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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
BURGERS

Maple & Motor

Jack Perkins and Austen Wright are good friends and next-door neighbors. After the stock market changed the target date for their retirement, they pooled their money and became partners in a burger joint. It’s a familiar dream, one that includes putting your heart and soul into a tiny spot that makes a lot of people happy. The trouble is, most of the time that dream turns into a nightmare.

But thanks to the friendship and encouragement of the four families of Mexican food on Maple Avenue—Ojeda, Avila, Rosita (the Jiminezes), and Herrera—Maple & Motor is off to a stellar start. At the heart of the kitchen is a 30-year-old seasoned griddle pulled from the closed Doc’s Restaurant in Vernon, Texas. The half-pound burgers are hand formed from a proprietary blend of chuck and brisket with a high fat content (70-to-30 ratio) and served on a perfectly toasted bun—crisp, not soggy—and covered with a thick slice of melted cheese and toppings such as bacon, jalapeños, fried eggs, and Texas chili. Perkins also serves his father’s favorite fried bologna sandwich: a thick slice of star-cut bologna fried on the griddle and served Cincinnati style—nestled between layers of mayonnaise, tomatoes, and lettuce. Warning: this sandwich is habit-forming.

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photography by Kevin Hunter Marple
For dessert, try the unique Pennsylvania Gob—two layers of devil’s food cake stuffed with a puffy cloud of rich whipped buttercream. Perkins and his wife, Peggy, found the 50-year-old handwritten recipe card in her mother’s collection. (“The original calls for oleo,” he says.)

Preston Hollow billionaires, staffers from Elliot’s Hardware across the street, and boys from the neighborhood who come in with handfuls of change to buy burgers are all treated with the same respect. “I have to make it perfect for every customer,” Perkins says. “My burger is a steak dinner to those kids.” 4810 Maple Ave. 214-522-4400. www.mapleandmotor.com. —N.N.

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photography by Kevin Hunter Marple
NEW AMERICAN

Park

Chef Marc Cassel is back in an electrified setting, and, boy, are Dallas diners happy. They aren’t just hungry for his food; they are starving for a bit of nostalgia. Many of those who frequent Park still grieve for the Green Room, a restaurant in Deep Ellum where Cassel defined his local reputation as a groovy chef serving collision cuisine.

One bite of Cassel’s signature PEI mussels—steamed in a sauce of Champagne, shiitake mushrooms, and thick slices of fresh ginger—will transport you back to the Green Room. However, one whiff of the lemony butter sauce that bathes a delicate piece of skate wing shocks your senses back to the reality of hip, happening Henderson Avenue, where you sit surrounded by beautiful people watching the not-so-beautiful people. Or vice versa. The crowd swings both ways at Park.

The decor is as tricked out as the crowd. Park’s 7,500 square feet are divided into four spaces. Inside, the dining room is decked out in a ’60s Hotel California-chic design. One wall is covered with the iconic banana leaf wallpaper of the Beverly Hills Hotel. There is also a U-shaped bar, a covered patio with a fireplace, and an outdoor garden patio with a long communal table and wooden benches made from recycled cottonwood trees. Out back, you’ll find the bocce ball court.

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photography by Kevin Hunter Marple
The ecofriendly attitude is most prevalent on the “thinking locally and acting globally about wine” list that is broken down into five categories: Vegan, Sustainable, Organic, Biodynamic, and Woman Winemaker. Most of the bottles come from small artisanal producers who don’t use herbicides and make smaller carbon footprints.

Most components of Cassel’s menu also make tiny carbon footprints. The ingredients come from Paula’s, Jimmy’s, and Spicer’s, located just a few miles away in East Dallas. And if that weren’t enough, up on the roof, Cassel has a colony of bees making honey. —N.N.

Get contact information for Park.

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photoraphy by Kevin Hunter Marple
ECLECTIC

Ellerbe Fine Foods


Hip, burgeoning Magnolia Avenue is the perfect location for this au courant restaurant and Fort Worth’s proud entry in the new wave of places that strive to go local and seasonal. Named for a street in the Shreveport, Louisiana, hometown of co-owners Molly McCook and Richard King, Ellerbe has a modern American theme with a Southern flair. It’s the kind of menu that makes you want to eat your way right through it.

For starters, a salad of arugula with shaved Grana cheese and Marcona almonds, or carnival squash with tender greens, spiced pecans, and farmstead raclette from Fort Worth-based Deborah’s Farmstead Cheese. Or bruschetta, topped not with the usual tomato but instead grilled peppers and squash, drizzled with balsamic.

The cheese plate includes a luscious triple cream Brie—a perfect spread for the house bread, a crunchy baguette served with butter and Hawaiian sea salt. They bring in baguettes from Gambinos Bakery in New Orleans, which they put to good use in the shrimp po’ boy. Get it with a side of the maque choux, the spicy stewed corn dish, and you might as well be sitting in the French Quarter.

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photoraphy by Kevin Hunter Marple
McCook is often spotted by the locals buying fresh produce at area markets. She developed her seasonal ways after working with California chefs such as Los Angeles’ renowned Suzanne Goin of Lucques and A.O.C. Credit King for overseeing the renovation of this former gas station, now with a glorious bank of windows in front, and a gas pump bay that’s been repurposed into a patio lined with wildflowers growing in smart aluminum-clad planters. The restaurant sees hour-long waits, even on weeknights. No surprise. 1501 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth. 817-926-3663. www.ellerbefinefoods.com. —T.G.

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