With the recent departure of prominent Dallas chef and original Abacus chef, Kent Rathbun, a new face has stepped up to take over the kitchen. Chef Chris Patrick has kept the longtime high standard of Abacus and has created some new (and quite impressive) options to delight diners. One thing that has remained constant–the cocktails.
Their cocktail program offers classic cocktails done very well along with some intriguing, new mixology and seasonal offerings. Look for unique cocktails like the Smoke on the Water (shishito pepper-infused Roca Patrón Silver Tequila, Yellow Chartreuse, Aperol, and lime), delightfully smoky without being overwhelmingly so. Also, a seasonal option, the Slingin’ Smoke (apple wood smoked Absolut Elyx Vodka, Cherry Heering, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, pineapple, lime, mint, angostura bitters) is a complex cocktail served in an Absolut Elyx copper pineapple, smoked (literally served smoking) and meant for two.
The food at Abacus has always been extraordinary. (If you’ve never had one of their Lobster Shooters, make that happen soon.) At this dinner we were given the chance to try some of the newer dishes from Chef Patrick. He created new dishes like Seared Diver Scallops with a blue crab and English pea crepe, a Roasted Duck Breast with bing cherries and sasparilla-pecan granola, a Bacon-Wrapped Pork Chop with stone fruit and a blackberry-bourbon gastique, and Hickory Grilled Beef Tenderloin with a Guiso-spinach empanada.
Dessert was presented by a different Chris, their pastry chef, Chris McCord. The Strawberries & Cream was absolutely as delightful with strawberries served four different ways–in a sorbet, in a sauce, fresh, and … some other delicious way. The light angel food cake and lemon tart were the perfect addition to balance out the sweetness of the other elements.
Abacus will continue to serve up quality steaks, seafood, and sushi, but expect great things from Chef Chris Patrick.
I lived in the heart of Uptown for 2-1/2 years … a mere 5 minute walk from Nickel and Rye and only went a couple times. Like a rookie, I allowed those times to be weekends in the wee hours, a time which happens to be the great equalizer of all Uptown establishments (read: drunk people acting ridiculously). I was recently asked to stop in for dinner and did so begrudgingly. Holy shit … was I wrong to have thought like that. Nickel & Rye shattered my previous misconceptions of this gem.
First things first: they have a large and diverse selection of traditional and rare whiskies. (Yessssss.) In fact, they’re so proud of their whiskey options that they even offer their “V. Rye P. Club” that rewards you for trying whiskey. Just try a certain number of whiskeys and you’ll be treated to parties–not kidding. Look for Pappy van Winkle, local options, and some with a little Nickel & Rye twist, all for pretty decent prices.
Beyond that, they don’t settle for the run of the mill cocktails. They infuse liquors, make bitters, and generally do things pretty damn well. And their cocktail list has a little something for everyone.
Nickel & Rye’s Maple Bacon Manhattan is one of their signature cocktails and has been for quite a while, no double because of their delicious bacon-Infused bourbon with maple syrup and the slightest hint of Averna Amaro. Their second most popular cocktail, the Sparkling Cucumber (New Am Vodka, elderflower, cucumber, lemon, and champagne) is light, flavorful, and is a perfect cocktail to enjoy on their fan-fucking-tastic patio.
Beyond their two best sellers, they have a couple lot of other winners. The Summertime Sadness (Exotico Blanco, mint, roasted jalapeño, cilantro, and lime) was a surprise with a lot of complexity thanks to the oddly, but well-paired flavors. The basic Old Fashioned is even a winner–gotta love the old standards. If you’re bold, let the talented barmen behind the large, concrete bar go crazy. Tell them what you like and what you don’t and watch them work. One of their newest creations from one of these adventures in bartending even uses Blue Curacao (that apparently is making a resurgence … yikes) and a smoked wood plan to give it an oddly smoky sweet flavor.
The cocktails aren’t the only thing that Nickel & Rye is doing right. Their food, all made in-house, is damn delicious. (And their parent company, Kirby’s Steakhouse, would see to that.) They took basic food items and made them either VERY well or just a tinge haute. Site: their Lobster Quesadilla. Eat this now. Also not to be missed is their charcuterie board and their Brussels sprouts. (If you’re a reader, you know that it really doesn’t take much from Brussels sprouts to impress me … but these were so good I almost ordered a second dish. What!? They’re vegetables.)
Of the McKinney Avenue spots, this is one place that you should hit for a happy hour that is sure to surprise. Make sure to log some time on their patio before it gets too hot. Because it will … and all the chilly cocktails in the world won’t be able to make being outside bearable.
