Thanks again for the recommendations. I tried to follow them, or filed them away for next time. It was interesting as I found myself in locations I wasn't expecting to be in and seeking chow at times I wasn't expecting to be eating. Once again, I wasn't able to hit many of the recommended spots. In non-chronological order:
Things I won't do again:
- Eat at a Waffle House. Not my choice. No option to say no. I apologize to everyone for involuntarily supporting this place.
- Eat at a Chick Fil-A. Not my choice. No option to say no. I again apologize to everyone for involuntarily supporting this place.
- Drive from Las Colinas to Hardeman's on Lancaster at 10:30 on a Friday night and come home empty handed. Great chow neighborhood -- my kind of options and atmosphere. However, as I pulled into Hardeman's, there were about 20 men angrily confronting one another...kind of squaring off. I love my chow, but I wasn't about to maneuver my shiny rental car with MN plates through the crowd. The tension was obvious -- so was my decision to leave, as I didn't want to be part of, or witness to anything. (NOTE: I'm not stating this is necessarily a bad neighborhood -- just a situation I would avoid in any part of any town).
- Pull into places recommended by you fine folks 2 minutes after they close. On my way back from Hardeman's I swung by El Regio. The "OPEN" sign went black as I was turning into the lot. On my drive around DFW that night (from 9ish until almost midnight) I saw quite a few places I've heard of on this board that were closed.
In the "Not too bad" category:
- I ended up at Big Fish up in Grapevine. Again, not my choice. But the fried catfish and fried oysters were pretty good. The broccoli slaw might have been the best part. Wouldn't go there again, but it wasn't a total loss. On my way out, I stopped in South Prairie Oyster Bar to compare -- very disappointing. It was like they took those tiny canned smoked oysters and fried them in enough coating to make them look big. (This is where I was thinking, "OK..NO MORE food at places not recommended by people on this board!")
- Rudy's Country Store on 35E in Denton. My whole itinerary driving from MN to TX was planned to arrive at McGehee's Catfish restaurant outside of Marietta, Oklahoma at around suppertime. Like clockwork, I hit town at 7 p.m. I was hungry. I follow signs several miles into the darkness and through back woods only to arrive at the coolest looking, but CLOSED ON WEDNESDAYS catfish joint. Closed on Wednesdays?!?! Of all the stupid days to close. Anyway...I got back on 35 and decided I would continue on until inspiration struck. It didn't strike but 90 minutes later when I saw the sign for Rudy's I was too hungry to continue.
I'm aware that Rudy's is a mini-chain. I actually figured on getting a hot dog and soda or something. But like the spineless chow idiot I am, I caved into the smell of burning wood and meat. I have to tell you -- that night, they were serving up a pretty good brisket. It wasn't quite fatty enough (I didn't even order the "lean"...who the heck would ever want brisket lean???) and the sauce was unremarkable, but the meat was juicy, had good seasoning and had legitimate smoking. My best BBQ to date in the small part of Texas I've seen. Sad but true. I'm curious if locals regard this as a miraculously passable semi-chain source of brisket. Or was this just some incredible luck?
- Luna De Noche in Plano. Again, not my choice. Clients wanted to go there for lunch. All in all, it's not bad. Sterile and lacking in unique character, but not disappointing.
- After all of the above, and not being able to get to enough of your recommended spots, I HAD to get something good...something that's stood the test of time:
Brisket tacos at Mia's.
The ability to take something as simple as a taco and make it that good is the mark of a place with a lot to offer. Even the tortilla (corn for me) was just right -- on the "heartier" side, but it held up to the sloppy filling and gravy without breaking. I was amazed. I really thought I was going to destroy the inside of my rental car with the mess.
It has taken five trips to DFW, but Mia's finally penetrated my thick skull with an important lesson for next time down: KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID. I don't need to put 200 extra miles on my rental car in 2 days waiting for divine intervention in the form of an undiscovered chow spot.
From now on, instead of trying to get all over the DFW metropolitan area and hitting everyplace and finding multiple specialties of the city, I'm going to pick one or two of your specific recommendations, bring my printed map and go straight there and back.