The owners of Classic Cup Cafe grew up surrounded by the evocative aromas and flavors of home cooking. At their quaint eatery, a menu of comfort fare, re-created using healthy alternatives, mirrors their childhood experience. In lieu of french fries, they pair sweet-potato wedges with a burger crafted from free-range chicken out of central Texas. Each bird is void of antibiotics, hormones, and glitzy feather extensions. The caf?'s freshly baked breads boast a lower sodium count and higher omega-3 content than traditional loaves, and some ingredients hail from small local businesses. As servers dole out the nourishing eats and fill mugs with italian cappuccino or mexican hot chocolate, diners can snuggle up with a good book or page torn out of a menu, then challenge friends to a game of Scrabble.
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.
The produce squeezers and pulverizers at Elixir Juice Bar make it easy?and delicious?to stay healthy. You won't find any ice cream or fillers in their smoothies and juices, just fruit, vegetables, and your choice of complimentary supplement, such as bee pollen to increase stamina, or aloe vera to aid in digestion. And the fresh juices are never pasteurized or flash pasteurized?according to the blender-whisperers, this maintains the juices' live enzymes, minerals, and vitamins.
Customers can order their drinks right at the Elixir counter, but they can also stop in to stock up on bottled cleanses, or sneak in at night to tap the trunks of smoothie trees hidden in the back. Some customers choose their drinks and small-portioned "shots" based on taste alone, but many base their order on how they're feeling that day, and what benefits they'd like to reap. For instance, a shot of turmeric root, ginger root, nettle leaf, and lemon is reputed to help assuage allergies, whereas the Skin Tonic juice blends apple, celery, spinach, kale, and aloe for a complexion-illuminating gulp.
Long before Lolita?s opened its doors for the first time, its owners were busy traveling the world, soaking in the flavors and musical tastes of different cultures. That experience helped shape the eatery?s menu, which is focused around Mexican cuisine, eclectic martinis, and wines sourced from around the globe. Specialty dishes include everything from street-style tacos stuffed with beef and chicken to a grilled white fish filet topped with spicy chipotle sauce and fresh avocado. To create a more personal dining experience, the servers can even mash avocados into fresh guacamole right at guests? tables or stand around and wipe their mouths after each bite. And, because music played such a role in Lolita's roots, the restaurant features live DJ?s and local artists three days a week.
When culinary veteran Jose Ramirez decided to break out on his own, he and his wife both agreed that they needed more family time. So JJ's Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch only, seven days a week. Their honed focus leads to breakfasts in which diners find the popular banana-pecan pancakes. Guests can also get some south-of-the-border flavor without pretending the food they normally eat is Canadian by ordering chorizo with their eggs. Or, they can try migas, scrambled eggs topped with jalapenos and picante sauce. Lunch options include sandwiches and salads, as well as comfort food such as chicken fried steak smothered in country cream gravy. The kitchen's also well known for its grilled biscuits, which sub in for toast on breakfast plates.