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Foodie FUN birthday

  • j

We just moved to Dallas from NJ and are living in uptown in the State and Thomas neighborhood. My husband's 33rd birthday is coming up this weekend. We LOVE to eat good food but he also loves a people-watching bar scene. Suggestions would be appreciated for a fun but delicious birthday dinner. Any neighborhood is fine and any type of food and cost. I was looking at Lucia, Nonna, Driftwood, Spoon, etc. but want something with a cool, trendy, fun vibe as well as good food (we don't get out much so this will be our big night out! Lol).

Also, if anyone has suggestions on good anytime dinners in my area, I'd love to hear about them. I've read some of the posts about Private Social, the tapas restaurant in the S+T neighborhood, pizza places. But would love more!!


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  1. Lucia is out.....you would need reservations especially for a weekend.

    Driftwood would be a good option but I am not sure how the people watching would be. I usually hit up early evening and such as my wife and I have a small child. The food and service is very good.

    I have yet to go to Spoon but it is high on my list. Not so sure about the bar scene at Spoon but Preston Center is making a come back as a destination dinner spot (Hopdoddy, Spoon and Blue Plate Kitchen). It would not be as lively as Greenville Ave, Park Lane, or Uptown/Lakewood.

    I would say on of the Neighborhood Services would be a good bet on pretty straightforward cuisine but also have good people watching.

    I am not sure how the food is at Nosh since they recently had a chef change, not sure if Avner went back into the kitchen?

    Fearings would be another spot with lively bar scene and great food. I am not really into Dean Fearing's cuisine but someone new to the city might enjoy it. I went for dessert and rank it below the desserts that Omar Flores is making at Driftwood.

    I tend to shy away from the crowds and focus on the food and service only.

    I would opt for going all out at, say Royal Sichuan (Sichuan style Chinese) or La Me/Nam Hua (Vietnamese) for an inexpensive but delicious meal and be gorged maybe even have some leftovers. I would then hit up one of the cocktail bars or beer bars (not sure which you are into). If would opt for awesome drinks and food and not make any comprimises on both since you don't get out much.

    Will you have means of transportation?

    4 Replies
    1. re: LewisvilleHounder

      Yep pretty much dead on. Any of the Neighborhood Services or a place like Central 214/Bolsa/Nosh/FT33 (in other words a restaurant with an open kitchen) would be good to consider. Outside of American food, you should also look at Tei Tei on Knox/Henderson.

        1. re: LewisvilleHounder

          I meant to say I disagreed with somebody else. Your review I think is spot on except Fearings is good but not worth recommending. I am doing this at work while boss is not looking

          1. re: LewisvilleHounder

            Is Royal Sichuan the best "chinese" food in your opinion?
            I don't know chinese food in Dallas so I need the help.

          2. Lucia, Nonna, Driftwood, Spoon all have great food, but I'd say they tend to have an older, less trendy crowd.

            I agree on FT33, Neighborhood services, and Fearings.

            I'd add:
            Lark on the Park
            Cedars Social
            Pak Pao

            FYI - Private Social is no longer in business.

            I've really enjoyed Si Tapas the most out of all the ones in the area (food wise, not people watching).

            3 Replies
            1. re: Webra1

              Fearings is great but it's everyday dining for a foodie.

              1. re: neilmcginnis

                But someone coming from say NJ might enjoy Fearings. Yes, you might think it is everyday food just like high end Italian in NJ is everyday food for them.

                1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                  Personally I believe good taste is universal and is not prejudiced to your place of origin. : )
                  Keep in mind this person declared themselves a FOODIE and that is the basis for my recommendations. As a foodie i was bored with Fearings, despite the fact that the food was good, and this is why I call it everyday dining, it had nothing to do with the type of food served or the area of the country in which I live.

            2. Thank you all so much for the suggestions! I agree with you all about good food and caring less about atmosphere usually... This is just a different type of evening! Yes, we have a car so can travel anywhere! I will look into all these places and let you know where we ended up.

