Considering the high-profile names behind The Mockingbird Diner, the new restaurant opened relatively quietly. At its helm is Jack Perkins, the man behind Maple & Motor and former owner of The Slow Bone. At his side is Jeana Johnson, a chef who’s also made plenty of waves in the Dallas dining scene with Good 2 Go Taco and the popular East Dallas Vietnamese spot, Mot Hai Ba. The two have been working feverishly for months to bring The Mockingbird Diner to life, with a menu that’s brimming with familiar, classic diner staples. But don’t confuse “familiar” for “ordinary,” as the food coming out of this kitchen is anything but routine.
The diner sits, not surprisingly, along Mockingbird Lane, directly across from Love Field Airport. It’s a tall A-frame building with vaulted ceilings and a large dining room filled with tables and booths. There’s a long bar, with stools often occupied by solo diners, which provides a good view of the bustling kitchen.
Despite its quiet opening, breakfast time has already become a hotspot for Mockingbird. On a recent visit, the restaurant was completely packed by 9 a.m., every table taken, with several parties waiting outside for an available opening.
Popular items include thick, fluffy orange rolls that come out fresh and hot and dripping with melted sugar and butter. The morning griddle cranks out stacks of pancakes, the waffle iron is no less busy, but it’s the “Loaded French Toast Stack” that draws the most attention. Here diners can enjoy several thick-cut slices of brioche, griddled until golden brown and slathered in caramelized banana syrup and fresh whipped cream. You’re not going to be hitting the gym after a breakfast like this.
More diner classics from yesteryear make appearances here, some forgotten favorites that should have never slipped from memory in the first place.
“Jack and I talked for hours about the food we ate growing up,” says Johnson. “Through those conversations, the menu mostly wrote itself.”
Look for thick, bone-in ham steaks with a rich, salty red-eye gravy, served with potatoes, grits, and biscuits. There’s chicken-fried steak and eggs, fried pork chops, and ribeye steak.
House specials draw upon Mexican flavors, reminiscent of Johnson’s days at Good 2 Go. The chilaquiles are frequently spotted at several tables at any given moment. The crispy corn tortillas come topped with salsa, asadero cheese, scrambled eggs, refried black beans, crema, and avocado. Pro tip: ask for them to throw on some crumbled breakfast sausage (it’s produced by The Sultan of Sausage himself, Mr. Brian Luscher, so you know its good). Breakfast tacos come on house-made tortillas with a choice of bacon, chorizo, potato, sausage, or ham. I’m partial to the beautifully done “Enchilada and Egg” plate. It features two cheese enchiladas, smothered in a dark, rich chili sauce, and topped with a sunny egg. It may be the perfect Texas breakfast.
Mockingbird Diner is unpretentious and comforting. You feel welcome here. Johnson says, “I grew up with everything we are cooking at Mockingbird Diner. I’m a native of East Texas. This is the food that was on our table. It is the fabric of my childhood.”