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Austin Hound looking for help in Dallas

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i'm looking for a good restaurant to eat at on a saturday night that you can actually have a conversation in that isn't so high end it's really pricey. i'll be around the knox henderson/uptown area but don't mind driving to find a good meal!

i've looked at some places like:

http://www.hectorsonhenderson.com
http://www.hibiscusdallas.com
http://www.abacus-restaurant.com/
http://www.javiers.net/

but hadn't come across anything that was little bit more moderately priced that was really appealling.

i don't really have a preference on food type, other than mexican is always a favorite as well as asian.

thanks!!!

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  1. A few thoughts:
    Hector's on Henderson:
    I really try to stay away from negative posts, but I have to tell you that one of my worst dining experiences in DFW was at Hector's. I took friends who were visiting from NYC to eat dinner there. Today, we laugh about the horrible experience and often joke that they will only come to see me again if I promise to take them to Hector's. The menu sounds great, but lacks execution. Among the disppointments:
    1. We were told of a rare cheese selection that was available on a limited basis. We wre told it would be served warm with a baguette. However, the cheese was overcooked and turned into a runny mess. We had to "sop" our bread in it just to get a taste- which was nondescript. It was a tiny, tiny portion for $17.
    2. Of the four of us, all Hounds, nobody rated their entree higher than a 6 on a 1-10 scale. Mine was bland.
    3. One of our desserts was served en flambe, but not all of the alcohol burned off. Nobody could eat it because of the grain alcohol taste. Other parts of it were charred because of the pyrotechnics. We told the waiter, but a replacement never came.
    I assume other Hounds have had better experiences there because the place has its fans, but I would strongly advise you to spend your meal in Dallas somewhere else.

    Javier's
    Really good, but I have not been there in years.

    Abacus
    I have always thought Abacus was a fabulous restaurant. Beautiful, good service, and great food. However, I have not been there in about two years and it is currently receiving a lot of mixed reviews on this board. That being said, I would still not hesitate to make a reservation.

    I would add to your list Lola, York Street, and Stephen Pyles. Because I like bold flavors, my personal choice would be Stephen Pyles. Here are my specific comments on the place (copied from another thread):

    1. The restaurant is beautiful. The setting is modern without being too trendy. The tables are not crowded too close together so that you hear everything happening at the next table. It is clearly a very nice place, but not formal. You feel like you can laugh and be a little noisy, yet the place is quite enough to carry on a conversation.

    2. The kitchen is pretty open and you can see what is happening in there. It is fun to watch everyone work. When I have been, Stephen Pyles was there himself...cooking and working front of house.

    3. The ceviche menu is amazing. Chef Pyles spent several months travelling in Peru and other places in South and Central America to learn about various types of ceviche. You can order a ceviche tasting of 3 or 6...I like the hamachi and halibut the best.

    4. The poblano asiago soup is amazing. Creamy without being too heavy and perfectly balanced flavors. I think I would force myself to eat it in the dead of summer heat. I don't care too much for the Southwestern Cesar..it was fine but a waste of stomach space in a restaurant this good.

    5. Hubby likes the rib-eye. It is enormous and served with great, crisp onion rings. I prefer the lamb which was cooked medium-rare. A nice red center was very tender.

    6. Desserts are sublime. The Heaven and Hell Cake is a great way to end the meal and we also had some banana bread pudding type dish. I don't remember the name, but that it was served in a tiny cast iron pot.

    Good luck and have fun.

    1. In contrast to Honey Bee, I like Hector's, and have never had a bad meal there. I don't see the appeal of Javier's; the food's good, but not that good.

      Given your location and price level, I would suggest Cafe San Miguel, about a mile down Henderson from Hector's and Hibiscus. They serve excellent Mexican food (Mex-Mex, not Tex-Mex), the atmosphere is casual and friendly, and they have great drinks. Their home made tortillas are fantastic. It can get a bit loud, but I've never had a problem communicating with my table mates.

      Another place fairly close to you is The Grape, on lower Greenville. Definitely quiet. You can keep the check down by ordering the smaller servings they offer on a few dishes, or by getting a cheese and pate plate to start and just having an appetizer as your main dish.

      Since you say you don't mind driving, consider Local in Deep Ellum. I think their food is comparable to more expensive places, and the place is small enough that it never gets too loud for a conversation.