Dallas has a lot of restaurants come and go and come back and go again. Upon Sfuzzi’s more recent exit from McKinney Avenue, Fat Rabbit, a new player took over its space … and brought along a logo with their own version of Harvey sporting a pretentious tux and jaunty spectacles. Fat Rabbit came to us from a North/South Carolina restauranteur, Peter Lloyd, as his first Texan undertaking. Apparently, we’ll see more from him as One Dallas is built (the new high-rise that is being constructed in the Hard rock Cafe field on McKinney) as he will be opening a restaurant in it.
The restaurant, complete with a generous patio and upstairs “VIP” bar (called Masque), bills itself as purveyor of American food. While that sounds a bit “done” for the area, they do it well. Their food selections are all over the place—just their appetizers offer items from tuna tartar to hummus to hot wings—talk about an identity crisis. The good part? They somehow seem to do it all right.
Fat Rabbit is in the heart of Uptown right on McKinney, so you know that they better either do their drinks really well … or really big. They offer a full beer list with some locals and the usual suspects, wine options by the glass and bottle, champagnes actually from champagne, and, of course, cocktails. I was honored to have been joined at dinner by Jackie of Pretty Petals (looking adorable, as always), and we had to stay away from fried things (I’m doing the Lent thing and gave it up), but aside from our limitations, we made some great selections if I do say so myself.
Their new cocktail menu launched last week and, thanks to the manager, Trevor’s suggestion, I started with one of their new Irish whiskey cocktails (because, if you have ever read anything I’ve ever written, you know that I’m a huge Irish whiskey nut), the Ron Burgundy (2 Gingers Irish Whiskey, Benedictine, simple syrup, Peychauds & peach bitters). If I had my druthers, I would have stuck with this drink the whole night as it was perfectly light with enough kick to keep it interesting. Their bar program keeps it local when possible but not as a rule. They also play with some different (yet still mainstream) ingredients to make their drinks a bit unique.
Jackie started with the Peach Keen (Deep Eddy Peach vodka, lemon juice, raspberry), which was sweet, so it’s the safer play if you don’t like spirit forward cocktails. Their Summer Beer (Ketel Citroen, lemon, peach bitters, simply syrup, Revolver Blood & Honey) set the stage perfectly for the amazing patio season we have ahead of us–the peach bitters and the honey notes in the Revolver Blood & Honey both gave it just the slightest sweetness.
And … since apparently one cannot survive on booze alone (unfortunately) … we also dined. We started with Tuna Tartar (scallions, sesame sweet soy glaze, togarashi served with wonton chips) and they were nice enough to bring me lettuce since the chips were fried. The tuna came as a generous potion of fresh and tender tuna with just enough of the glaze to keep it interesting. We followed that up with the Lamb Burger Sliders (lamb patty with pine nuts topped with roasted red peppers and tzatziki sauce) which were quite good, but weren’t our favorite.
We weren’t ready to commit to a whole, single entree each, so we ordered a few things for the table. Again … we did well. Their Lobster Mac & Cheese was un-real. They add just a bit of truffle oil that balances the four cheese nicely without being overpowering. Our lovely waitress suggested the Breakfast Pizza (candied bacon, tomato, quail eggs, Sriracha aioli), which, if you remember back to Sfuzzi, they had their own version … so it just seemed fitting. I love that they candied the bacon for this pizza to give it a sweetness to counteract the spiciness of the Sriracha aioli (which I’d suggest getting on the side). The winner of the night was, without a doubt, the Brussels sprouts. I mean … hot damn, y’all. I wanted to plant a hair in them at the very end so they’d have to bring me another order of them. But that would be immoral … or something.
Fat Rabbit is open for lunch, dinner, and late night (SCORE) along with weekend brunch (I’m going to get my ass in there soon to try their red velvet pancakes and mimosa bar), and they also hold events from time to time. Tomorrow (Monday, March 13), they’ll be screening the final episode of “The Bachelor”–who do you think Ben will pick? And later this month, they’re bringing in the 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey’s brand ambassador, James Dillon, to host a whiskey pairing dinner on March 23–3 course and cocktail for $45? In … get your ticket to join me!
If the promise of good food and drink don’t pique your interest, maybe one of their weekly specials will.
