Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 34, Ed. 1 Friday, January 6, 2012 Page: 21 of 40
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year in review
Top 10 tables
North Texas' best new restaurants of 2011 provided a
lesson in substance over style
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES I Life+Style Editor
2011 was the year great dining found a way
to avoid being fine dining.
There are all kinds of restaurants for all
tastes and pocketbooks. Truth is, fancy usually
takes you further because when you evaluate an overall dining experience,
atmosphere and service come into play; standing in line to eat a burger out
of a napkin while standing at a counter costs some points.
Or rather, it used to.
It's probably a combination of tilings — the economy the rise of the food
truck, an emphasis on the taste of food above the flash of atmosphere —
that led to an emphasis of substance over style in 2011. In 2010, we happily
tagged Nosh as our top eatery: Elegant and pretty, but also an easy, sociable
dining experience. Still, back then, there were slim pickin's overall: I went
with a Top 5 instead of 10, because that's all that felt warranted.
Not so this year. At least 17 testes were legitimately in play as I was
whittling it down to a Top 10, and several more — Campo, Chesterfield,
Texas Spice, Oak — opened too late in the season for me to give full shrift.
They'll be up for consideration next time.
Some others almost made the list. II Cane Rosso gave Deep Ellum an-
other great, authentic eatery — this time, a Neapolitan pizzeria that's no
fuss, all must-have. Meddlesome Moth has sortie strong points (terrific
hummus, the best dessert — chess pie — in town) but couldn't consistently
Oddly, many of the restaurants that impressed me most had quirky
things in common that helped define them as the anti-fine-dining Class of
'11: Brushed concrete floors (at least three of them), prosaic strip-mall loca-
tions (most of them), TV celebrichefs-done-good (Nos. 7 and 8).
Also, by and large, the restaurants that stood out also tended to group
around themes: Sophisticated Tex-Mex, Eastern fusion, classy retro-joints
and ravenously good tacos. I'm gonna keep with those trends as well, so
here are the Top Tables of 2011. (Look for reviews of some of them in the
MEXICAN, REINVENTED | The Mayan calendar may end in 2012, but that's
no reason not to enjoy the cuisine from MesoMaya, the top table of 2011.
The Top 3 — Mexivention: MesoMaya, Mesa, Komali
Never tell a German how to drink beer, a New Yorker how to eat pizza
or a Texan how to do anything.
But especially don't tell him about Tex-Mex. (Or tacos, though that'll
We Texans know what we like when it comes to Southwestern-style cui-
sine, and Dallasites are especially arrogant about it. After all, we claim
Stephan Pyles and Dean Fearing and Avner Samuel, who basically invented
it for gourmet palates .
But even we can be surprised. The menu at MesoMaya Comida y Copas
has a lot of familiar elements (posole, enchiladas, tacos), but this isn't Tex-
Mex: It's central Mexican cuisine^ resplendent with Mayan influence —
Latin-Mesoamerican fusion par example. (1190 Preston Road,
If MesoMaya is fiercely flavorful peasant food, then Mesa in Oak Cliff
and Komali in Uptown are its sophisticated cousins. Komali, the compan-
ion restaurant to Mex-born chef Abraham Salum's eponymous eatery, ex-
udes an easy polish with soft features that don't distract from the modern,
urban-Mexican dishes, full of moles and wonderful salsas. (4152 Cole Ave,,
■ TABLES, Page 23
QUICK BITE: GOOD 2 GO TACOS
2011 was the year we leapt the threshold between
"taco" and "burrito" and the distinction began to seem
In Mexico, tacos are petite things meant for quick
snacks: A shaved bit of protein, a dollop of salsa,
some melted cheese, a garnish of cilantro, maybe
garlic. Whatever. The are designed to be small bites
— one is rarely enough for a meal. You want a big
meal? That's a burrito.
But Texas proudly claims it does everything bigger,
and that counts for tacos, too. And few are as big as
the tacos at Good 2 Go.
At about four bucks each, they're pricier than Jack
in the Box - for good reason. I've never had more
than one at a sitting, though I've certainly craved
The menu (it's open for breakfast and lunch only,
five days a week) is limited but endlessly inventive
and devilishly clever, thanks to the camp sensibilities
of partner-owners Colleen O'Hara and Jeana
Feel like chicken spiced with jerk seasonings? It's
called the "Navin R. Johnson" — after Steve Martin's
name in The Jerk. Unlike Martin, I doubt this taco was
born a poor black child, though it does have the taste
profile of Jamaica, with coconut rice and mango
conjuring a day in the islands — a terrific fantasy as
the winter weather sets in.
The equally groan-inducing "swine bleu" (pictured)
is actually exactly what its name implies: braised pork
and blue cheese slaw. And boy is there pork: The
flour tortilla is as bulbous as a cast member of 16 and
Pregnant The ladle of slaw looks like it might
smother the pork, but no: The flavors meld better than
a barbershop quarter, the tang of blue cheese pitch-
Service is friendly and knowing. Ataco I ordered to
eat-in came out faster than a male drum major at
band camp; a few minutes later, when I walked back
in to grab some utensils to tame the cabbage and
pork overflowing the large tortilla, the busboy barely
glanced up before grabbing a fork and walking it
toward me. They've seen this kind of behavior before.
It's weird feeling like you've been bested by a taco.
But so worth it.
The Dallas Foundation presents
THROUGH JANUARY 8
Nasher Sculpture Center
Dallas Arts District
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Nash, Tammye. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 34, Ed. 1 Friday, January 6, 2012, newspaper, January 6, 2012; Dallas, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth239201/m1/21/: accessed August 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.