The name Just Fried Rice implies a very specific menu. But that's not the case at this Addison eatery, where Chinese dishes share table space with Korean, Creole, Indian, and other types of cuisine. Cooks prepare more than 10 types of fried rice, sprinkling them with ingredients such as bacon and chilies. They also fill plates with teriyaki wings, simmer pots of gumbo, and ladle sausage-laced tomato sauce over spaghetti noodles that patrons can braid into edible necklaces. Diners can wash it all back with beverages that range from thai tea to root beer served in a frosty mug.
When Carlene Saelg and Rita Davis moved from Austin to Dallas in 2007, they immediately began their search for their new favorite coffee joint. They didn't find it. Instead of despairing, the duo took matters into their own hands and created their idea of the perfect coffee shop, which they decided had to include a cozy space, a vibrant community of regulars, and a menu of delicious beverages. A mere six months after opening, The Pearl Cup had become a Henderson Avenue hit and its signature drink, The Pearl Latte, had been named the best latte in town by D Magazine. The Pearl Latte, just like the rest of The Pearl Cup’s decadent coffee drinks, starts with direct-source beans purchased at above fair-trade prices and roasted by local Texas roasters. From there, skilled baristas craft shots of straight espresso, carafes of French press, or robust drip coffee made from custom bean blends. Those who opt for a dressed-up drink, such as a cappuccino or latte, will notice that The Pearl Cup's sizes are a bit smaller than those of big-name chains; this is all in a well planned effort to maintain the integrity of the coffee profile, rather than overwhelming it with milk or a cup it can't climb out of. No matter the size, customers will likely want to match their drink with what D Magazine called “first-rate” paninis and hummus.
Roots Coffeehouse serves up coffee, teas, and a broad array of espresso-based drinks and complements its potable pleasures with friendly service and a variety of edible options. The shop's menu draws upon three different types of espresso—a single-origin, a blended, and a decaf—to provide savvy sippers with an extra degree of customization to their order. Organic and fair-trade coffee and teas are also available to help keep consciences light and fluffy. Order up a honey vanilla latte ($3.85 for a medium) for a sweet kiss of bee syrup without the danger and mess of personally milking the bees, then pair your vanilla-fueled brainpower with Roots' free WiFi. Frozen drinks such as raspberry mocha or vanilla bean frappes ($4 for a medium) help the overheated mock the impotent sun. A food menu featuring fresh-baked pastries and muffins, as well as a quartet of sandwiches ($7.00), is also available to help customers practice one-handed hunger-avoidance maneuvers.
The staff at Short Stop Food To Go make meals effortless. Behind the deli counter, the helpful folks build sandwiches and fill to-go cartons with prepared foods. Chefs also cook up an array of foods to take away. Stop in for lunch to grab a hot italian sandwich lined with salami, pepperoni, and housemade tapenade, or cruise the deli cases after work for a casserole to pop into the oven at the home of a hungry, unsuspecting stranger.
To replicate the espresso made at Ascension, you'll need about $20,000 and an exactingly scientific sensibility toward coffee. The Design District shop’s espresso machine, the Synesso Hydra Hybrid, is the first of its kind in the city and is guaranteed to pull single-origin espressos perfectly every time. With the ability to manipulate brewing pressure for a variety of profiles, the machine contains individual heaters and pumps inside a wood-adorned vessel customized to match the coffeehouse's design scheme. Of course, only the best coffee would do with such an impressive machine, so there's no doubt that Ascension's owner, Russell Hayward, brings in top-notch beans. They're culled from all over the world, including Papua New Guinea, Costa Rica, and Rwanda, and roasted locally by Coffee Eiland. Yet, as Entrée Dallas discovered, the relationship between Hayward and his go-to roaster goes beyond business as usual. Both Ascension and Coffee Eiland consider it essential to not only take care of farmers but also the surrounding community—likely a reason why Hayward sits on the board of one of the largest private coffee plantations in Rwanda. Even for the non-coffee drinkers of the world and people who hate feeling alert, Ascension has more than enough to offer. A full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu features elegant meals and small plates, including housemade granola with greek yogurt and local honey, slow-roasted flank steak served atop crostini with tomato and onion jams, and soppressata and fig paninis. When the clock strikes 5 p.m., an in-house sommelier takes over the rustic space, which becomes a full-fledged wine bar complete with artisanal meat and cheese plates.
Most people probably don't know the difference between a crocodile and an alligator. Chef Ivan Pugh, however, could likely tell which was which by taste alone. At The Alligator Cafe, gator is a mainstay of Pugh's menu, found in spoonfuls of gumbo and between slices of french bread. It's not the only item that's imported directly from the bayou. Chef Pugh sources most of his seafood from Louisiana, although he looks to Mississippi for his catfish supply. As for the fixings, they tend to come from local purveyors, including Empire Bakery and Rudolph's Meat Market.
These ingredients combine for Cajun and Creole entrees that have become accustomed to regular press attention—recently, a Dallas Morning News review that praised the "bold, fresh and piquant flavor" in a bowl of gumbo and found the crawfish étouffée "smooth and spicy, its complex heat developing with each spoonful." Diners can spice up their meals by requesting that they be "voodoo'd," which means covered in a mixture of hot peppers or stuffed into a small doll to-go. Abita beer offsets the fiery sauces, as do the cool notes of frequent live acoustic blues performances.