Dallas Downtown - Recs for a Weekend Visitor
Visiting D this weekend and need Friday night eats downtown.
I've looked at old posts and Lola, Local, York St. and Stephen Pyle's all look interesting. I see a lot of recs, but no review posts on Pyle's since he opened. Most of the posts on Lola are a year old. (I'm leaning toward Lola at present) Any updates or other recs would be appreciated.
Food is the preeiminent factor. A solid wine list is secondary, but still important (I get extra points from the wife if it's great list). Setting (fancy or not) doesn't matter. Bad (or even inattentive) service is a deal killer.
Also, any sports bars in the area with decent food (for Sat. college football)? I know that may be asking too much
Any updates on the above are much appreciated.
Cant go wrong with Lola, York Street, Nana, French Room. Pyles is hit/miss and service varies. Abacus and Cafe on the Green (in the four seasons) are also very good. You will have trouble getting into any of these at peak times so reserve now.
If its night time football papas brothers steak house has a "living room" like dining area with a big tv. Not a sports bar but an amazing wine list (if wine is a must it may deserve a visit--pricey but quite broad).
Of the places you listed, Lola and/or York St. get my vote. Lola is known for the superb wine list, and York St for it's fresh seasonal menu. We also had great service at York St. I was underwhelmed by Stephen Pyles. The service was condescending, and although the appetizers/soups/salads were solid, the main courses fell far short.
As for a downtown sports bar, Ten Sports Grill, and Press Box Grill are both located on Main St. There is a newer place called Walrus next to the aquarium. All cater to a sports crowd.
Out of the places mentioned, I would recommend Lola and York Street. They are the two restaurants that I dine at most often in Dallas -- usually at least once a month at each. They each have their relative strengths which I'll do my best to list below. However, they are both absolutely top notch in my opinion, and at this level, much becomes a matter of personal taste, if not splitting hairs.
Lola if my favorite restaurant between the two. I rate it as slightly more casual, not so much in terms of dress, but in terms of the style of the service (although I would not rate York Street as stuffy). It is also a bigger and more relaxing physical space. York Street is a bit snug. The food at Lola is very good. In fact, as I was leaving last Saturday, I asked Van Roberts, the owner, to tell Gray Henry, the chef, that I thought that it was the best meal I'd had there in the six or so years that I've been eating there. All that being said, the wine list is the star of the restaurant. It is large, it is diverse, and most amazingly, it is extrodinarly reaonably priced. There are some amazing bargains on the list if you know what you are looking for among the older vintages. However, if you are on a tight budget, Van takes great pride in having a wide selection of quite good wines under $30 on a section of the wine list called Thirty$omething. If you're not a wine nut, but enjoy a good bottle, Van knows his list at all price levels and can provide you will excellent guidance.
York Street, as good as Lola is, in my opinion, has slightly better food. Again, this is not to disparage the food at Lola. And at this level, it is more a question of personal tastes than of absolute quality. Sharon Hage cooks in a style that is very much to my taste. Lazer-like focus on the freshest possible seasonal ingredients, not exclusively local, but local when possible; simple preparation; clean and intense flavors; limited numbers of ingredients. If Dallas has a restaurant that owes an allegience to Berkeley's Chez Panisse, this is it. But that being said, I probably eat at Lola two or three times for every time I eat at York Street.
Wine list at York Street is a mixed bag really. Very wide, but not deep. Fairly nicely picked selections, but becuase of it's limited depth, almost all are current or near current vintages. Pricing is on the higher end of the reaonable range.
Stephen Pyles is a very talented chef. I have only eaten at his new restaurant once, and that is a terribly inadequate basis on which to rely. But I was only mildly impressed. Some things were very good, but the over all level of quality was not just there on the one evening we ate there. A bit hit or miss. A interesting interior, although it's just too large for my tastes. A bit noisy, too. Service was efficient, if somewhat impersonal. Wine list was nothing to write home about. Pretty deep, but fairly predictable. Prices were on the very high end of reasonable. If you have more than one meal in town, it is certainly worthy of a visit, but I would not skip either Lola or York Street to eat there.
Also not mentioned, but worth considering, in the category just behind the top two and in the pack with Stephen Pyles are Local (in Deep Ellum), Bijoux (new, a Lola alum at the stove, my one meal there was great, report to follow), Craft, and Aroura (Avner Samuels latest place).
Affraid I'm not much help on a sports bar.
re: Mike C. Miller
Mike, I enjoyed your post very much and I agree with the Lola/York St recs. I have had two excellent meals at Lola (tasting room and "regular" restaurant). I live in SF currently, so I particularly appreciated your Alice Waters shout out for York St. I had not thought of that menu as a Chez Panisse-inspiration. But, I can see what you are saying with the seasonality of the menu.
Below are some thoughts on other places mentioned in this thread...unfortunately, I have only been to a lot of these places once or twice.
French Room is really formal, but I had an excellent meal there and would put it up there around York St/Lola.
I went to Nana not long after the new chef (bombaci) came. We had a good meal, but not on par with Lola, York St, and French Room.
I enjoyed a decent meal at Pyles when he first opened the new place, but, as mentioned in another post from someone, appetizers were much stronger than main courses.
I thought Local was just alright...I prefer Green Room in Deep Ellum. Definitely a different vibe, but fun atmosphere.
I also really like Standard, just around the corner from Lola. Excellent service and quite good food.
I thought Arora was really overrated. Abacus is also overrated in my opinion, but is better (and more fun) than Arora.
Another spot I love is Hattie's, down in the Bishop Ave area in oak cliff. I heard a new chef is there now, though, and food may not be as good. The shrimp and grits were amazing previously.
I have not been to Hibiscus, yet, but I am interested. What's the latest on that place? I enjoyed Hector's next door, though I was really disappointed with the "famous" candy apple dessert.
I am headed to Craft soon...looking forward to trying Colicchio's Dallas outpost. What's the current thinking on this place?
Thanks again for the great post on York St and Lola.
I vote Lola based on your criteria as well (food, wine, service, close to downtown).
There are some good sports bars in uptown, though I can't vouch for their food. If you need a place to watch games, check out Christie's or Frankie's. Call ahead if you want to make sure a particular game will be playing.
Thanks to all for the good advice, based upon which we went to Lola. The wine list was all that was promised here, phenomenally deep and reasonably priced.
The food was generally very good, but slightly uneven. My dad started with the quail which was perfectly done. My wife and I each had the foie gras; hers was perfect, mine had a strange aftertaste (a wang) to it. My dad had the Buffalo w/ rhubarb, which was again perfectly done. I had the venison with a blueberry sauce and spatzel, which was good. My wife had the duck - the leg confit was falling apart tender and excellent; the breast went from okay to some rubbery bites.
The service was knowledgeable about both the food and the wine and not shy about recommendations (which I appreciate), but a little overly enthusiastic (for my personal taste). I don't like the Victorian "we." "How are we enjoying the meal?"
All told, a good meal in very pleasant setting.
On another note, I had lunch at the Nasher Sculpture Garden. From this board, I understood that the former Chef from Nola was there now. He is not. It's a Wolfgand Puck franchise with a limited number of unimaginative sandwiches and salads. Worth going for the amazing scuplture garden, but not for the cafe.