is a fantastic lobster and chowder house with an exuberant staff that any seafood enthusiast should visit. Their location in Greenville is a cozy and exciting one-room restaurant filled with character. The character of the restaurant spreads to every dish they prepare and serve. Check out their website for more information on the story of Daddy Jack’s and for a detailed description of their menu. Several of their reviews highlight some popular menu items, like the New England Style Crab Cake appetizers and the Mussels Marinara, but definitely try whatever speaks to you. I tried swordfish here for my first time when my fabulous boyfriend took me for my birthday. The staff gathered with a complimentary bottle of champagne and a birthday song. 

Go, eat and enjoy! 

Field Greens salad with bleu cheese dressing, hearts of palm, sundried tomatoes and walnuts.

Medina’s

I’ve always found that looking past chain restaurants often leads to the best hole-in-the-wall discoveries. I once was far too early for a concert at the House of Blues in downtown Dallas with some friends. We were collectively hungry and decided to walk in the vicinity of the venue to find something to eat. Within the area was Dick’s Last Resort, Hard Rock Cafe and Mi Cocina, none of which seemed to satisfy our adventurous appetites. Luckily, we walked in the wrong direction past Mi Cocina and found Medina’s, whose menu excited our taste buds immensely. 

The popularity of Moroccan food has grown in Dallas and surrounding areas. The simple dishes cooked in tajines are delicious and so beautiful, while the atmosphere in the tiny restaurant is comforting and classy. Several of the menu items are irresistible, including the apricot chicken and the lamb skewers, both of which I make sure to order during each visit. 

Stop by Medina’s and you will immediately be excited by the wonders of Moroccan cuisine. Be sure to tell the owner, Sam, that I sent you, and don’t forget to try a handcrafted cocktail from their drink menu. 

Photograph: Medina’s Dallas, April 2014

La Me

 

Within the DFW area, there is a mixing pot of cultures, music and, most importantly, food. Cuisine from Asian countries is extremely popular and common here, especially Chinese buffets and Vietnamese Pho (the delicious hot noodle soup that can cure every hangover).

La Me is a cozy Vietnamese rice and pho restaurant located in Richardson with an authentic and affordable approach to food from that region. They serve everything from simple egg rolls and noodle dishes to rice plates with tons of flavorful vegetables. Their primary attraction, for me at least, is the way their meat is cooked. Often times I am skeptical of how certain meats, such as pork or lamb, are prepared, but La Me has never disappointed me. Their seasonings and flavors are genuinely Vietnamese and very delicious.

During lunchtime, the Banh Mi sandwiches are extremely popular and, as the day progresses, you can smell the delicious rice plates from miles away. On colder days the restaurant is filled with people huddled close to their bowls of steaming pho. Whatever and whenever, there is something to crave at La Me.

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Often times, people shy away from ethnic restaurants when they feel intimidated by the language barrier or feel extremely out of place. La Me is filled with people of every different culture and I have never had trouble ordering or communicating with my waiters.

The cozy, mom-and-pop style restaurant is comfortable and affordable. Many of the dishes at La Me are made quite large with plenty to share between two people. After going there to eat several times, I would recommend any of their rice plates and the vegetable eggrolls. The rice plates are served with lots of delicious additions, like Chinese sausage and eggcake, which creates lots of interesting flavor combinations. Trying something new at La Me is a great experience because they really make an effort to cook their meats well and their presentation is always visually pleasing.

Stop in and try their pork rice plate with a fried egg and get a Vietnamese coffee while you’re there, I promise you won’t regret it.

Photograph: La Me April 2014

“Damn Good Tacos”

Fantastic food will always be inspired by something. Yet again, Austin pushed some of their culinary genius into Dallas, both in terms of sit-down dining and street eats. Torchy’s Tacos is an excellent example of variety and personality in food.

Torchy’s offers chicken, vegetarian, fish/shrimp tacos and more, which allows hungry customers with all kinds of different tastes, options and room for exploration. If you check out their website, click the “food” tab on the left and figure out your “taco anatomy” to learn what flavors you’d like and which ones you’d consider worthy of tasting (which will almost definitely be all of them).

Torchy’s uses an excellent variety of fresh ingredients and the taco style functions well to encourage hungry customers to try new flavors. For example, I have a tendency to shy away from soft-textured food like avocados, but when I ordered The Independent during my last visit to the hipster-ish taco bar, I realized how well all the flavors worked together but still were exquisitely unique in every bite.

The menu is exciting and provides a plethora of tacos as well as beers, queso and salsas for whatever it is you’re craving at the time of your visit. When I visited the Austin location, I heard someone in line behind me talking about a secret menu, which I Googled immediately. Definitely check out this secret menu and their regular menu and make a trip to Torchy’s to try something fresh and exciting.

A few of my suggestions include the Baja Shrimp, and the Mr. Pink (both of which are shown below). These are my two favorites mainly because of how different they are which makes both of them so satisfying.

The variety is incredible and Torchy’s Tacos will never disappoint. Don’t hesitate to try a new taco each time you visit. A taco of the month, perhaps?

Photographs by Lena Ohanian, March 2014

So-Cool

I LOVE social media. How amazing is it that by two “bzzzz”ing vibrations of my phone, I can instantly know where the next best pizza place in downtown is opening? In my opinion, and in the interest of my growling stomach, extremely amazing. The absolute fastest and most exciting way to gather information, whether it’s about food, fashion, entertainment or whatever else, is from Twitter/Facebook/Blog posts. I am always excited to try new things and hearing about them quickly makes me even more excited. At the moment, I am obsessed with food trucks…and tacos. The absolute most fantastic source of information that is quick and informative on this subject is So-Cal Tacos. Check out their Twitter for all their up-to-date tweets. 

Photograph, So-Cal Tacos April 2014

Wood-Fired Pizza

Often times we get stuck in a cycle of generic pizza, but that is about to end! I regularly check out Slice to get news or recipes on fun and exciting new pizzerias and flavors. More research on trying to locate the perfected pizza place led me to Urban Crust. Their menu has wonderful pizzas with a variety of toppings and also features pastas and appetizers that are simply delicious. 

Just last week, Urban Crust had a wine tasting and they continue events throughout the year, which you can find here.  

I love to start with the calamari (they make it exceptionally crispy, perfect!) and a cold draft beer and order whatever new pizza they’re featuring. Check out each month’s feature pizza and be sure to grab a drink their famous rooftop bar, called “32 Degrees”, for fantastic and refreshing beers and exotic beverages.

Photograph: Urban Crust, March 2014