Before commanding the kitchen at Decanter Restaurant and Wine Bar, executive chef Tony Gardizi honed his skills at several award-winning Dallas-area establishments. He revamps his American-Californian menu every Thursday according to the fresh, seasonal ingredients he receives from local farmers or storks sent by the Jolly Green Giant. The slate of constantly evolving entrees includes dishes such as slow-cooked pork belly with english pea waffles, apple-pear grilled tofu on a bed of baby bok choy, and gluten-free options. Every Monday and Tuesday, wine tastings serve up a sample of the eatery's extensive selection, including 20 wines by the glass, 100 by the bottle, and a rotating daily menu of wine by the carafe. Jazz musicians add a live soundtrack to tastings as well as meals on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. Outside on the patio, the Havana humidor keeps cigars at their optimum temperature, and breezes blowing through wrought-iron fences keep diners at optimum comfort level as well.
Le Peep's focus on breakfast and lunch stems from a decision made more than 40 years ago, when Buddy and Rhoda Waldman opened The Village Pantry in Aspen, Colorado, and—not wanting to miss a half day of skiing—would close the kitchen each day before noon. The duo would continue to tinker with their concept, stare at it through a novelty-sized microscope, and change its name before it eventually migrated to Texas. Nowadays, the kitchen staff perpetuates the breakfast-crafting tradition by offering omelets, eggs benedict, skillets, and build-your-own pancake options that use ingredients such as walnuts, bacon, pineapple, and chocolate chips. Traditional dishes are augmented with unique twists, such as the Gooey Buns, english muffins broiled with brown sugar, cinnamon, and almonds and served with a signature side of Mom's Sassy Apples. During midday hours, a variety of salads, burgers, and sandwiches parades out of the kitchen accompanied by smoothies, juices, or Mother Parkers coffee. Le Peep's catering service delivers breakfast and lunch fare to homes, events, or filibustered neighborhood-watch meetings.
Though its name suggests otherwise, the Forget About It roll’s unorthodox ingredients make it pretty memorable: the flavorful crunch of shrimp tempura is wrapped up with crawfish and accented by ginger cream. It's just one of the many unique combinations dreamed up by Piranha Killer Sushi's owner and chef, Kenzo Tran. Non-traditional sushi fixings are Kenzo’s specialty, from the White Lotus roll’s pico de gallo and truffle oil sauce to the Bullet roll’s cilantro chili purée and edible police officer’s badge.
That blend of the classic and unconventional runs throughout Piranha Killer Sushi's menu at all four locations including the newly remodeled location in Fort Worth. Besides distinctive rolls, the kitchen serves up dishes such as Korean beef in ginger marinade, salads with octopus and spicy conch, and blue crab fried rice. Ditto the drink menu, featuring specialty libations such as the saketini, a blend of vodka, gin, and sake with a cucumber garnish. The restaurant's whimsical take on Japanese fare hasn't gone unnoticed—media outlets laud it for its tasty creations and inviting decor.
At Swirl Bakery, when you take a bite from a gooey ham and cheese sandwich or ice box pie, the familiar, down-home feeling might tempt you to look into the kitchen expecting to see one of your grandmothers. That?s actually not so far off the mark: the owners of the caf? and bakery designed their menus with their own grandmothers? home cooking in mind. In some cases, the recipes they use for family favorites even come from ingredient lists kept so secret over the years, they had to be replicated through trial and error and one very expensive genie wish.
The team creates everything from hearty breakfast dishes to comfort food dinners, specializing in classics such as house-roasted turkey with cranberry-pineapple relish, and pan-fried chicken served with biscuits and honey butter. For dessert, they serve cupcakes, slices of pie, and iced cookies available in seasonal flavors that play up the weather like a meteorologist hoping to get a job in an action movie.
At Starwood Cafe, 7:00 in the morning might as well be time for dessert. The breakfast menu here doesn't shy away from sweet specialty dishes, including homemade french crepes stuffed with bananas and Nutella or pancakes with Oreo crumbles blended into the batter. But this family-owned restaurant does more than just churn out inventive sweets. The staffers also tip their collective hats to the classics. They serve biscuits with sausage gravy, farm-fresh eggs with grits, and skillets full of hash browns and toppings.
Once the day segues into lunchtime, the cafe composes sandwiches and wraps alongside gourmet salads. Grilled teriyaki-salmon stir-fry speaks to the kitchen's versatility, while tuna melts and deep-fried Atari games show the cooks' passion for nostalgia. And some entrees, such as the chicken-fried steak, are just as delicious in the afternoon as they are at sunrise. Regardless of what you order, almost everything that makes its way from the kitchen to the dining table abides by Starwood's strict philosophy, which prizes freshness and made-from-scratch quality above all else.
Arturo and Tina Vargas have a unique way of celebrating their family's central Mexican roots. They make an annual journey to different locales south of the border, ending each trip with a visit to their hometown of Cuernavaca. But these aren't average vacations. Instead, Arturo and Tina use the opportunity to discover new ingredients or recipes that they can bring back to Cristina's Fine Mexican Restaurant, their flavorful franchise of Texas eateries. Their culinary findings appear throughout the menu of Tex-Mex cooking.
The staff at each of the Vargas' venues wholeheartedly embraces those deep roots, making flour tortillas in-house, hand-rolling enchiladas, and preparing orders of guacamole directly beside diners' tables. But that's not to say the dishes are expected—salmon with pineapple butter and fried chicken breast with white wine-cream sauce demonstrate some of the kitchens' more experimental inclinations. Flavored margaritas and mojitos can add spirited refreshment to meals, as can any of the beers that the restaurants import from Mexico via man with a very strong throwing arm.