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Restaurant News

Rants and Raves: What Our Dining Critic Is Most (and Least) Excited About in June 2024

Where to eat next, what’s exciting this month, and our dining critic’s new worst enemy.
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The huge machete (filled with chorizo) at Artesanal Tortillería El Maizal. Brian Reinhart

We’re testing out a new monthly roundup feature, intended to synthesize all the latest information you need to know about Dallas food and drink heading into a new month. In part, I look back to May—to highlight my favorite recent meals and a handful of new openings and closings—while also looking forward to the most promising food news for June.

Keep scrolling, and you’ll also find my favorite writing from other publications about Dallas food and drink, some miniature restaurant reviews, previews of articles I’m working on right now, and a few scalding hot takes.

Meals of the month

Artesanal Tortillería El Maizal

When I visited newcomer Tacos El Metro in April, chef Michael García said he was sourcing his tortillas from Artesanal Tortillería El Maizal, a new spot near the Galleria that nixtamalizes its own heirloom corn and doubles as a restaurant. A few lunches later, I stopped by El Maizal and gorged on gorditas, tacos, and an absolutely enormous machete. The restaurant’s corn tortillas come in a near rainbow of colors (black and yellow corn, guajillo red, or nopal and spinach), and they carry a wonderful, fresh corn flavor. The fillings are all pretty good, too. I dug the black corn gordita filled with stewed chicharrón and the carnitas taco. The machete was somewhat rustic, with masa of different thickness at different points, but full of flavor and huge. El Metro and El Maizal make not one but two exciting new additions to our Mexican food scene.

5528 Alpha Rd., Ste. 103

Mister Charles

At the other end of the price range, I revisited Mister Charles for our upcoming update to the 50 Best Restaurants feature. As before, the execution of the food matches the style and special-occasion flair of the dining room. As before, dishes come with delightful surprises, like not one but two spicy sauces (red and green) on our spring lamb loin, or the way that the crab cake is an excuse to assemble a creative wedge salad with thick chunks of grapefruit and avocado. As before, the service is pure class. I don’t think any of Dallas’ other all-in luxury spots are offering such a memorable experience.

3219 Knox St., Ste. 170

combo fajita plate
Our dining critic very reluctantly said goodbye to the excellent Tex-Mex at Casa Rosa. Brittany Conerly

Heartbreak of the month

Casa Rosa’s closure

On May 5, beloved 1980s Tex-Mex restaurant Casa Rosa ended its two-year revival run. My friends and I returned for a farewell dinner and, in the spirit of goodbyes, wildly overordered. I’ll miss its proper executions of classic Tex-Mex fare like the chile cheese enchiladas topped with diced raw onion, and I’ll miss the atmosphere, too. Not too many other spots in Dallas give this cuisine both the attention and the love that it deserves. (We’ll have an updated Tex-Mex guide, tragically Casa Rosa-free, in July.)

Where to go in June

Fortunate Son. Its New Haven-style pizzas are huge and delicious, and it’s on the front doorstep of the newly revived downtown Garland. Read my first-bite review. 500 Main St., Ste. 100, Garland

Radici. Tiffany Derry’s new Italian restaurant has one cool-looking menu. We’ll be there soon. 12990 Bee St., Farmers Branch

Billy Can Can. The Mavs are still in the playoffs! On the afternoon of Sunday, June 9, the saloon is holding a barbecue cookout. Three styles—Kansas City-style spare ribs, East Texas brisket, and lamb quesabirria—on one $25 plate. NBA Finals Game 2 starts that night at 7 p.m. 2386 Victory Park Ln.