              1. The Meddlesome Moth is the most interesting "bar" that I have seen so far in Dallas that you can still relax at. Try the fried sweetbreads and also the bacon lollipop. I normally eat light but this is so good you will be thanking me. They also make drinks almost worthy of a master mixologist.

                Spoon Bar & Kitchen \
                If you order the right dish then the food is amazing. I have dined in Dallas' finest restaurants and the truffle dishes here rival any I have had. I almost did not go here based on one persons review and i would have missed out on a few perfect plates. The place is very expensive but I do not regret going at all.
                Order the Truffle and Oyster soup it was FLAWLESS. Truffled penne pasta was surprisingly wonderful. Hudson Valley Foie Gras very good but much better at "Abacus". My mother had the seared fish and we agreed it was very boring. Beet salad was great and beautiful but it's a little healthy for me : )

                1. I respectfully disagree with all of LewisvilleHounders suggestions.. lol. Central 214 is WAY overpriced and not as good as Abacus. Bolsa looks cute but not for a birthday. If you want something Amazing try the seared foie gras at Abacus.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: neilmcginnis

                    FYI I did not recommend Central 214 or Bolsa. Is there any other dishes you would recommend at Abacus besides foie gras?

                    1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                      Yea sorry i got you confused with someone else. The Black truffle risotto is amazing... But yea honestly I would go for the foie gras alone since it's as good as it gets. Full disclosure it has been like 2 years since I have been but i can see they are still doing the foie gras.

                  2. Kenichi if you like Sushi.. beautiful and trendy.. I personally need something more stimulating than great sushi.

                    1. Good suggestion.. I have not tried this so I cannot comment on this.

                      1. I'll throw in a few more that has great food and could provide some good people watching. Stephan Pyles and Abacus. Both are excellent food wise.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: pgwiz1

                          This man knows food.. I haven't been to Stephan Pyles yet but I want to.

                        2. I would recommend Belly & Trumpet, then going for a drink afterwards (with a side of people watching). There are multiple choices within walking distance--you could try more than one in fact.

                          I like Driftwood and Spoon, they are very seafood-centric of course. Portions are quite small at Driftwood I felt, but the prices are not.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: foiegras

                            I agree with you 100% and I have been looking into Belly and Trumpet for a while and will go next based on your review.

                            1. re: foiegras

                              I went to Belly and Trumpet, based on your post, last weekend and it's the most adventurous eating I have seen in Texas so far.. I loved the place but honestly people should think twice before ordering from the "Adventurous" part of the menu because I realized i was out of my league with the Antelope heart tartare which I could only choke down one bite of and normally i love tartare but I don't like a strong mineral iodine flavor that this had. I had a chicken dish that was the most moist chicken i've ever had period. The drinks were good but I have had better.
                              I intend to go back but avoid a few dishes that I couldn't even swallow.

                              1. re: neilmcginnis

                                Yeah, I typically never order uncooked meat of my own volition, though I've tasted others' tartare and liked it ... but I did think the crudo we got there was absolutely fabulous! The steamed buns with tongue were my choice from the Adventurous section, and everyone loved them, even those who thought they didn't like tongue.

                                What was the chicken dish?

                                Glad you liked it overall.

                            2. Ok- so, admittedly this was kind of a silly question... I appreciate all of your responses. Difficult to find the "perfect" atmosphere as "perfect" is so different for everyone. We ended up going to Fearings (not sure what it was that drew me specifically to that response). I'm sorry LewisvilleHounder (don't want to hurt anyone's feelings) but we weren't thrilled... It's ok, we just moved here for a long time and this was a difficult birthday as my husband had his surgery boards coming up a few days after (SEE MY NEW POST!). We have a long time to go out to good places. The scene is strange- it's a "fancy" restaurant but the setting does not seem it at all. The lively bar scene is definitely "lively" but is in a completely different part of the restaurant. The food was underwhelming. I did get some EXCELLENT suggestions for further dinners though, so thank you to everyone (again, check out my post today!).