Monday – $3 pints, 1/2 price dinner menu starting at 6pm Tuesday – Service Industry Night (1/2 price burgers, sandwiches, & flatbreads starting at 8pm Wednesday – 1/2 price bottles of wine Thursday – live music starting at 8pm Friday – DJ starting at 10pm Saturday – brunch at 11am-4pm (mimosa & bloody mary bar), DJ starting at 10pm Sunday – brunch at 11am-4pm (mimosa & bloody mary bar), live music starting at 3pm
Every time I go to South Congress in Austin I MARVEL at the line wrapped around Hopdoddy. Once they came to Dallas, I had a new appreciation for the patience and resolve of the people who wait in that line. Hopdoddy is damn good, y’all.
Their McKinney Avenue location, one of three in D/FW, occupies the former Frankie’s space and has been there for just under a year. It’s a great space with a nice amount of natural light, a giant bar in the middle (my fave), and plenty outdoor seating.
Choosing what to eat here is more challenging than finding your way from the parking garage into the restaurant. (I took my dad on this review with me, so, if you remember from my review at Village Burger Bar, you’ll know that I was the one making the risky food choices.) Luckily we had some time to decide after the drinks hit the table. Dad went with the Chocolate Stout Milkshake and I, in true SusieDrinksDallas form, went with an adult libation, the SoCo Sweet Tea (house infused Limoncello, Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka, raspberry purée, & fresh-squeezed lemon). My drink was nice and light and the raspberry purée wasn’t too liberally added … the perfect treat for a warm evening. I was tempted to go for one of their Maine Root Fountain Sodas or local beers, but was happy with my ultimate choice (because … limoncello).
After a few sips, I got in to the french fry options. They serve their fries not as a side, but as an appetizer (giving them the attention that they sure as hell deserve). Their fries are good … but their Truffle Fries are outrageous. Get.these.fries. Make sure to check out their dips, too! If you’re anything like me, you just want them all to get a little taste of each. (Quite honestly, I just really hate to decide so it’s easier to get them all.)
Since we were at a burger bar, we ordered burgers. (That may have been on of the more idiotic sentences I’ve ever written.) Per usual, good ole’ Dad ordered his standard well done cheeseburger, ketchup only. He seemed to like it, but I know that it couldn’t compare to my Primetime Burger. Seriously, y’all … the beautiful melange of the incredibly tender Texas Akaushi Beef, brie cheese, truffle aioli, arugula, caramelized onions, and steak sauce danced around my mouth like I think my first bit of solid food will on Friday morning. (Oh, yeah … I’m on a juice cleanse. Writing about food is real hard right now.)
Dessert had to happen because they have … wait for it … adult milkshakes. The Nutella & Chocolate Pretzel Milkshake is kind of everything. It’s sweet and the pretzels give the shake a bit of texture and a salty kick.
I do have some slight regrets from my visit … though I’d order everything I ate again (and again), I think I didn’t explore the menu as much as I should have. I’ll be ordering the Baby Kale Salad (baby kale, arugula, feta, watermelon, avocado, sunflower seeds, pickled red onions, pomegranate vinaigrette) the next time I stop in.
Luckily I rereturned with a few friends a couple weeks later and was able to try some other items. We were treated to their ah-mazing Green Chili Queso (which had a nice kick and a perfectly creamy texture) to accompany the Kennebec Fries. Since one kind of fry is never enough, we got into the Truffle Fries that came with some of the most amazing dip I’ve ever experienced. The Ahi Tuna Burger (Sushi-Grade Tuna, Sprouts, Teriyaki, Honey Wasabi, Nori Chips, Pickled Ginger, Mayo) was maybe the most surprising thing we had that night–the tuna was so delicate that it just feel apart and the nori chips gave it a nice crisp.
Hopdoddy recently started a new offering at their McKinney Avenue location–they’ll now serve you at a table instead of having you order when you arrive QSR-style. It was a nice touch and actually made me order more food. (Watch out, my friends.)
Beyond the delicious food and great service, Hopdoddy likes to keep it as local as possible and real fresh, which makes me love it even more. Their beef is ground fresh daily from all-natural, quality, hormone-free meat; their buns are baked twice daily and you get to choose from three types including a gluten-free option.
Stop in for a burger and fries sometime soon … and sit outside because the weather starting this weekend will be perfect for an al fresco meal. Just don’t forget the Truffle Fries … or the milkshakes … or the house-made limoncello. (Ya know, all of it.)
I consider myself an adult … which means I have to carefully plan my Sunday Fundays–ensure plenty of heartburn medication is on-hand as bloody marys will happen, make sure your Uber app is properly functioning, and start early to ensure you aren’t out past 8pm. This past Sunday, I rallied the troops and we began our day at Public School 214 to try out their brunch. I’d heard about their “just about bottomless” options, so I had to test it out myself.
