It is the end of the year. I could wax lyrical over the best I’ve had in a year’s-worth of dining: the best cocktails, entrées, and sweet endings.
But I find myself preferring, this year, to look ahead. I’ve seen my city grow and evolve. I’ve written about the shifts I’ve witnessed in the last few years in ingredient-sourcing and place and vision. I’ve seen Dallas be named the 2019 Best Restaurant City of the Year by Bon Appétit. And it leads me believe in a bright future. A futuristic date–2020–on which to project my fondest dining-critic hopes. Join me in dreaming big, broad, and bold. And so, in no particular order:
More Filipino food.
I saw them rise, the wave of fearless pop-up chefs who brought us their takes on the food of a fascinating nation that’s long been overlooked. They brought us fiery Bicol Express with coconut milk, barbecued meats marinated in calamansi juice, and fluffy waffles tinted purple from tropical ube (purple yam). Let them continue to shine.
Burmese food as the new frontier.
We need more fermented tea leaf salads and flaky roti bread and coconut-sweetened coconut rice with fried garlic. In Oakland’s all-the-rage spot Teni, recently, I was reminded of this. We may not have many, but one would suffice. Just like Khao Noodle Shop, which showed us it could corral the masses around funky flavors.
More desserts that nudge into the savory.
Every year, I lament that we are not a more broadly-versed dessert city. Panna cotta, white chocolate bread pudding, and variations on tooth-aching sweetness are legion. But this year, at Homewood, Maggie Huff returned to show us what a touch of dill, savory tang, or bitter cacao could do for sweet ends. There’s room for dessert to become a riveting course.
Even more chefs and chef-owners expressing their voices in the plate.
Even more than before, I saw the likes of Peja Krstic, Misti Norris, Joel Orsini, Justin Holt, Donny Sirisavath, Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman, and others get personal and creative. It’s what makes our dining scene dynamic. I want to eat morsels that could come from that chef and no other. Hopefully, Dallas diners are ready to commit, to listen, to hear. To forego the mac and cheese in order to embrace someone else’s idea of thrill or comfort.
More funk. More bitterness.
These are the frontiers of taste from which most shy away. But we’ve waded in with the flotilla of cocktails featuring Italian amari. We’re not averse to escarole that lights up a fabulous regional, nonna-inspired Italian pasta and ragú. Fermented shrimp paste adds layers to brothy bowls. Let’s keep reaching, keep lighting up the palate.
More DIY, farm-sourcing, and whole-animals and off-cuts.
Yep, the hail-damaged produce, “nasty”-delicious animal parts, and baby nasturtiums grown fifteen feet away that garnish your dish? I think we’re only getting started.
I was riveted by Stacks’ number on homemade blue-corn bread. I love a Reuben (ahem! Homewood’s brunch) with housemade sauerkraut. We’re, again, in a position to bring it. Sandwiches are like portable billboards for creativity. Let’s go beyond the turkey-avocado club.
Pastries made with ancient grains.
Okay, I know quinoa croissants don’t work. But everywhere in the pastry world, wizards of butter and flour have been loading spelt, amaranth, and buckwheat into their sifters. The results are sometimes mind-blowing. (Here I’m thinking of everything I’ve ever eaten at LA’s Sqirl.) Have you had a buckwheat butter cookie with crunchy cacao nibs? A hazelnut-sorghum scone? With rhubarb-strawberry jam? I’d love to see more coffee shops offering those aside your macchiatto.
More bites inspired by the world’s street food.
I’m talking Malaysian snacks with pandan and coconut flakes, the million ways that the world grills meats, and bites that remind you of Mexican elotes in their casual deliciousness. Street food doesn’t have to be a pop-up affair. I’d love to see it boldly on menus.
A few savvy restaurateurs and bar owners are realizing that the intentional feeling of a restaurant’s nightly experience extends to the plateware. They’re choosing beautiful bowls and mezcal copitas. I’m hoping that as I keep looking at the undersides of plates, I’ll be recognizing signatures.
Even more bars with great bar food.
Mezcalerias like Ruins and Las Almas Rotas upped their game. Instead of a slider, maybe you’re ordering arepas. Yes, please. More of that. Not every cocktail or spirit goes with the generic tater tot poutine or queso.
Better health benefits for those in the service industry.
We can’t care about the food we eat without caring about those who make, grow, and serve it. With all this, I’d love to know that we were also moving into a bright future in which we think about this aspect.