      1. I second the recomendation for Cafe San Miguel. It seems to fit your requirements ideally . . . outstanding, creative food (the ceviche, the guac, the pomegranite margaritas and any of the entrees . . . all of which price out around $14-$20 per). The atmosphere is fun and loud on a Saturday night - you'll need reservations. Also, if you want the city's best pizza . . . Louie's is right next door to cafe San miguel. Atmosphere is blue-collar watering hole, but all of the food is outstanding . . . and it's dirt cheap. Another affordable gem is Ali Baba on Greenville Ave (they close really early, however - I think around 9pm). If you want a dirt cheap BYOB place try Sevan. It's rarely mentioned on the Chowhound boards, but I went a few weeks back for a birthday party and food was outstanding . . . it's mediterranean . . . hummus etc . . . overlook the surly staff, open a nice bottle of wine (you can buy one across the road at Whole Foods) order the pistachio chicken and enjoy. For italian food, Taverna is one of the city's best and the risotto, pizza and entrees are surprisingly affordable (though they take no reservations for parties of less than 6 and you'll have to wait about 30-40 minutes for a table on a Saturday evening). Hope that helps. BTW - not to be a hater, but I'd pass on The Grape. The ambience is great (european wine bar) but outside of the mushroom soup the food has gone WAY, WAY, WAY down hill over the years.

        3 Replies
        1. re: skedhead2000

          Skedhead2000, I'm not trying to get into any sort of tiff, but I think The Grape kicks arse. Michael Weinstein, who was Avner Samuel's Chef de Cuisine at Aurora, has done a heck of a job. The menu changes every few weeks, and I find the selections to range from above-average to fantastic.

          I will tell you what is pretty mediocre at The Grape, and that's the wine list. Kinda unimaginative, but I guess there's enough there to satisfy you at the end of the day. Just don't expect a "real" wine bistro wine list.

          1. re: Epicurious Esquire

            Esquire,
            No offense taken . . . my comments were based on a meal about a year ago, whereby we returned two of our three dishes because they were so poorly executed. Given the wealth of dining options available in the city, I saw no need at the time to go back to The Grape. How long has Michael Weinstein been in the kitchen?

            1. re: skedhead2000

              Skedhead,
              I stopped going to The Grape a couple of years ago because the food had gone from good to horrible. I believe there was a female chef in the kitchen at the time, but I do not remember her name. Sadly, The Grape became the only restaurant where I have sent something back because it was simply inedible. So, you can guess that I was not thrilled when friends suggested going there a couple of months ago.
              However, I am pleased to report the change in chefs can helped The Grape considerably. The food was much, much better and the service was great. We enjoyed the mushroom soup, brie with honey, stone fruit salad, and a curry dish. Everything was above average and satisfying. I encourage you to give it another try under Chef Weinstein's leadership.

        2. I'm not at all ripping Dallas Alice, but you don't need to do anything special to keep the price down at The Grape. It's very reasonably priced. I'm a big fan of Chef Michael Weinstein's menu.

          And not to be ripping anybody else, but many of the below recommendations do not fit your requirements. Abacus, Lola, York Street, Stephen Pyles are high end and pricey.

          I recently went to Alo at the SW corner of Knox/75. It was really quite good and not expensive, even though the interior and the "feel" of the place would lead you to believe it's expensive.

          Another really good spot that isn't too pricey is Asian Mint at Forest and Central. Methinks it's the best Asian fusion in town.

          I just got a call at work, but I'll be back with a couple more . . .

          I'd second Cafe San Miguel. It's really good.

          1. Cafe San Miguel is great. I'll also suggest La Duni or Hola which are also in the Knox area. Or if you're willing to drive, then Hattie's in Oak Cliff for upscale Southern. Those should all have excellent food, and entrees are priced in the teens or less (Hola is tapas, so I usually get out of there for around $60 for 2 ppl with sangria).

            1. Second the motion on Javiers.....this is a deceptive restaurant , as IMHO it is more continental than Mexican . Or , maybe Mexican with a continental/american influence . I think you will like the energy of the place for Saturday night...it will not be quiet, but it will be tolerable , a good vibe . There are few places in dallas where you can get a really good steak in the low $20's , as you can at Javiers . I don't recall the sauce...it was not a mole , but it was excellent .