                              43 Replies
                              1. re: jmarx

                                You don't hurt my feelings I will admit I am not a fan of Fearings. I just would think someone outside of the region might give it a shot.....we as long time residents might have a skewed perception.

                                It is good that you reported back and perhaps we can get the specifics of the meal and what it was exactly that you did not like about it.

                                On my last visit the service was good until the gentleman picking up the check was hovering around us for far too long and conversing when were were ready to leave. It was akward and uncomfortable. The dessert we had was meh and definitely not worth the price we paid.

                                There definitely are more suggestions we could give that might fit your budget a bit better (we know the cost of Med School). They might not be the best atmosphere places but the food is fantastic and cheap.

                                1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                                  It is reasonably priced but as foodies we can't focus on that.. Most good food is expensive. Good discussion though. It's obvious that you know about food too but when someone says foodie you have to assume they are hardcore. : )
                                  Also many other cities have much better food than Texas so they may be used to a higher level of food due to varying cultures. (aside from austin)

                                2. re: jmarx

                                  If only you had listened to me.. lol. I did try to warn you because I am a foodie not because I am just confrontational. Food is #1 in my book and when you called yourself a foodie I knew you wouldn't like Fearings. I say all this respectfully of course. I always appreciate feedback and don't assume that my suggestions are always the best but I can certainly tell you where NOT to go because that's not so objective. I thought the atmosphere at Fearings was best described as creepy, starting with the entrance to dining room passing through giants sheets hanging from the ceiling. Food was good but nothing interesting at all.. What I had there was basically just good "chinese" food for lack of a better description. I would like to follow you because you must have the same taste since you came away with similar sentiments.
                                  Based on one of the other reviewers I went to Belly and Trumpet last weekend and the food is certainly wild and out there.. The most interesting food I have seen anywhere in Dallas but half of the things i loved and the other half, described as "adventurous" on the menu, I did not like at all even though I consider myself an adventurous eater. One of the dishes I had to spit back in my napkin discretely. The antelope heart tartar was the worst thing me and my wife have ever eaten.. I guess i'm not THAT adventurous. Sweetbreads are childsplay compared to that dish.

                                  1. re: neilmcginnis

                                    Lol- interesting about Belly and Trumpet. I've had my fair share of heart, kidney, sweetbreads, etc. - enough that I can say I tried them and I don't need to try them again.

                                    Yes- the atmosphere is odd at Fearing's. It's very open and almost industrial/bar-like but trying to be fancy with classic rock playing on the radio. Very strange...

                                    We had foie gras and quail for apps. I had the fried lobster and filet. The lobster tasted like fried batter. My husband had the veal chop which he liked.

                                    I definitely don't speak "wine" but I can usually describe what I like and the subsequent suggestions usually fit well. The sommelier there kept insisting on bringing me tastes and I didn't like any of them and just wanted it to stop!

                                    Anyway, we tried it and have plenty of time in Dallas to try more places!

                                    1. re: jmarx

                                      After reading the description in your original post of the type of place you're looking for, I would highly recommend Nova in Oak Cliff. Very hip but not "hipsterish".

                                      A true gastropub serving locals with excellent food and drinks.

                                      I love it! I think you might too. I highly recommend you try it.


                                      I would also recommend Smoke as well. Please note: It's not all about BBQ. And, brunch at Smoke is a must!


                                      1. re: twinwillow

                                        I haven't been to Nova yet, but love Smoke ... you want to make reservations if you can. They don't take them at brunch, so just prepare to go a bit early & hang out for awhile with coffee or a drink. And be sure to valet park ... the area around there can be a mess, literally. Probably right now is fine because of the drought. Last time I was there I got an amazing amount of sticky mud on my shoes because I'm used to parking myself there.

