Intro and caveat: I recently found myself in Dallas for a few days, primarily to give a speech. This is a report of my chowing. I call it "Vital Dallas" only as a play on my chosen nom de internet. This, by no means, is meant to be a summary of definative Dallas resturants. In fact, one of the interesting things about my Dallas trip was my slim chow preparation. Typically, when going to a new city, I would do plenty of research to avoid a single less than delicious meal. Aside from wanting bar-b-que, I had no other pre-planned destintations this time. Fate did me well. In my limited exposure, I came away pretty impressed with Dallas.
The one place that stuck in my mind, pre-trip, was Sonny Bryans. My host, however, suggested we try a place out of town that I had once told him about. A while back, when my host first moved to Dallas, I sent him an article i found in gourmet on a classic texas roadhouse about an hour north of dallas. sure, i would have loved to go, but i was not going to ask to be driven so far away without prompting (even i have some shame), but as long as he brought it up, I was psyched. unfortunately, while we both remembered the article, he could not find it and i could not remember the name of the place. we hit some internet sites, and keyed by a recollection of fried corn and huge pies, finally found the place: clarke's outpost.
[granted, there's some clarke's postings on chowhound it took google.com to find the place. plus, the posts hardly do justice to the place.]
it does not take that long to get to clarke's from dallas, and the drive is well worth it. we zipped up the US highway passing working ranches, long horns, goat farms, even the occasional mule. it seemed a prime break point for motorcyclists. the parking lot featured a yin-yang of shiny ducatti's and heavy harley's. the form fitting space age rubber euro riders did not intermingle with the leather chapped hogsters inside clarke's.
between us, we managed to sample pleny of clarke's offerings. we each had the trademark french fried corn. so simple, you wonder why more places do not throw their corn in the deep fryer. our only problem, and a bit of a re-occuring theme of the meal, the portion was to small. we tried some other fried things (okra, zuchini) and had collard greens for a whiff of health.
of the meats, we had brisket, ribs and ham. again, too little. the ham really picked up the smoke and the ribs balanced perfectly between chew and fall-off-the bone. still, the brisket was the meat to get, and we needed more of the preternaturally tender brisket. at least we were primed for desert.
we knew about the pies coming in, and we watched several whole pies go out with customers. we were ready. wedges of cocunut cream and chocolate towered over by the best ever merengue (new general food topic, the best merengue, no?). a dense block of bread pudding topped with whyskey sauce was not so shabby either. we wanted to take some pies home, but found out that they only made enough to accomodate diners and those who ordered in advance.
we thought about fogo de chao for dinner (see M.Wong post), but hardly had the appetite. we went instead to lakewood landing, a movie set bar and grill I did not expect to find in dallas. you clearly imagine jack ruby, lee harvey and others conspiraring in the booths. the bleu cheese burger was very good too, the shiner bock exceedingly cold, but the potatos tasted re-fried.
to cap the night, we went to the XPO Lounge, near the state fairgrounds. The Dallas Morning News mentions that the XPO owner spent time in New Orleans, and anyone who spent late nights around drinking around uptown, would recognize this place. a neat little surf act went down nicely with the shiner.
Additional information, including addresses and maps can be found at GuideLive