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The Best New Restaurants in Dallas 2009

Sad stories of cutbacks and closings have filled the last 12 months. The silver lining? Chefs reconnecting with local farmers, menus full of regional dishes, and great food everywhere. We celebrate those restaurants that have opened in the worst time to do so since the Depression.
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photography by Kevin Hunter Marple

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photography by Kevin Hunter Marple
FRENCH


Cadot


Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a French lawyer, politician, and famous gastronome, once wrote: “The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of the human race than the discovery of a star.” That was easy for him to say. He was living in France in the early 1800s, when appreciating good food and eating well were part of the French identity. Fresh, local, and regional cooking wasn’t a trend; it was a way of life.

For many years, fine dining in Dallas was defined by exceptional French restaurants, but today you have to seek out the little enclaves of French food that still exist around town. However, veteran chef Jean-Marie Cadot has sparked a new French food revolution in North Dallas.

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photography by Kevin Hunter Marple
At his namesake restaurant, you’ll find traditional duck terrine, a thick slab of coarsely textured meat studded with pale green pistachios and black truffles, escargot swimming in Pernod-spiked herb butter thickened with cream, and dessert souffles that rise as high as the toques in the kitchen.

Halibut isn’t just grilled or poached. The gentle fish is swathed in a thin layer of pastry and baked. Dover sole is lightly dusted and sautéed in butter, lemon, and herbs. The whole fish is shown to the table then whisked away to the kitchen, where it is deboned and plated. Even finicky meat-and-potato diners will be pleased with Cadot’s flat-iron steak cooked bloody rare, covered with freshly sautéed garlic, and served with crispy pommes frites.

Once the dinner plates are cleared, you’ll discover profiteroles, apple tarts, and other new and elegant dishes all guaranteed to make you happy. —N.N.

Get contact information for Cadot.


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photography by Kevin Hunter Marple
NEW AMERICAN


Neighborhood Services


He could have called it Nick’s Grill, or Badovinus’, or any number of things, but for reasons that are becoming apparent, he chose Neighborhood Services. Chef-owner Nick Badovinus made a number of interesting decisions when he opened his eatery on the periphery of the Park Cities. He chose to dress the servers in knobby knit cardigan sweaters that call to mind a preppy boarding school. He opted against music in the restrooms. Rather, customers freshen up to a recording of the somber tones of Vincent Price as he recites a series of cooking lessons he produced in the ’50s. Badovinus also decided to create a dynamic and exciting menu of simple but thoughtfully designed bistro-style cuisine. 

Twelve months after the place opened, it’s still common to find the bar packed with customers waiting for a table, and if you visit the restaurant a few times, you’ll begin to recognize familiar faces in the crowd—a clear sign that the restaurant is becoming a vital part of the neighborhood. The services offered cover the range of what you’d want from a restaurant close to home, starting with friendly and adept staff, a casual dining environment, and well-executed dishes. 

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photography by Kevin Hunter Marple
A look at the menu hints at what keeps the customers coming back. It features a fixed set of hearty dishes (called “nightly plates”) that rotate throughout the week, as well as daily fish specials, flatbreads, and variations on the traditional roast supper that can share a cooking method, but vary from beef to fish. Iconic fresh noodles also change daily, ranging from Asian to Italian inspired. They highlight the restaurant’s overall approach of redesigning familiar flavors with skillful execution and attention to detail.

Don’t feel like fighting the crowds or just want a night off from cooking? Call ahead and order a roasted chicken dinner with sides and bread, swing by between 5 and 6 pm, and pick it up curbside.

But inside is where a disarming, subtle quirkiness pervades the restaurant that helps ease the transition from workday to dinner. Badovinus drives all of this, the environment, the food, and the service-oriented aspect of Neighborhood Services. He’s described by his employees as “hands on,” and this is evident to the customers as well. Badovinus loves to make the rounds to chat and make them feel at home. Clearly, he enjoys being part of the neighborhood that he’s serving. —William Russ

Get contact information for Neighborhood Services.

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photography by Kevin Hunter Marple
MEXICAN


Masaryk


In retrospect, the journey to Masaryk taken by Gabriel DeLeon, chef-owner, seems almost predictable. He came from a restaurant family. His father, chef Juan DeLeon, cooked at the Zodiac Room, Ewald’s, and La Margarita. His uncle had a restaurant, Esparza’s in Grapevine. Gabriel graduated from the Art Institute of Dallas, attended the Culinary Institute of America, and was counseled by Patricia Quintana, the first lady of Mexican cuisine. Masaryk, his modern Mexican kitchen and tequila lounge in Addison, brings together the varied influences from his past to create an experience that is fresh and innovative.

It isn’t Mexican without guacamole and queso, but Masaryk has much more: huaraches, those masa ovals, moist and pliable, topped with black beans, pulled pork, and queso fresco. And sopes al pastor—more masa, this time a circular disc heaped with pork loin in a rust-colored achiote rub. And tostaditas holding a spoonful of ceviche made with sea bass and chopped jicama in fresh lime juice.

Are there nachos? Yes. There have to be. Fajitas, too. But there is also salmon steamed in banana leaves, shrimp wrapped in bacon, and a rib-eye with pesto mashed potatoes and garlicky spinach. Pulled pork relleno, with its sharply delineated side-by-side pools of guajillo and tomatillo sauces, is as beautiful to the eyes as it is warm on the lips.

There’s no dish that will make you more grateful for DeLeon’s fusion magic than the Swiss chocolate pot de crème, tasting like a deluxe fudgesicle and topped with a quenelle of unsweetened whipped cream, fresh blackberries, and a streak of berry jus. And thank heavens for a brunch whose only direction in items such as the tortilla casserole, buttermilk pancakes, and witty tequila sunrise is to offer food you really want to eat. 5004 E. Addison Cir., Addison. 972-701-8500. www.modmexkitchen.com. —T.G.


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photography by Kevin Hunter Marple
ECLECTIC


Chapman Chile Kitchen


Mom and pop Fran and Randal Chapman traded in their jobs in the insurance and software businesses to open this tiny stand in East Dallas, where their motto could very well be: “Do few things, but do them well.”

Their calling card is stuffed jalapeños, and these far surpass the usual bar food. They’re filled with shredded chicken, Jack cheese, and cilantro; coated in panko crumbs; and then, rather than deep fried, they’re baked. “Our fryer collects dust,” Fran says. One bite of that softened baked pepper with its rich, mildly spicy filling, and you realize why customers drive down from Allen and why the Chapmans sell out of the gourmet poppers nearly every day. The price doesn’t hurt. An order of three costs a mere $5.

Restaurant hours are limited, but on weekends, the Chapmans hit the Dallas Farmers Market to sell 32-ounce containers of bison chili and jalapeños in singles or convenient take-and-bake six-packs. At the restaurant, they also do a decadent blue cheese bison burger, served on a toasted bun, as well as a chili that’s for purists: heavy on the chiles and tomatoes, light on the meat. Sweet-and-spicy chicken wings and chicken salad studded with crunchy cashews and water chestnuts round out the menu. Everything’s made from scratch, with an eye toward quality. The scale is small. Guess you could say it’s human. 515 N. Carroll Ave. 214-887-8872. www.chapmanchile.com. —T.G.


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