In honor of Valentine’s Day, a handful of Dallas food writers put their hearts on paper and penned love letters to their favorite dishes, restaurants, and the people who make our dining scene so special.
These are their odes.
To the chicken soup at Zaguan:
We met nearly a decade ago.
It wasn’t love at first slurp, but you nourished me through a cold. Since then, I have returned to you upon detecting the faintest sniffle in my nose or scratch in my throat or ache in my head.
You’ve comforted me through my worst:
The time when I was really sad and spent 48 hours on my couch listening to true crime podcasts. I had you twice that weekend.
The time when I accidentally drank too much NyQuil and then walked down the street, in my pajamas, to pick you up. The woman at the counter may have judged me. But you never did.
The time, last week, when I treated a Wednesday night like it was New Year’s Eve of 1999. I sipped you at my desk, fragile, feeling as if I were a few short breaths away from death, but you never faltered.
I have grown to love your tender ribbons of shredded chicken. Developed a deep admiration for your hunks of potatoes. And fall time and again for your soothing broth.
Thank you for always being there,
To my dearest Zoli’s cheese pizza,
To some, you appear simple. You’re too often referred to as “plain cheese.” But I, for one, understand the cruelty of such terms when it comes to your beauty. You are complex, deep, and full of surprises. Your curves, your crispy edges, your hot, melting cheese. Your robust red sauce that sings as it glides over my tongue. You are the foundation of what pizza is meant to be. You are raw and unadulterated, and sensual to the marrow. I really like eating you.
Dearest Lone Star chicken-fried steak at Local Oak,
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the last morsel of divine crispy crust
My soul yearning for beef, in my mouth I do thrust
For your Hatch green chiles in lieu of gravy doth blaze.
I love thee for never demurring, in the light of high praise
Pepper jack cheese melting atop I do trust.
I love thee at brunch and for dinner do lust;
And love thee so deeply, ’til the end of my days.
Dear El Come Taco guacamole,
It was love at first bite. And since that first chipful of avocado-cilantro-lime goodness several years ago, you could say my love has grown into obsession. I crave you like no other guac, and would be perfectly content not eating any other guac ever again. What can I say? When you know, you know.
The way your avocado blends seamlessly with your cilantro, onion, and kick of lime makes my taste buds go weak. Your expertly creamy texture is addictive, and I know now that I’ll never be able to quit you. I know better than to try.
You’ve stolen the heart of this native Texan, and my mouth will never be the same. I promise to scoop you up on fluffy chips forever.
I have to say that I’m in love with Teiichi Sakurai’s soba noodles at Tei-An. Chilled, the perfect length, made to dip in pecan or black sesame or classic shoyu sauces, they fill me with reverence. I wrote about Sakurai and the art of his fragile noodle-making, and it made me love them even more.
Be mine, swine!
Although we do not get to see each other often enough, you, the tasting of five bacons at Knife, are the dish that taught me not to judge a pork by its cover. Until we met, I didn’t realize the infinite variety of flavors possible in one dish… and a side dish, at that! I don’t care that you’re fat—that’s what makes you so good. And yes, I prefer you nutty (Iberico!), but love how you can be sweet, and smoky, pliant yet brittle. You’re the applewood of my eye, my favorite meat-cute story, the cure for all things bad.
Hogs and kisses,
Arnold Wayne Jones
To the bartender at Bourbon & Banter:
Thank you for being there when a little-too-old-to-still-not-drink-whiskey gal showed up at the bar late that one night. I chose the Pompadour “for the gram,” though I was worried I wouldn’t be able to drink it. Your fancy AF twist on an old fashioned with its little silver mallet helped me literally break the ice on whiskey drinks. “Be patient,” you said. “Just keep stirring.” A bit more sweetness, I learned, is what I needed to take the edge off and realize whiskey’s full potential for me. You basically taught me how to whiskey, and for that I’ll be forever thankful. I’ll see you again soon…
Do you have strong feelings for a dish? A crush on a server? A burning desire over a cocktail? Write your valentine a love letter in the comment section and let them know how you feel.