Mesero Miguel

Best_new_Restaurants_Mesero_miguel_1 Mico Rodriguez

Five years ago veteran restaurateur Mico Rodriguez, the godfather of local Tex-Mex, was a man without a restaurant. The co-founder of Mi Cocina and Taco Diner lost control of his life and the empire he and his M Crowd partners built. M Crowd continues to roll on without Rodriguez, but that hasn’t stopped him from staging a comeback. 

In 2011, Rodriguez started over the way he began. He opened Mr. Mesero, a tiny restaurant with Mexican-American fare. Fans returned. Business boomed. 

In September, jaws dropped when Rodriguez opened the doors to Mesero Miguel, a 5,000-square-foot, two-story restaurant on Henderson. He transformed the building that once housed Cuba Libre into a glamorous restaurant with an ambitious menu. 

Rodriguez has not lost his sense of style. The downstairs dining room has a 1960s-Palm-Springs vibe. When the weather is agreeable, the crowd spills out onto the patio. The bar upstairs, The Pedro, is a tribute to Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar.

Best_new_Restaurants_Mesero_Miguel_3 Alaskan halibut tacos

The menu—“American Grill, Mexican Menu”—is a combination of fancy Mexican dishes, such as braised pork ($16) smothered with caramelized peppers, onions, and mushrooms, and American classics like a Prime New York strip ($47). In between, there are several tasty ceviches, lump-crab fritters, Maine lobster rolls, and a combination plate with the best chicken mole enchilada I’ve ever tasted. 

Chef Jon Stevens, formerly of Nosh, worked with Rodriguez on the menu. Stevens will make sure the kitchen is running smoothly before he heads to Oak Cliff to open his own restaurant, Stock and Barrel, in February. 

The room comes alive when Rodriguez walks the floor. There are hugs, air kisses, and backslaps. He smiles and takes his success one day at a time. 

20 Feet Seafood Joint

Best_new_Restaurants_20_Feet_seafood_1 Fish and chips

Earlier this year, I added the fried whole-belly Ipswich clams served at 20 Feet to my last-supper wish list. The fat clams lightly coated with panko and served with house-made tartar sauce are addictive. The geniuses behind the dish are Suzan Fries and Marc Cassel, the former fine-dining chefs turned seafood-joint cooks. Cassel turned his back on fancy food to concentrate on putting smiles on the faces of Dallas diners and homesick New Englanders who come for the lobster rolls and to argue about the authenticity of his chowder. 

Cassel doesn’t care to debate; he plays it cool by preparing a more-thick-than-thin version filled with whole clams, a touch of cream, and an undercurrent of bacon. If that doesn’t shut up the haters, the fish and chips made with line-caught cod will. Cassel portions the fish himself with a light tempura batter. The result is a hot, moist finger of fish covered with a subtle, thin crunch of crust. 

The casual, order-at-the-counter restaurant appeals to food enthusiasts as well. Many have followed Cassel’s journey through the kitchens of Baby Routh, The Mansion, Star Canyon, Dragonfly, and the original Green Room, where he refined his “collision cuisine.” At 20 Feet, he offers coconut soup with shiitake mushrooms, his famous mussels flavored with ginger, a radical ramen loaded with thick slices of pork belly, and falafels. 

The atmosphere is fun and boisterous, and the BYOB policy makes it easy to dine on lobster rolls and responsibly caught seafood without maxing out your credit card. It’s peace, love, and whole-belly Ipswich clams, baby. Don’t forget your corkscrew. 

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