Resident Taqueria. Four words: soft shell crab tacos. A few more words: Resident was affected by the May 28 storm’s power outages, losing several days of service. Consider spending your weekend supporting everyone at this street corner. 9661 Audelia Rd., Ste. 112

Ephesus Mediterranean Grill. An enjoyable Turkish restaurant that lost a week of service to power outage and had to throw away more than $5,000 of spoiled ingredients, according to the Dallas Morning News. 10455 N. Central Expy., Ste. 118

Goodwins. This newcomer, a possible rival to Neighborhood Services and Hudson House, looks darn good—like a casual all-American spot that’s nice enough for a date and executes everything well without getting pretentious. I’ll let you know when we’ve visited. Also, they have six different salads! 2905 Greenville Ave.

Mirador. A special six-course dinner on June 15 will showcase Japanese American flavors, with Mirador chef Travis Wyatt joined by guest Yoni Lang. The menu includes tuna tartare in a nori tart shell with puffed sesame seeds; a corn soup with dashi, leeks, and croutons; a scallion pancake with prosciutto and ramps; uni pasta; and your choice of dessert. Sounds great. Here’s our mini-review of the revived Mirador. 1608 Elm St.

Nuri Steakhouse. Scheduled to open later this month in Uptown, Nuri takes the upscale Dallas steak extravaganza—and makes it Korean. That sounds worth a try. 2401 Cedar Springs Rd., Ste. 120 (UPDATE June 4: A representative of Nuri says the opening has been delayed until late summer, not June. If you need your steak fix sooner, consider Paparazzi Chophouse, opening June 7.)

Five one-sentence restaurant reviews

With its thick smoked ham, hard-cooked egg, jalapeño mayo, and McDonald’s-style hash brown patty, the breakfast sandwich at Alamo Club is a truly undefeated brunch food. Over in Fort Worth, the top order at Ribbee’s is its delicious beef back ribs; pork ribs are perfectly cooked—though the “spicy” rub isn’t spicy—but, compared to sibling Goldee’s, it’s more of a local spot than a drive-across-Texas barbecue destination. My colleague Nataly Keomoungkhoun was so, so right about the dazzling empanadas at Cuates Kitchen. Speaking of unconventional empanada-like dishes, the fried quesadillas at Tacos El Metro are stuffed with an ingenious flavor-charged mix of Oaxaca, Chihuahua, and Manchego cheeses. The Mitchell remains maybe Dallas’ most underrated restaurant, and I don’t know how Jodi Carroll turns out such a sophisticated menu from a kitchen smaller than some of our readers’ bathrooms.

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The minimalist signage at Ribbee’s is iconic. But are the ribs? Brian Reinhart

News of the month

Sandwich Hag closing

The week after Sandwich Hag’s surprise closure, I talked to chef-owner Reyna Duong for nearly two hours about why the restaurant shut down, what’s next, and, most interestingly, what she’s learned about Dallas culture and her own heritage through her restaurant.

Required reading

  • In Texas Monthly, Daniel Vaughn talked to Jaime Sosa of Sosa’s BBQ about his years of unlicensed barbecue sales. I laughed—especially at the part when Sosa moved to another state because code compliance officers followed him on Instagram. It sounds like he’s a Breaking Bad character, but he just wants to sell you brisket. He’s legit now, so don’t call the cops. (Also, the food sounds great. The Dallas Observer has visited, too.)
  • Courtney Smith’s Eater profile of Tiffany Derry illustrates just how gosh-darn busy our most famous local chef is, and how she manages to hold it all together.
  • In the Morning News, Imelda García talked to the mobile Mexican hot dog vendors who travel from city to city for big events—like Mavericks playoff games.
  • We’ll have a deep-dive feature about the decline, fall, and resurrection of Trinity Groves in the July issue of the magazine, but Sarah Blaskovich’s Morning News in-depth look has you covered on details of the new restaurants opening there this summer and the ways in which management is owning up to past mistakes.
  • Just after I finished my (fantastic) leftover torta from Tacos El Metro, José Ralat published a Texas Monthly history of the torta, with regional variations that somehow left me hungry again.

Four hot takes

A great pizza is still a bargain

I wrote about this at length a few weeks ago, but Dallas’ best pizzas are still bargains. No matter how many pricing complaints you might hear in internet comment sections and social media groups, most of our city’s best pizzas are more expensive than national chains for one very good reason. They’re bigger. Bigger and better? What’s the problem, exactly?

