Thursday, June 15, 2017

Southwest by South Trip Installment #1

Just did a $70 roundtrip to/from Dallas, courtesy of my usual source of airfare miracles.

All the great things you've heard about Austin food/beer apply much more to Dallas. Skip Austin, hit Dallas. My rant against hipster (i.e. Austin) food culture comes in a later installment, but for now, just know that Dallas is full of deeper pleasures. Quick hits before I drove (very far) east:

Bubba’s Cooks Country (6617 Hillcrest Ave; 214-373-6527). I've been noting this for years, yet I've never made a dent in a nearly universal misapprehension about soul food: great soul food is not heavy. Heavy soul food is lousy soul food. The good stuff is very, very light (consider: lard's applied to pie crust not to weight things down, but to lighten them up). Good soul food achieves two miracles:

1. Elevating cast-off cheap ingredients (ribs, neckbones, black eyed peas) to magnificence

2. Supreme lightness attained from gravy-soaked heavy foods cooked in heavy-seeming ways.

Bubba's nails all the miracles. It's a fast food place (order from the counter), but the linen napkins tip you off that this is so much more. I don't believe I've ever had a more consistently up-and-up version of this classic meal. And I didn't manage to get a photo of the banana pudding, which was still oven-warm, and pains me to even talk about. The biscuit, being merely very good, felt like an affront.

But wait till you see what I ate in eastern Mississippi. More next time!

Armoury D E (2714 Elm St; 972-803-5151) is a super cool, open-late Hungarian-tinged cocktail bar in the rocking Deep Ellum neighborhood. I had these superb oniony potatoes, the perfect thing for late night beery hunger pangs.

Bru City (13000 Trinity Blvd, Fort Worth; 817-510-6485). If this were merely a decent craft beer bar and bottle shop in a gas station in the worthless boonies of Ft Worth, Dayenu ("it would have been enough"). If it were all of that, and just 10 mins from the airport (where there's famously nothing good), Dayenu. If it were all of that, and had a really knowledgable bartender, who gives out raffle tickets for cool prizes, Dayenu.

But when it's all that, and also the loosest, coolest, best-stocked (beautifully, lovingly-chosen local brands, including many rarities, and fast-enough moving that nothing tasted old) beer bar/shop in town? Pinch me, I must be dreaming.

Craft and Growler (3601 Parry Ave; 214-821-1122) is my favorite Dallas beer bar. The only one with geeky bartenders I can enthuse with - who'll bring me up to date on new breweries opened since my last trip, and proffer endless samples. I love Bru City truly, but have a deeper, longer commitment to Craft and Growler. Around the corner, Eight Bells Alehouse (831 Exposition) is a bit flakey, and offers only a few lackluster taps, but there's always - always! - one impossible-to-find, magnificent beer on tap, seemingly by accident.

The Waxahachie branch of Campuzano's (which has other, more convenient branches I've never tried) seemed just a bit downhill, but still awfully good Tex-Mex, and, as always, whip-crack efficient service.

Here's what I wrote last time about Campuzano's, along with more Dallas tips.

I stayed at NYLO Dallas South Side (1325 South Lamar St; 214-421-1080). Should be $300/night, but it's on a weird edge of town (still adjacent to tons of good food and beer and nightlife, e.g. the Deep Ellum area two miles away) so it's more like $110-140, and you can get a stiff discount by booking last minute via the Hotel Tonite app (which I previously mentioned here). Great, fun, cool, nice people, stupendously crafted and miraculously spacious rooms (check out the amazing - and accurate! - room photos here). Free wifi, free parking during the week.

Fly Bar in Terminal E at Dallas Fort Worth Airport, right in the gate area, blasts good funk and soul music and poured me a meticulously fresh pint of Revolver IPA - a way better and more indie brewery than you'd ever expect to find in an airport. All just two gates from my departing flight (I watched the boarding line, jumping in at last minute). Peak experience!

En route from Austin to Dallas on my way back, I stopped, as always, at Lula Jane's in Waco (406 Elm Ave; 254-366-0862). Great bakery. Getting crowded these days, though. I had a slice of buttery lemon/raspberry chess pie, and it was old-school soulful yet starchily skillful.

Next time: "Drive East, Touch Mississippi, Come Back" (read it here).

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