SISSY'S SOUTHERN KITCHEN AND BAR
Viewers of the fourth season of the Next Food Network Star either loved contestant Lisa Garza or they hated her. Winning the competition would have awarded her a show on the network, but, in hindsight, that might have been the worst scenario for her career. After she lost, Garza returned to Dallas and made her living catering high-end social gatherings and teaching cooking classes for kids.
This year, she opened Sissy’s Southern Kitchen and Bar, a restaurant with a stylish, yet comfortable, old Southern mansion decor and a menu that features the food of Garza’s Southern upbringing.
The restaurant has been slammed since its doors opened. Garza loves Champagne, and rarely do five minutes pass that you don’t hear the pop of a cork. Buckets of chilled bubbly sit next to buckets of fried chicken, the house specialty. Garza won’t spill the secrets of a recipe that produces lusciously moist chicken with a crunchy crust. She admits to brining the bird for 24 hours before it is dipped in buttermilk and egg and rolled in flour, baking powder, chili powder, sugar, and other “secret spices” and then cooked in a pressure fryer.
Other winners served on Garza’s brown and ivory Spode Delamere china plates include deviled eggs filled with a smooth yolk whipped with curry and topped with tobiko caviar; cakelike squash puppies made with shredded yellow squash; and a pickle-laden ham salad served with pimento cheese made with sharp Tillamook cheddar, Colby Jack, and cream cheese blended with chopped fresh jalapeños.
Garza’s “Southern classics” include Cajun-style shrimp and grits. The large shrimp, tasso ham, and coarse-grained andouille sausage, mixed in a red tomato sauce, rest on thick, buttery grits from Waco’s Homestead Gristmill.
The decor is as thoughtful as the food. Garza uncovered three art nouveau wrought-iron chandeliers created by Henry Potter, who operated Potter Art Metal Studios in the building next door for more than 50 years. She obtained a fourth from Potter’s daughter, and they now hang as a memorial to Potter.
It’s fun to sit at the walnut bar topped with white marble and watch the barkeeps pound a wooden mallet against a canvas bag full of ice. Once pummeled into chips, the ice is packed into a silver mint julep cup and filled with Woodford Reserve, sugar, a splash of water, and fresh mint. I’m happy Garza isn’t just another pretty face on a cooking show. She’s where she should be, working the room of her own restaurant in Dallas.