Longtime Dallas residents can still remember when Mama opened her diner in 1958, bustling about the kitchen with her daughters scampering by her side, whipping up her signature hearty country specialties and desserts. More than 50 years later, Mama continues to watch over the kitchen with the help of her daughters, granddaughters, and a loyal kitchen staff. Drawing from Mama's timeless recipes, chefs fry up chicken, steaks, and catfish for the menu of daily specials, while biscuits, peach cobblers, and cinnamon rolls rise in the oven. Servers bear hefty platters out to the cushy booths of the dining room, where Mama's timeless wisdom is written across the walls, including such gems as "Eat your peas and get dessert" and "Don't stare"—invaluable advice for any diner should Medusa enter the restaurant.
Bacon-covered burgers, chili-cheese-soaked fries, turkey-stacked sandwiches, syrup-slathered pancakes, and meat-melded comfort food dance across the pages of Norma's breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu. Welcome the sun back to its rightful place atop the sky's throne with a three-egg Spanish omelet (with onions, bell peppers, cheese, and salsa; $5.50). Or ease into the evening with chicken-fried steak ($6.95), which is "as big as the plate it’s served on, and with a good, crunchy crust," according to D magazine. But Norma's real forte is her thick slices of mile-high cream or fruit pie; some say they're the best this side of the Mason-Dixon Line (there is one better pie directly on the Mason-Dixon line, but it's covered with bees).
Chef Tom Fleming has a simple goal: “to create a warm, comfortable experience that our guests relate to home.” He and fellow chef Carl Strelecki know that the principle element of this experience is the food itself. That’s why they use fresh, simple ingredients—the kinds you’d find in a well-stocked kitchen or a poorly planned bomb shelter—to make breakfast dishes such as buttermilk pancakes and corned beef hash from scratch. When lunchtime rolls around, they deftly switch to savory fare. One of their most popular menu items is the house mac-and-cheese, which they enhance with roasted garlic cream, caramelized onions, and smoked ham.
Deb and Steve’s Cafe boasts a menu full of multicultural twists on Americana favorites and a comfy family-friendly environment. Shareable starters include the four-tiered appetizer combo with fried shrimp, onion rings, mini burgers, and chicken fingers, and entrees such as the customizable Texas-chili burger—made with prime Nolan Ryan beef—or veggie-friendly portobello burger save families the trouble of cooking dinner or paying the government to air-drop them lunch. Steve’s famous chicken-salad sandwich silently speaks to poultry prophets, and the new york strip steak arrives with potatoes and veggies, anxious to be devoured and washed down with a fountain drink.
Instead of a crystal chandelier, Cowtown Diner's owners opted to install a light fixture fashioned from antlers to reflect their restaurant's rustic atmosphere. Inside the dining area brown leather booths line the exposed brick walls bedecked with colorful artwork and the occasional cowboy hat. The outdoor patio features umbrella topped tables where patrons dig into chicken fried steak, Belgian waffles, and scrambled eggs.
Like the beloved American diners of yesteryear, Elks Diner retains some classic touches, from the tall pie cooler in the corner to the long counter and casual booths. During mornings that begin at 6:30 a.m., Elks' servers warm mugs with fresh-brewed coffee, as well as plates piled with chicken-fried steak and fluffy three-egg omelets. The vast menu, cooked by a chef with experience in five-star restaurants in Chicago and Beverly Hills, also includes panini, hamburgers, and albacore-tuna melts, rounded out by slabs of a chef's selection of house-made pies.