Ate it for $8: Tootsie’s Café in Downtown Dallas

Philly cheese steak sandwich.

Overview: Unpretentious and “relatable,” Tootsie’s Café is every bit as charming as it is quirky. Luckily it’s not their decorating pizzazz or grammatically correct menu that keeps the downtown crowd packing this place for breakfast and lunch. On one side is a dining hall filled with red and white checkered picnic tablecloths and framed Ansel Adams posters along wallpaper that looks like a continuous magic eye stereogram. The hall attaches to the front counter/menu area and a “fixings bar” stocked with sauces ranging from southwest ranch to Sriracha, and looks out on the Tootsie’s slogan hung on a wall, “Home of Fresh Bun.” Not “Home of the Freshly Baked Bun,” or “Home of our Famous Fresh Baked Buns.” Just “Home of Fresh Bun.” See, relatable. To the point. My kind of place. I liked Tootsie’s right from the start, despite the annoyingly yet endearingly cute name.

Menu: Tootsie’s has a truly varied menu, ranging from baked potatoes and salads to burgers and gyros. I’ve heard their salads aren’t much to write home about (basically burger toppings thrown in a bowl), but their breakfast is worth a trip. Cinnamon rolls ($2.99) here are famous and come out, according to one patron, the size of a kindergartner’s head. Hurry, they sell out every day right around 10AM. Quite literally you can get anything on the menu here for less than eight bucks (chicken fried steak combo, $6.29; chicken fajitas, $4.99; tuna melt meal, $6.99; etc.), but anything on one of their fresh baked buns is where I’d choose to spend my dough.

Mushroom Swiss burger on fresh buns.

What we ate: I don’t order burgers. It’s pretty much an unspoken rule I have with myself. It’s not for any other reason than I simply figure there are better meals to spend my precious few calories on when I go out to eat. At Tootsie’s I broke my ru

le, and I’m glad I did. Without thinking I walked right up to the counter and ordered the mushroom Swiss cheeseburger lunch special ($6.47). The burger was pretty, with a nice sheen to the top of “fresh bun” and Swiss-coated mushrooms peeking through a layer of seasoned meat and melted cheese. No condiments needed on this burger. The bun was warm, doughy, and, as I expected, fresh. This was one great burger and was totally worth my calories, even if I had to spend the rest of my day on the treadmill. My friend went with the “Phillies steak cheese sandwich” for $7.38 (again, relatable), and left a bit parched from this bready, dry Philly. (Where do you find a good Philly in Dallas?)

.Extras: They were out of any kind of dessert at the time, so I plan to go back for their $1.29 brownie or the $2.99 cinnamon roll. After I placed my order I overheard handfuls of other diners order their meals with fried okra instead of fries. One woman told me the okra is “why I come here.” But for a real taste of Tootsie’s, make it there in morning (7-10:30AM) for their Texas-sized breakfasts.

400 North St. Paul Street, Dallas, TX 75201