                                        1. re: foiegras

                                          Nova is a great gastropub. Mostly unknown to people who don't live in Oak Cliff. I'm very partial to their smoked salmon loaded potato skins and their mussels. A friend of mine swears by their fried frog's legs. But, everything on their eclectic menu is delicious. Very comfortable cool vibe inside and, there's outside patio seating as well.

                                          A tip about parking at Smoke ~ We usually park
                                          directly across the street in the Family Dollar Store's parking lot.

                                          1. re: twinwillow

                                            Is Nova as good as The Meddlesome Moth and Boulevardier? I may have to go give it a try, but I have never heard of it.

                                            1. re: neilmcginnis

                                              I haven't been to Nova in a while, so I can't speak to that... but the food at the Moth has always suffered from poor execution, despite high aspirations. Boulevardier, on the other hand, is seems to have both down pretty well. Strange that you'd mention them together.

                                              1. re: gavlist

                                                They are both gastropubs and have both been incredible in my estimation. I will say there is a few things I did not like at Meddlesome moth but the fried Sweetbreads are amazing and I have not had any better even in Austin. Both have reasonably tasteful mixed drinks as well. The interior of Meddlesome moth is much more impressive than Boulevardier. What did you have that you did not like? In my experience what dish you order makes a world of difference.
                                                I love them both but I have actually watch them roast a whole goat on a spit on the patio at M.M. and then carry it inside and write it on the specials board. How many bars can you watch them do something like that?

                                                1. re: neilmcginnis

                                                  I've had the burger on several occasions, and it has been very good... about half the time. The other half, very mediocre. I've generally found the food to be of unreliable quality. Fish and chips can also be quite good.

                                                  Mussels have been just ok. The few times I've tried them (Catalan and Classic), the mussles were on the small side and the steaming liquid just wasn't that... harmonious (sorry for the vague description, but it's been a while).

                                                  Rabbit pot pie sucked. Very little flavor, dense leaden dough (which was only on top of a crock... not really a pot pie, imo). Granted, I had this right after they rolled it out on the menu, so maybe it's improved.

                                                  Fried hominy I quite like. That is a nice dish.

                                                  I don't like their hummus at all. I was unimpressed with the crispy duck wings (they were a bit tough, so more work than chicken and not delicious enough to justify it). Moth balls are bland. Zucchini chips are greasy and often slightly burned. Tandoori lamb is just ok, and I thought the Nueske's lollipops basically ruin a delicious brand of bacon by cutting it too thick and slathering maple syrup on it.

                                                  I really did want to like them - I certainly give them credit for an adventurous sounding set of dishes. I should give the sweetbreads a try, but I've been reluctant because of their (in my opinion) poor execution on most of the other stuff that I've tried. And I still think it's a great place for beer.

                                                  1. re: gavlist

                                                    I should say that goat thing sounds pretty cool. I think they've also been doing some whole pigs which look nice... so I'm totally open to being proved wrong!

                                                    1. re: gavlist

                                                      The fried hominy is the only thing worth ordering on Moth's menu since it is the one consistent item. Totally agree with you overall though. Ordering food there is no better than blindly throwing darts, and this is coming from someone that used to (note the past tense) be a regular. Their pretentious take on how to put craft beer together with food simply isn't for me.

                                                      1. re: air

                                                        The fried sweetbread has ever been bad? I only go on Saturdays so maybe that is why but I have had it 5 times and it's always amazing.. Can't get any better than that anywhere around here. Once again I inquire about what you are ordering in particular although I will certainly try the hominy. I don't care about the craft beer either because I drink scotch but many restaurants pair wine with food and I couldn't care less so I personally think that's a silly complaint. But the other reasons are definitely valid.

                                                        1. re: neilmcginnis

                                                          I tend to stick to the beer dinners when I was going and haven't ordered food there since the original chef left last year because of the lost confidence over the quality of their food. Call it an expensive slow burn.

