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The 20 Things You Need to Know For 2011

We figured out the people, places, and ideas that matter this year in Dallas. You're welcome.
photography by Kevin Marple

photography by Kevin Marple

Tex-Mex will lose ground to regional Mexican cuisine.

Cooking and serving authentic regional Mexican food in Dallas has been tried before. Bring up the gone but not forgotten Ciudad, the delightful Mexican restaurant on Oak Lawn, and people still bemoan the loss. Trece started out billing its menu as Mexican but has added lobster nachos and crab cakes to keep customers happy. The same goes for chef Gabriel DeLeon’s menu at the 20-year-old La Margarita in Irving.

Dallas is a Tex-Mex-loving town. Mention Mexican food and our minds jump to the dreaded M-word: mole. For some reason, Dallas will not eat mole—that rich, reddish brown (or black, or green) sauce made from spices, nuts, seeds, chilies, and bitter chocolate.

“It was difficult to translate Mexican food to people’s minds,” says Monica Greene, who opened Ciudad. “We served mole in clay pots like real haute cuisine in Mexico. But customers wanted chips and salsa and rice and beans.”

So why are a handful of restaurateurs opening restaurants dedicated to the laborious, complicated cuisines of Mexico? “I was born and raised in Mexico City. I have a lot of friends in Dallas from Mexico,” says Abraham Salum of Salum’s. “I want to show people the difference between Tex-Mex and Mexican food.”

To do so, Salum has gutted the space next to his New American restaurant in Uptown and is opening Komali, a 100-seat restaurant dedicated to the food he grew up eating and cooking. Instead of cheddar cheese, cumin, and rice and beans, Salum plans to feature authentic seafood items such as vuelve a la vida, a concoction of octopus, shrimp, crab, and scallops in an avocado tomato sauce.

Greene, a self-confessed “insane chef,” also has plans to get back to her Mexican roots by opening a small restaurant in Oak Cliff. She wants to make the tortilla soup she grew up on, a vegetable broth used for soaking tortillas made into a soup by adding duck or turkey and vegetables. No cheese. No avocados.

Will Dallas finally get Mexican cuisine? Or, more important, will we pay for Mexican cuisine? It is labor-intensive food that comes at a steeper price than Tex-Mex. Several other high-profile restaurateurs have plans to open Mexican restaurants. Look for 2011 to be the year of huitlacoche quesadillas. Or maybe duck in a green pumpkin seed mole. —NANCY NICHOLS