Restaurant Spotlight Snacks & Sightseeing

Howdy Dallas

One of my best friends and her husband moved out to the Dallas area (Carrollton to be precise) a few years ago after college. The distance can be hard, especially after being such a tight knit group and living at max a couple hours apart for so many years, but we always make the most of our time together! This past Labor Day weekend, we flew out to Dallas to relive a college game day together at the UF vs. Michigan game (the start of an embarrassing season for us Gator fans) and to have some fun exploring around town.

Here’s some of our favorite places, foods, and drinks we hit while in the great state of Texas:

Hard-Eight BBQ

After a long day of traveling, we got picked up at the airport and whisked off to the magical bbq land of Hard-Eight BBQ. I’ve eaten at my fair share of bbq joints, but nothing compared to what we were in store for here. As you enter into this large rustic barn-style building, you walk up to the large pit full of every meat imaginable, and are served right from the pit master himself. This isn’t the type of place where you just order a “pulled pork sandwich” or a “1/4 quarter white meat chicken” – you’ve got your full selection of brisket, ribs, pork, sausage, chicken, corn on the cob, and baked potatoes (just to name a few) and you can have as little, or as much, as you want.

Between J. and I we tried a little bit of everything in that smoker. Walk inside with your tray and you’re welcomed to another huge array of sides from breads, mac and cheese, baked beans, veggies, and desserts. Once you pay, find a seat at their large family style tables and take in the fun, rustic, Texas atmosphere. I felt extremely full and extremely happy, already dreaming of the day I’d get to return here.

Meso Maya Comida y Copas

Sunday was our downtown Dallas day, exploring the city and all of its history. What better place to grab lunch than in a historic Spanish-style building, at a restaurant bringing back flavors of Mexican and Mayan culture.

A little history: “Our building on McKinney Avenue has a long history—more than 75 years worth. It started in 1938 when the Spanish-style building was built for the Luna Tortilla Factory. The restaurant and its next-door neighbor, El Fenix, were instant favorites for residents and visitors of Dallas’ Little Mexico community, and it offered the first Mexican restaurant patio in the city. In late 2012, the building was renovated to accommodate Meso Maya, bringing to the area a new genre of Mexican food and culture. This well-known location recently received an award and was recognized by Preservation Dallas for preserving the history and culture of the Dallas community.”

Meso Maya makes all of their food from scratch – from from salsas and sauces to tortillas and adobos. Every dish is made with influences from places like Yucatan, Vera Cruze, and Chiapas. We started off with their house made salsa with a unique charred flavor from cooking down the tomatoes on a wood-burning grill. For my entree, I thought of no better dish to get than their Mole Poblano Enchiladas, adobo chicken breast, caramelized onions, cilantro, roasted poblanos, and monterrey jack cheese wrapped inside blue corn tortillas and smothered in homemade mole poblano sauce. The chocolate used in the mole sauce is made from specialty cocoa beans ground in house. It was a deep, rich flavor that started smooth and finished with that slight spicy burn on the back of your tongue. I finished off with a fresh squeezed margarita and it’s like I was transported to Mexico right in the heart of Dallas.

Tip: if you’re going on a weekend – make reservations! Even for lunch this place was jam-packed full of people.

Twisted Root Burger Company

After a long day of sight-seeing, we ended our night back over in Plano at The Shops at Legacy for dinner and bar-hopping and Twisted Root was calling our name. Let me start by saying this is not your typical burger joint. Chefs Jason Boso & Quincy Hart wanted to do things their own way with gourmet burgers and fresh ingredients in a fun, casual atmosphere. Because who said gourmet equated to fancy? Their meat is fresh, their toppings are made in house daily (including condiments and a whole variety of homemade pickles), and their buns are sourced from local bakeries.

J. went the build your own burger route and I got their “lots of shroom” burger  with garlic baby bello mushrooms and aged swiss. The bun was soft on the inside and crisp on the outside and was the right balance of bread to the 1/2 lb. burger patty. The burger was seasoned perfectly and super moist. We also ordered the fried pickles (because who can say no to homemade pickles) that were crisp and delicious.

The atmosphere of the The Shops at Legacy location is urban, casual, and fun with shipping container walls, metal high-tops, and a large concrete bar in the center of the restaurant. When you order your food, instead of asking for your name, they give you a fun themed card (we got the Beatles) and then they’ll sing a song or say a movie quote tied to your card – so listen closely for your order! If you’re looking for a low-key, casual meal without sacrificing quality – this is definitely your place.

P.S. Guy Fieri featured them on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives back in 2009!

Whiskey Cake Kitchen and Bar

What trip would be complete without a farewell brunch? Our hosts had been talking this place up to us for months leading up to the trip. And especially with a name like Whiskey Cake – how could we say no?

As you walk into this stand-alone brick and mortar, you enter an atmosphere that can I only describe as an industrial farmhouse. High ceilings with exposed beams and brick walls, and small details made out industrial material are matched with piles of firewood, whiskey barrel tops as wall art, chalkboard displays, and refurbished furniture. It gives off the vibe of being really hip, yet still warm and inviting.

They are all about farm-to-kitchen dishes and cocktails. “From scratch” and “homemade” have been prevalent themes through our meals in Dallas, and Whiskey Cake is no different. They’ve got a small herb garden right in front of the restaurant and a full chalkboard display and section of their menu showing exactly where their local ingredients are sourced.

I started off with a mimosa flight, because the only thing better than a mimosa is one with fresh squeezed juice. They all probably could have used a splash more juice in them, but I’m not going to be the girl that complains about too much champagne in her glass. For my meal, I went for their Pork Belly Ramen, ramen noodles, braised pork belly, quail egg, basil, sriracha, and seaweed, all in a pork broth. The broth was rich and complex, definitely something that had been cooking down for hours back in the kitchen. The braised pork belly was fall apart tender and the quail egg was just the right size type egg to get the flavor, without having a bowl full of egg yolk.

J. went more the breakfast route with a B.E.L.T, local sunny side up egg, lettuce, peppered bacon, tomato, fried green tomato, and remoulade sauce all on thick brioche bread. The bread was toasted well and was nice and thick to hold up to all of the toppings and runny egg yolk. I loved the addition of the fried green tomato not only as a different flavor, but for the added crunchy texture as well. Definitely something I’ll have to remember to replicate at home.

Of course we couldn’t leave without dessert, and their whiskey cake is well worth naming their restaurant after. A square slice of super moist toffee cake, topped with bourbon anglaise, spiced pecans, and fresh whipped cream. The cake soaked up that beautiful anglaise and the spiced pecans added just the snap of texture and paired well with the toffee and bourbon flavors. The sauce is quite sweet, but the cake itself and fresh whip cream balance it out beautifully. Next time we go, I’m not sharing.

And just like that we got back on the plane home, thus ending our long weekend in Dallas. And while the Gators may have lost, the weekend with great friends and good food was definitely one for the books.


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