                                                          Not sure I follow your logic considering you are a scotch drinker and craft beer is a major part of the premise behind the Moth's concept. I guess you didn't catch what I meant by being a "regular" - I am very interested in craft beer. I just don't agree with the direction they've taken and the clientele they attract, plus atmosphere while dining doesn't matter to me at all. Bottom line: they are not the only game in town when it comes to offering a strong craft beer selection with food better than typical pub fare. I'd go to Common Table or The Libertine first.

                                                          1. re: air

                                                            I stopped drinking beer a long time ago because it was making me fat. lol. All alcohol can of course. I never had a dish paired with beer there so I can't comment on that.
                                                            Really I am more interested in your full restaurant recommendations because usually I don't go to pubs. I generally go to restaurants such as Abacus, Private Social, FT33, Belly & Trumpet, The Pyramid, Kenichi, Spoon Bar and Kitchen. These are a few of the places I have had amazing dishes although I have had bad dishes at all of them too.
                                                            I would fully appreciate some suggestions for future endeavors.

                                                            1. re: neilmcginnis

                                                              I thought someone said PS is closed??

                                                                1. re: foiegras

                                                                  It closed and then re-opened very recently and I went to the re-opening and i guess maybe it has closed again...? They brought in a new chef that was female and an indian or something like that and she changed everything.. I guess it didn't work out. That sucks because the food was incredible although expensive and weird and the drinks were the best i have had anywhere in DFW by a master mixologist.
                                                                  I needed to explain that I am not crazy for suggesting a restaurant that is very recently closed, twice. lol

                                                          2. re: air

                                                            I just looked at the Nova menu and it appears to be using classical french techniques. I usually gravitate towards New American, which generally includes what I would consider more "adventurous" eating. i.e. bone marrow, foie gras, sweetbreads.. Molecular gastronomy is fascinating to me.. And anything else I have never tried. Even though classical dishes may be absolutely amazing I still do not get as excited unless they're using ingredients that are unfamiliar to me. Even though I would love the chicken i'm not going to order it usually because I can cook chicken pretty well myself.
                                                            From Nova menu:
                                                            double b ranch free range chicken breast pan roasted, goat cheese cauliflower au gratin, morel demi
                                                            I'm sure this is delicious but I sense a lack of adventure that makes me second guess going.

                                                          3. re: gavlist

                                                            Thanks for the in-depth review.. That is very informative. Most of the dishes you did not like, I have not tried and most of the others I agree with you. Although my daughter very much enjoyed the bacon lollipop with funnel cake. lol. Not very healthy. I had a steak pot pie that was horrible. The shrimp and grits is very good but there's nothing exciting about it, it's more like classical. Beef bone marrow is always good. I agree with you about the duck wings. In retrospect there are many things I did not like but the few I did outweighed the rest. Go back and try the sweetbreads sir and you will thank me.

                                                            1. re: neilmcginnis

                                                              I will thank you already for having an opinion that you support with descriptive observations, rather than platitudes like "the best" or "to die for". Whether I end up agreeing about the sweetbreads or not, at least we know where you're coming from and why. I look forward to giving them a shot the next time I'm there.

                                                              1. re: gavlist

                                                                Yea it's not easy to determine whether or not a review is trustworthy without them explaining WHY. I can tell you know what you are talking about. And based on your point I will reconsider recommending Moth to anyone unless it's purely for the sweetbreads (you will love it)and the fried tofu which it sounds like that's all they have that is exceptional.

                                                                1. re: gavlist

                                                                  I would like to follow your recommendations on Yelp, Google, Foursquare, etc.. in addition to this service that I am just now starting. My name is the same in every service so it shouldn't be hard to find me and I post HD pictures and a quick review of the dish, not just whether i liked it or not.

                                                              2. re: gavlist

                                                                I forgot to say the Fried tofu at Moth is also amazing.. I've had it 2 or 3 times. It sounds like I may have had a different experience than some of you but it could simply be a matter of circumstances.

                                                                1. re: neilmcginnis

                                                                  Amazing Fried tofu at Moth along with the famed Sweetbreads everyone loves hearing me talk about all the time i'm sure. : )

                                                                  1. re: neilmcginnis

                                                                    Along these lines, anyone know where to find good grilled or any type of non-fried sweetbreads? I love the mollejas at El Ranchito. Other options?