Fancy chains are still chains

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but “chain” is not a pejorative word that refers only to places like Papa John’s. “Chain” just means a restaurant concept with lots of locations. Fancy chains are still chains. Nobu? Chain. Carbone? Chain. Uchi? It’s the new Benihana. Joël Robuchon? Fancy La Madeleine.

OK, I exaggerate. But the point is that calling a restaurant a chain doesn’t necessarily mean disapproval, disdain, or dismissal. Large multi-state corporate restaurants play a whole different economic ballgame from neighborhood family businesses. It’s useful for us to talk about that difference in how the businesses operate. And when we talk about that difference, we have to use the word “chain,” whether it’s Subway, Grimaldi’s, or Bouchon.

I don’t get bagel sandwiches

That’s all. I don’t disapprove, but I grew up eating bagels with cream cheese and am still slightly befuddled about where the whole sandwich thing came from. Why would you want a tall sandwich made from a firm bread with a super-chewy crust and a hole in the middle? Sorry. Old man yells at cloud.

The agave vodka company is my new worst enemy

You have to be skeptical about anyone who describes themselves as “truly disruptive.” Over the past two decades, the primary lesson of “disruption” in tech has been that an innovation that often looks ingenious at first can, in fact, suck. Uber and Lyft could undercut taxis—because they don’t make money or pay their drivers. Netflix could replace cable—until realizing that cable had a better business model. Amazon dominated online retailing thanks to its logistics—then dumped us into a cesspit of fake products and AI-generated spam. You get the idea.

So when a vodka executive told Dallas Morning News writer Sarah Blaskovich that “there hasn’t been true innovation or disruption in this category in a long time,” that set off alarm bells. Weber Ranch Vodka, which is distilled in Mexico and finished in Muenster, Texas, achieves disruption by using agave instead of potatoes, rye, wheat or any of the other cheaper, easier-to-source bases for vodka. Their reasoning? It tastes smoother.

Now, vodka can be made from any plant with sugar in it. It’s usually distilled so many times that any original flavor is gone. As long as you’re not drinking the cheap trash I drank in college, it’s smooth. The whole point of vodka is to add neutral alcohol to any soda, cocktail, or Russian person. The whole point, in fact, is to not taste it. Just ask my college friend K., who discovered the combination of vodka and Fresca and declared, triumphantly, “You can’t taste the vodka!”

So why would you make your vodka from a super-flavorful ingredient that costs more money?

Blaskovich asked Las Almas Rotas owner Shad Kvetko that question, and he delivered. “To me, it’s just a travesty to take a beautiful plant like the agave, which has so much depth and character, such a variation of flavors, and turn it into vodka.” Meanwhile, the Weber Ranch guys—who freely admit their product will cost $10 more than Tito’s—are hoping customers will order vodka ranch water cocktails. Blaskovich earns my undying gratitude for pointing out, here, that a “vodka ranch water” is just a vodka soda.

“If your vodka is made from the same thing as your French fries, you probably don’t want to drink it,” one of the disruptor guys says. Try telling that to the people of Eastern Europe! Good grief! This guy makes me mad!

For those keeping track at home, Weber Ranch Vodka takes the place of my former worst enemy, Oreo Cakesters.

What’s coming on SideDish in June

The biggest thing coming is an update to our 50 Best Restaurants list. Near the end of June, I’ll be adding some newcomers, offering new tips, and gently re-ordering some of the restaurants based on my continued revisits. Remember, a restaurant has to be six months old to qualify—so that it can prove it’s here and consistent for the long haul, not just when it’s “hot”—so 2024’s newcomers will not yet be eligible.

Some more things to look out for: summertime sandwiches, an obsession with odd-numbered appetizers, local bartenders who make their own spirits, my take on “bromakase,” and an inspiring story of recovery by pasta.

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.
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