travel bite: Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas

March 10, 2022

At the end of February, hoping to escape New England winter, we traveled to Texas. Unfortunately, winter followed us. In fact, while it was in the 60’s in Boston, it was in the 20’s in Dallas. Not quite the warm get away I had hoped for. Despite that, we had some awesome food. Here are the three best meals we had.

Heim Barbecue
There is no shortage of great BBQ in Dallas-Fort Worth, so picking just one is a challenge. After a decent amount of research, I settled on Heim Barbecue. It was our first stop. We drove straight from the airport, and thank god we did. They happened to be closing early and we had about a half an hour to spare.

Our order was, brisket, bacon burnt ends, green chile mac and cheese, fries, and a couple of margaritas. The brisket was the best I have ever had. I know that’s a bold statement and I fully stand by it. Absolutely perfect. There was a high fat content that kept it tender, but there weren’t big bites of fat as there often is with lesser brisket. The smoke permeated the meat, making it packed with flavor. Pro tip: grab some pickles and white bread, both out for the taking, and build yourself a little brisket sandwich with their spicy Habanero sauce.

The bacon burnt ends, little smokey-sweet cubes of pork belly, were also awesome. Heim is famous for this dish. They are a little chewy, a little fatty, and a lot delicious. These things are addictive. In 2017, the Dallas Observer named it the 22nd best dish in the area. Likewise, the green chile mac and cheese is really good. It is so incredible creamy and goes perfectly with the bacon burnt ends. These two dishes feel like they were made for each other.

In addition to their spicy bbq sauces, which range from jalapeno to ghost pepper, they have a traditional bbq sauce that is really great. But the food is so good, you don’t need any sauce. I don’t know if I’ll be back in Fort Worth anytime soon, but this is the one restaurant, I would be absolutely sure to return to the next time I’m in town.

Velvet Taco
A little bit of cold weather and a little bit of sleet and the whole city of Dallas shuts down, museums, restaurants, entire neighborhoods. Dallas was a ghost town. Fortunately, the brave men of Velvet Taco were not going to let a little weather stop them from serving some of the most creative and gratifying tacos this man has ever had.

Velvet Taco is a chain with locations in six states, and five locations in Dallas alone. That might make some people worry, but put your fears to rest. Their food is great. We got four tacos: the chicken and waffle, the green chile pork, the slow roasted angus brisket, and the Mexi-Cali shrimp.

I’m not trying to make this a brisket guide to Dallas, but the brisket taco was my favorite. Although the meat wasn’t up to Hiem Barbecue standards, it was very good. Red chile mayo, avocado relish, queso blanco, micro cilantro topped the brisket, but what made it extra special was the comté cheese encrusted flour tortilla. This was one amazing taco.

I have a hard time deciding which taco came in second. The green chile pork taco starts with tomatillo corn stewed pork then adds avocado, mayo crema, queso fresco, pickled fresnos, cilantro rice, salsa verde, and micro cilantro on a corn tortilla. And the Mexi-Cali shrimp taco takes blackened shrimp and tops it with napa slaw, citrus lime crema, sriracha, avocado corn pico, and micro cilantro. All of this is served on a flour tortilla. Both were worth getting again.

My favorite part of the meal, besides the paloma, was the elote and chips. I didn’t really know elote until this trip, but it quickly became one of my favorite foods, the Velvet Taco version being my favorite. In addition to corn and cheese, they add Valentina hot sauce, making this a slightly spicy version that you can eat with the blue corn chips that come with it, or just on a spoon. It is so good, I might drive to Charolette to get some. It’s only about twelve hours away.

So the bad thing is Velvet Taco is a chain, but the good thing is Velvet Taco is a chain. That just means you have more chances to get some. I’ll keep hoping they open one in Boston, but I won’t hold my breath.

Knife
Top Chef fans may remember John Tesar who was a contestant in Seattle in Season 10 and then again on Season 14 in Charleston. Chef Tesar is now the executive chef at Knife. The story of his life could certainly be made into a movie, and if you want a taste of that read the 2011 Dallas Magazine piece on him entitled The Most Hated Chef in Dallas. (warning: adult content) But that was more than a decade ago and what he does really well now is age ribye.

Knife is located in the Highland, a hotel just down the street from Southern Methodist University. It has its own entrance as well as one through the hotel lobby. Right inside the front door is the aging room for the beef. There is a lot of beef here, and some of it stays for a very long time. If you’ve got the cash, there is a 240 day dry-aged ribeye on the menu for $235. Not a bad deal, that’s less than a dollar a day.

We went with the more modest 45 day dry aged ribeye from 44 Farms in Cameron, TX. But before that we had to try the bacon tasting. There were five slices of bacon: Iberico, applewood, cherry, hickory, and Benton’s, along with a scrumptious bacon jam. My favorite was the hickory smoked bacon from Iowa, but a close second was the Benton’s bacon from Tennessee, which was really, really smoky. My least favorite was the Iberico bacon, which was kinda funky, though our waiter said it was most people’s favorite.

The ribeye was heaven. Bone-in, ordered medium rare, it came out perfect. At 32 oz, it comes sliced and ready to share, which is good since it will cost you $125. But it is worth it, one of the best steaks I have had in a while. What really makes it exceptional is how broken down the fat was. Every bite of meat was delicious, no gristle, no big hunk of gnarly fat, but not over cooked. Once we finished the meat I picked up the bone and went to town. I did get a couple of funky bites close to the outside part of the bone, so I know it was really aged as long as they said it was. I enjoyed it with a side of creamed spinach and a bottle of La Jota 2017 Howell Mountain Cabernet Franc. I recommend both.

For dessert, I had the Banana, Bourbon, and Dulcey. It’s a modern dessert, but good nonetheless, bannana panna cotta, bourbon compressed banana, banana bread, Dulcey ganache, and Ducley ice cream. I love banana and this I devoured in seconds. And although I would rather have a nice piece of cake at a steakhouse, this dessert would be worth getting a few more times.

Additionally, we had some good french fries, a nice complementary crudite with green goddess dressing, and some sweet treats after desert, including an awesome pate de fruit. They also make a great old fashioned. The bill comes in a silver envelope with “The Damage” printed across it, and damage it is. All in this meal set me back over $500. It was the splurge of my vacation, and it still hurt a little, but at least it was a really great meal.

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