A taste test of Dallas brewpubs
HUBCAP BREWERY AND KITCHEN
1701 N. Market St, 214-651-0808
Best Beers: hearty Oktoberfest, the excellent Vail Pale Ale, reminiscent of a Fuller’s ESB. Honorable mention to Pegasus Pilsner. Like Water: West End Wheat.
Service: warm, friendly, and thorough. At one point three waiters were hovering around us.
Food: spinach-artichoke dip arrived under a chip-breaking carapace of cheese, as did a dreary tuna melt sandwich. Only a platter of andouille sausage, red beans, and rice was worth the investment.
Crowd: sprinkling of tourists; couples with tots in tow; pool-playing guys with ties at half-mast.
YEGUA CREEK BREWING COMPANY
2920 N. Henderson, 214-824-2739
Best Beers: Icehouse Pale Ale, White Rock Red.
Mutant Beer: Apricot Ale.
Service: too familiar; after two beers the barman held forth about his car wreck and hassles with his insurance company.
Food: the best of the brew-pubs; pheasant quesadillas instantly elected to Bar Food Hall of Fame.
Crowd: suits, chic young business types.
TWO ROWS RESTAURANT AND BREWERY
5500 Greenville Ave., Ste. 1300,214-696-2739
Best Beer: Route 66 Amber Ale.
Mutant Beer: Uncle Red’s Raspberry Ale.
Service: uniformly enthusi astic, SMU clueless (Urn, sure… huh?), and oxford khaki prep.
Food: Don’t expect genuine British pub grub here, but offerings are hearty and filling, especially chicken sandwiches and burgers. (Those who scarf the humongous nachos should receive complimentary beer and Turns.)
Crowd: SMU kids, singles, young “in the bubble” families; Two Rows makes the kids welcome with a frosty “Ugly Mug” root beer.
THE ROCK BOTTOM BREWERY
4050 Belt Line Rd., West Addison, 214-404-7456
Best Beer: Roadrunner Stout, a spicy, almost gingery-flecked pint of power; tell the missus it’s full of vitamins.
Mutant Been Jazzberry.
Food: Burgers, nachos, and sandwiches with cutesy names, so-so presentation, reasonable prices.
Service: Power Rangers in khaki slacks with an attitude. Our waiter acted like he was doing us a favor when he deigned to show up, but hey, who can blame a good-lookin’ guy trying to make time with all the babes, which leads us to…
Crowds: Breathlessly hip, buffed, gelled, and hunting for tonight’s Mr./Ms. Right. The place to be on Date Night in Addison.
FROM GYROS TO GHANOUSH
ON THOSE NOT-SO-RARE OCCASIONS WHEN our coffers arc all but bare yet we still crave a tasty, high-spirited treat, I load the family into my trusty car and head for lowest Greenville and Ali Baba. Here we enjoy exceedingly reasonable prices, abundant portions, and, especially, authentic Middle Eastern cuisine.
On my latest visit we started with a maza plate, a generous sampler that included hummus, mashed chick peas with tahini; baba ghanoush, grilled eggplant with tahini, garlic, lemon, and crushed cumin; and tabouleh, a parsley, lemon juice, tomato, and wheat salad; as well as stuffed grape leaves or dolmas, pickles, olives, onions, and pita bread-enough for two or more, and all for just $6.99. While my companion followed with gyros, a typical street food (S3.49), I was unable to pass up a plate of falafels, spicy, deep-fried rounds of chick peas and sesame seed eaten with a yogurt sauce and vegetables inside pita ($5.93).
Other favorites include kibi, a deep-fried cinnamon-scented mixture of cracked wheat and beef stuffed with pine nuts and onion ($5,95), and grilled shish tawook, tender cubes of spiced chicken accompanied by a smoky rice and vermicelli mix ($7.95). Fava beans mixed with tahiniand a dry thyme pie on open pita bread take more getting used to ($3.49).
Far from fancy, Ali Baba is a popular gathering spot for people with young children and groups of friends. Plan on a wait of half an hour to 45 minutes. No to-go orders on Friday and Saturday, but you can always take home what you can’t finish. 1905 Greenville Ave., 214-823-8235.
BEFORE LONG, THAT VANISHing waiter may not be able to claim he didn’t see your impatient glance. A new computer system created by Dallas-based Rock Systems now links customers, waiters, and kitchen help with wireless devices. A keypad at the table allows a customer to send out messages to the staff. With the touch of a button, you can call back a waiter to change your order, or tell the cook your food is taking too long; likewise, restaurant staff can communicate with each other. Some 60 restaurants across the country feature the system; in Dallas, you’ll find it at T.G.I. Friday’s.
A boon-or a curse? The gracious and thoroughly professional Alex Oral, who has waited tables at Ewald’s in the Stoneleigh Hotel for 26 years, believes this application of technology dehumanizes the dining experience. “It’s too impersonal,” says the veteran waiter in his subtle Czech accent, “Little confusions are best solved by people, face-to-face.”-Dan Michalski
DINNER CHEZ VOUS-NEIMAN’S STYLE
WARNING-TAKE A LONG, HARD LOOK AT your copy of the new Neiman Marcus cookbook, “NoJacket Required,” Admire its pristine appearance and the 20 pages of glossy color photographs. It’s not going to look good for long: This book, filled with more than 250 user-friendly recipes, will soon be sitting open on your counter dog-eared and stained.
After all, like Neiman’s two previous cookbooks, the recipes are the very best of the more than 1,500 submitted by Neiman’s InCircle customers, including celebs like Barbara Bush and Ronnie Milsap. This year, five of the nation’s most highly acclaimed chefs, including Dallas’ own Stephan Pyles, whittled the pile down, and food editors tested each recipe. The chefs also shared their own recipes (Star Canyon’s recipe for warm chocolate custard cake with candied Alemon sauce is alone worth the purchase).
The $25 book is available at Neiman’s and most bookstores. A portion of the proceeds goes to Literacy Volunteers of America.
S H O P P I N G
FORGET PARSLEY, SAGE, rose- mary, and thyme. Think hore-hound, marshmallow root, mugwort, and skullcap. From the commonplace to the exotic, The Herb Market in quaint Old Downtown Carrollton stocks herbal nirvana. More than 100 glass jars of herbs, neatly and alphabetically arranged, line the shelves in one tiny room of this 1937 cottage that used to be a scalehouse for the towering former grain elevator across the street.
In the front room stands a rack of more than two dozen types of hard-to-find seeds with very specific planting and growing suggestions. A simple greenhouse, cooled by an electric fan, takes up the back porch, and houses anywhere from 40 to 80 types of herb plants, depending on the season. Owner Lana Jones started gardening at age 5 and never stopped. Her favorite herb is basil (in an off-season month when I first visited, the store offered 11 types of fresh basil). Her stock includes more than herbs, though. There are fill-your-own tea bags, along with jars of different tea leaves; essential oils for aromatherapy; incense and scented candles; greeting cards; herb-themed clothing; wreath-making materials; and more.
Sign up for a class to experience The Herb Market hands-on. Fall classes include aromatherapy, herbal cooking, wreath-making, and an unforgettable class with the 84-year-old “herb guru” Odena Brannam. 1002 Fourth Ave., Carrollton, 214-446-9503. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. -S. H.