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Quick trip report from Big D - Herrera's Cafe, Lockhart BBQ, The Porch

GroovinGourmet | Dec 4, 201107:27 PM

Spent a couple of days back home after Turkey Day in Austin.

Met an old high school buddy for lunch at what is now the third incarnation of Herrera's on Maple west of Oak Lawn. The original (now housing The Grapevine) underwent a fire years ago. The cattycorner move across Maple lasted as long as I can remember, and they were still there on my previous visit. That stretch has been razed for what looks like another high-rise development, and the restaurant moved further west on Maple and to the other side of the street about 7 months ago. The new digs have lost most if not all of the funkiness... a much more legit restaurant space now, with a sizable bar anchoring the L-shaped dining area. Definitely noisier, but I liked the positive buzz. Food is same as it ever was after 37 years for me. They celebrate their 40th anniversary in a few months, and it's easy to see why they are still around. Some of the most solid, non-froufrou TexMex in the area, and still my favorite salsa anywhere... muy bueno balance of lotsa heat and lotsa flavor.

After enjoying my Uncle Mike's combo at Herrera's (puffed taco, guac tostada and enchilada, with rice and beans y sin lechuga as is my preference) I hopped in the car (thanks Mom!) and headed to the Bishop Arts district in Oak Cliff to check out Lockhart BBA. I had tried to talk mumsy into stopping on our drive up from Austin, but that didn't happen. After reading about the places lineage (from one of the legendary Q families in Central TX) I knew I had to try it, given that Dallas is not known for superlative Q. I ordered a 1/4 lb of moist brisket and picked up a plastic container holding three of their smoked jalapeño deviled eggs. After grabbing a can of Coke out of the cooler I headed for a table and unwrapped my order. They do not serve sauce, staying very true to their roots, and it is easy to see why. While I had a couple of globs of fat left over, the moist more than lived up to it's billing with perfect texture, pretty good smoke and bodacious bark. I look forward to a next visit on an empty stomach. This North Dallas boy had never ventured to Oak Cliff, the the Bishop Arts district is way cool, with more reasons to visit than just Lockhart BBQ.

As it would turn out, we met with my aunt and uncle later that evening for dinner. Groan. Headed down to The Porch, a first visit for me. A large place that I am sure is quite happening when it is crowded, but the Monday night after Turkey Day was pretty dead. Not much vibe other than the football game, and the kitchen was cranking stuff out pretty quickly. A very nice rendition of spinach artichoke dip started things out. I went with a small plate and a side given my consumption for the day up to this point. The brisket sliders were chosen mainly because they listed horseradish coleslaw. The slaw was tasty, the Q was not. I had seen a huge stack of logs outside, so I thought perhaps they were doing their own smoking, but I'm guessing the wood was for something else. The sliders were total Sysco-like... pulled beef buried in sauce. I ate one, packed up the others to go and I will suffer through them when I am back next week for Mom's 75th birthday. I also went with a side of creamed corn which was outstanding... definitely looking forward to those leftovers. Best part of the visit was Lagunitas IPA on tap... cold, frosty and oh so deliciously hoppy. The others at our table all seemed pleased with their choices, and the portions were quite generous. The charred brussels sprouts were definitely a standout. I have too many go-to places for brief visits back home, but if I were around for a stretch I would consider popping in to The Porch for an evening

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