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".
When Norma’s Cafe opened in 1956, it was the kind of homey breakfast spot where the food was as comforting as the waitresses were welcoming—they greeted their customers by name. One of those customers was Ed Murph, who later purchased Norma’s with the goal of keeping the down-home tradition alive. And according to the Dallas Observer, he succeeded. The paper voted Norma’s The Best Home Style Restaurant in 2010, claiming that “the recipes taste as though they haven’t much changed.” It’s those recipes that have made generations of diners—and even food critics—eager to wake up in the morning. Pillowy biscuits blanketed in gravy, chicken fried steaks, and omelets made with farm-fresh eggs are partially responsible for the countless amounts of press and awards Norma’s has earned. But credit the atmosphere for a good portion of the popularity. Norma’s continues to evoke feelings of a friendlier, simpler time, when the pies were made from scratch, the waitresses knew your name, and the jukeboxes didn’t heckle you for your poor music choices.
Buzzbrews Kitchen is not your average coffeehouse. For one, it sees some of its largest crowds in the wee hours of the morning. Two of the shop’s three locations are open around the clock, catering both to late-night carousers and early-morning commuters. Whether you think the morning starts at 9 a.m. or 3 a.m., you’re likely to find something to love on the 24-hour menu, which loosely focuses on traditional breakfast and Mexican fare. Mochas and lattes are popular throughout the day, and burgers are a hit at lunch and dinner. There’s also an impressive selection of wines and beers, which explains why some guests show up with sleeping bags and a desire to never leave.
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.
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.
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.