Snap Review: Neighborhood Services

Over the break, I took my long-suffering mother to Neighborhood Services for what turned out to be one of the best meals I’ve had in months. We went on the Tuesday before Christmas. The place was packed. For some, I’m sure the place is too loud. But seated at a booth near the kitchen, Mom and I were able to hold a conversation without any trouble — save for periodic interruptions from Uncle Nancy, who wound up sitting in the booth adjacent to ours. (I think Nancy has taken to eating at NS four or five times a week now.) The place has a comfortable, yet high-energy, buzz to it. As for the food and the rest:

On the ricotta and lobster fritters: after I told Eric how light and airy they were, he said, “So they’re like little fried burps from God.” The description should go on the menu. Because that’s exactly what they were like.

On the Berkshire spareribs and onion rings: Nancy’s first interruption was to share hers with Mom and me. I’m happy she did. The spareribs were a delight. The batter used to fry the rings was delicate, and even though the onion was thick, it was easy to bite through without pulling it out of its fried casing, as so often happens with lesser rings. Alas.

On the seared sea scallops: Teresa Gubbins, I’m pretty sure, would describe their centers as “quivering flesh.” They were perfect. Mom ate at Chamberlain’s Fish Market Grill a few days later and had their scallops. She said NS’ were superior.

On the cider-brined pork porterhouse: I ordered it medium rare, and I’ll be damned if that wasn’t exactly the way it was prepared. It made me happy to be a carnivore and was more than I could eat.

On the three jack and mac gratin: I went to the gym this morning and weighed myself for the first time in two weeks, after having avoided all forms of exertion over the break. I’ve gained 5 pounds. I’m certain that the jack and mac gratin is partially to blame. And yet I refuse to blame it. Because I love it too much. I was a big fan of Nick Badovinus’ mac and cheese at Hibiscus. This stuff is better. It’s spicy.

On Nick Badovinus: speaking of the flaxen-haired food slinger (yes, I just typed that), he told me a funny story when he stopped by our table and I complimented the well-designed pint glasses in which they serve beer. Let’s see if I can remember the story. Um. Okay: when Badovinus was outfitting his joint, he, too, fell in love with the design of the glasses (thin rim, delicately curving shaft (hey!)). So he ordered enough to stock the restaurant. Here’s the part I can’t recall. Either Badovinus did the math wrong, or he misheard the price, or something. When the bill came, he was rather surprised by how high it was. And he was out of money. But he loved the glasses so much that he went ahead and put the cost on his personal credit card. To him, I say, “Kudos, sir.”

On the service and the clothing worn by those who provide it: this will have to change in warmer months, but right now, everyone wears white button-up sweaters with a Neighborhood Services crest on them. Just like the name of the place, they’re a bit goofy. Which is why I want one. (The name, by the way, comes from the zoning jargon applied to such an establishment. It falls under “neighborhood services.”) Our server was prompt and friendly without trying to be our friend.

On the one thing that wasn’t perfect: for dessert, Mom ordered a chocolate cupcake, and I ordered another beer. The beer was the better choice. The cupcake was bland and dry, a disappointment. My mother will eat anything made with chocolate. She left her dessert half-eaten.

On one thing I wish I’d noticed while I was there but only just now caught when I was going over the menu that I stole: they serve Mickey’s in a bottle. Genius.

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