Crowds lined up in good spirits at Dallas Market Center for the 33rd annual Taste of Dallas over the weekend.
In addition to the beer and wine gardens, this year featured a Whiskies of the World element (more than 200 international spirits), chef-mentored student cooking competitions (overseen by chefs such as Matt McCallister and John Tesar), and Taste of the Neighborhoods, which grouped participating restaurants by neighborhood to pay homage to areas of the city. This was a favorite part. Here’s what the neighborhoods had to offer.
Deep Ellum/The Cedars
Niwa Japanese BBQ: Niwa, true to form, served a rice bowl topped with charred beef belly, pickles, green onion, their house tare sauce, and egg. Between the tender beef and delicate toppings, this bowl was one of my favorite things from the day.
Empanada Cookhouse: When I asked which out of the four empanadas I should choose, the guy working recommended them all. The chicken empanada was juicy, with a nice, crisp dough. The pork empanada sealed the deal with a hint of sweet pineapple. The signature sauce was sweet, spicy, and delicious.
Taqueria La Ventana: Their carnitas taco was a mound of juicy pork, cilantro, green onion, wrapped inside a corn tortilla and accented with lime.
San Martin Artisan Bakery: The dulce de leche roll from this relative newcomer had the perfect amount of cream. Not overly sweet, it’s paired with a flaky croissant and powdered sugar to be a tasty bite.
Bison Bar and Grill: The Bison dumpling from this new bar on Ross Ave. that highlights the esoteric meat was decent and a great portion size, but the real winner here was the sauces that accompanied the dumplings. Combine the sweet chili Tatanka sauce with the “heat sauce” for the perfect blend of sweet and spicy to set off the thin-skinned, crispy, crunchy bison roll.
Kuai Asian Kitchen: We tried both the Tokyo chicken and Seoul beef bowls. The Tokyo bowl had steamed broccoli, carrots, onions with sesame teriyaki sauce, while the Seoul bowl had a sweet note with its Korean bulgogi prepared with marinated thinly sliced sirloin steak and steamed veggies.
Bam’s Vegan: The mac and cheese was topped with bread crumbs and basil and served with a salsa on the side that combines to make an impression that’s spicy and fresh.
The Artisan: A bowl of tomato basil soup was almost too beautiful to eat. It packed a bit of heat in each bite, but was cooled by the sour cream dolloped on top with a hint of basil. I have found my favorite version of tomato basil soup.
Chef Junior Borges: Rock shrimp came as a creamy and delicious dish with coconut milk and cilantro.
Bisous Bisous: Amid the assortment of French macarons, I chose the lavender and mint pastry for something new. The sweet, classic treat was decadent in texture, but bold. If you don’t like lavender or mint as spring bites, then you may want to stick with a simpler flavor.
Bishop Arts/Oak Cliff/Trinity Groves
Bahn Mi Station: This Asian fusion spot’s red curry mac and cheese was creamy without overdoing it and managed to pack some heat at the end of the bite. I reached for extras of the helpings, topped off with a little bit of green onion.
Corrientes 348: The Matambrio sandwich is an Argentinian-style boneless beef rib sandwich with mozzarella, tomato, and chimichurri aioli. Between the juiciness (the meat was literally falling apart on my plate) and the inviting toasty warmth in your hands, this sandwich was a great, buttery bite.
EnjoyMint: This vegan friendly Asian fusion menu offered up some crispy tofu. The beginning of the bite reminded me of French toast, but by the end, I was left feeling like I had just eaten chicken. The tofu was so crispy that with the right sauce, it was a light bite.
Frost Gelato: The Nutella flavor from this dessert spot reminded me of a slightly frozen, but very creamy chocolate milkshake.
The event also featured a VIP lounge, where guests mingled with chefs and experienced dishes from more sources. Nichole Kinchion’s Lush Dessert Bar brought the fun with their alcohol-infused cupcakes: “chocolate wasted” was a take on a sweet spice cake, while the butter rum and margarita cupcakes could speak for themselves. There was a light Brussels sprout salad created by Janice Provost of Parigi, coated with the perfect tangy dressing. Bringing a brunch theme on Sunday, Fire Grounds Coffee Company served a special medium-roast coffee infused with a jelly flavor in honor of Back the Blue, and The Dapper Doughnut brought their moist, miniature donuts that were dusted in cinnamon and powdered sugar.
In addition to the assortment of food, exhibitions included a waterless cooking ware show, the Great River Maple’s different flavors, Ricky’s Jerky from Oregon, farm fresh herb blends infused with honey from C&J Farms, Mae Nicole dressings, Top Golf, Oak Highlands Brewery, Dallas Caramel Company, and galleries. The art on display featured Scarlet Reagan gallery and events, Steve Lawrence, Toni Martin, Taste the Paint, Scott Dykema, and a group of artists under the Padilla Galleries.
I briefly got to speak to Fire Grounds Coffee founder Paul Clarke, a Dallas Firefighter and Paramedic, who started his coffee company to give back to a group of men and women he is proud to represent. Being included at Taste of Dallas left him, he said, “humble, excited, and exuberant.” Clarke and his team said they were inspired to see the other successful companies at Taste of Dallas that had started off just like they did.
I found that this year’s Taste of Dallas combined the offerings of North Texas in a personal way. It was a chance to check out and support local spots and enjoy some good food and sunshine along the way.
What were your favorite sips and bites at Taste of Dallas this year?