                                                                    1. re: demigodh

                                                                      I haven't had it any other way but would love to try that myself. Unfortunately I cannot help you sir, wish I knew. What is mollejas? I could do some searching online but i'm sure you have done that as well.
                                                                      I don't mean to question you about it but I don't see how you could grill a sweetbread. It's a very gelatinous material I have bought some myself.

                                                                      1. re: neilmcginnis

                                                                        Mollejas is just spanish for sweetbreads. They're served at El Ranchito in Oak Cliff, fajita style, and are great.

                                                                        I do love me some fried sweetbreads but it's so commonly done that way that I get more excited about grilled or pan seared. Kinda similar to my feelings on calamari. Once had a sweetbread omelette in NYC, that was greatness.

                                                                        1. re: demigodh

                                                                          ok now I look stupid. I certainly agree about the calamari..
                                                                          Is that worth making a trip to ranchito? Keep in mind i live an hour away

                                                                      2. re: demigodh

                                                                        Ava in Rockwall has grilled and pan seared according to DallasDude


                                                                        This link shows the same topic and other peoples responses.

                                                                        I just realized that Yelp says Ava is closed

                                                                        1. re: neilmcginnis

                                                                          The chef/owner Randall "Big Cat" Tate passed away earlier this year. That is the reason for the closure of Restaurant Ava.

                                                                        2. re: demigodh

                                                                          A while ago, I had a very good sweetbreads dish at Ellerbe Fine Foods in Fort Worth. I don't think it is on their current menu, but they change the menu fairly frequently depending on availability of ingredients, so keep an eye out!

                                                                          1. re: demigodh

                                                                            Start another thread!! I might have some recs. Will think about them.

                                                                            1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                                                                              Proper etiquette would be to say Please start another thread. Yea they even remove comments about our discussion of attacking each other.. You can't blame them for trying to keep it civil. Some of you have tempers : )
                                                                              Myself included.

                                                                2. re: neilmcginnis

                                                                  IMHO, I personally much prefer both the food and "vibe" at Nova to Meddlesome Moth.

                                                                  Nova is smaller. Thus, cosier with a more friendly and welcoming staff. And, the food is always,
                                                                  "spot on". It's mostly a "hidden gem" known only to the local Oak Cliff crowd. I just love the place!

                                                                  1. re: twinwillow

                                                                    We are going to have to try it again. I wanted to love it. My husband and I tried it Mothers Day weekend on Saturday around 5. It was really disappointing. We tried the Salmon Potato skins. The potatoes weren't very warm and we waited like 15 minutes for them only to have our entrees come out like 2 minutes later...definitely an annoyance. I don't remember what my hubby had, but I had the lamb shank. It was also luke warm, dry, and not lovely. All of the chatter here has me re-thinking putting this back in the rotation atleast once more.

                                                                    1. re: vstock

                                                                      Personally, I've never experienced any problems like that. So, trying to keep my credibility intact, I would suggest you give them another try.

                                                                      I do know that Ian, one of the chefs, went to the Slow Bone a few weeks ago but I have not been back since his departure to see if there was any change in the quality of the food and service.

                                                                      1. re: twinwillow

                                                                        I have heard of slow bone. Is it any good?

                                                                        1. re: neilmcginnis

                                                                          I like it very much. I would say it's 2nd only to Pecan Lodge in Dallas but, without the 2 hour wait.

                                                                          On Friday's only they offer a long marinated and slow smoked whole, bone-in ham that's beautifully smoked to melt in your mouth tenderness.

                                                                          They recently hired Ian, who was the chef at Nova and he's the one responsible for the hams.

                                                                          1. re: twinwillow

                                                                            Sounds great.. Im putting that on the to-do list..
                                                                            Thanks for the help.. Im just looking for the best food possible and I will take advice although I can be stubborn.