We opted for the patio since everything else was ridiculously crowded. I mean … I like my friends, so I wanted to be able to actually hear them. (Crazy concept.) The patio was PERFECT–perfect weather, plenty of room, and, best of all, we had Freddy.
We settled in and ordered our various bottomless options. (You can get “just about unlimited” mimosas/beermosas or bloody marys/micheladas for $10) I was the only one that went for the bloody mary option and ended up being the envy of the table because mine came with a chicken wing. #Win(g)ing. The drinks were nicely spiked and gave us all the kick we needed to start the day. I have been slightly under the weather so Freddy made a hot toddy happen for me. This drink, I kid you not, brought me back from the dead.
Since we knew we were consuming mass quantities of booze, we needed to get moving on food. I’m going to tell you one thing that I’ve told you before … good + good = really good. So, that with that logic, their Bacon Cheddar Tots served with Sriracha ketchup are really good. (I had to include some math here … I was at school, after all.) Needless to say, they went fast. We also got the first of two orders of their Chorizo Mac & Cheese which is topped with Salt & Vinegar chips … I mean. To finish off the warm-up, we passed the Mezza Plate (baba ghanoush, hummus, tapenade marinated feta, and crispy chickpeas).
Lunch had to happen at some point even though we were quite happy with the porky deliciousness on the table, so we checked out the brunch menu. Since I can’t say no to chicken and waffles, I went for the Fried Jidori Chicken & Green Chili Cornbread Waffles … and I made a damn good choice. The chicken was crispy and the waffles weren’t underdone, which is my least favorite thing about breakfast. (I mean … cook your waffles and pancakes to a nice golden brown, people. Learn from PS214.) The other brunch entree at the table was the Smothered Breakfast Burrito (smashed browns, egg, chimichurri, provolone, and bacon).
The portion size at PS214 is pretty damn ridiculous. (I don’t think any of us finished our entrees.) So try to find someone who wants the same things as you … you know … on the brunch menu.
Everyone loved their meals. (I really don’t think that was only because we were a couple of carafes each in. Brunch at Public School 214 is available Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-3pm.
So … my company started a fitness challenge. This isn’t your ordinary “Biggest Loser”-type weight loss challenge … it’s serious. They gave us a meal plan and a daily exercise regimen–the types of things that I just can’t get behind. Needless to say, I planned my own fitness challenge–start running on a regular basis again and stop eating pizza. The ladder of the two has nearly killed me. Case in point … the team that handles Coal Vines’ PR had a media night the second day of my fitness challenge. (Seriously?!) If it were nearly anywhere else, I’d have told them that they can keep their pizza and I’d delight in their other offerings, but I cannot say no to a Coal Vines White Pizza. It’s just not possible for me. So, I ran a little further that morning and ventured in with my friend for dinner.
We started the evening with their fried zucchini chips (which haunt my dreams) and a bottle of 2014 Astica Cuyo from Mendoza, Argenita, which, as it turns out, retail for a hot $5 a bottle at your local wine shop. (I think my dad had the right idea when he went in to the wine business.) I will say that, despite the low price tag, we enjoyed the bottle … all of it. (I mean … it was a Tuesday, so why wouldn’t we?) Coal Vines has done a damn decent job of finding wines at a reasonable price whose taste doesn’t disappoint.
New chef, Angelo Landi, has really done well with the menu. As mentioned previously, I eat their white pizza like it’s my job. (Or at least I did when I was completely obsessed with this place and ate there at least once a week 2008-2011 … they knew my name.) Luckily, this meal forced me to try some of Angelo’s new items and seasonal offerings like the watermelon and tomato salad situation that I’ve tried to replicate in my own kitchen a few times since. Honestly … it was ridiculously good. The tomatoes were fresh and the watermelon wasn’t drowned in the light dressing … all great. Then came the Burrata, which was also really damn delicious. The cantaloupe added the perfect sweetness to the garlic-kissed cheese and greens. To keep it a little less healthy (yuck yuck), we also ordered the Calamari which is served with tomato basil dipping sauce and lemon garlic aioli–a standard that they’ve kept constantly satisfying for years.
Enough foreplay … let’s get to the pizza, shall we? Their schtick is New York-style pizza from a wood-burning oven … think somewhat thin with a perfectly bubbly crust. My love affair with their White Pizza has lived on for no less than eight years and I dare say that it’ll remain for years to come. It’s the perfect blend of Mozzarella and ricotta cheese spiced up with parmesan and oregano. When I say “perfect”, I really kind of mean it. Don’t f**k around and order the White Special–while it’s good, it’s like putting an engine on a flying unicorn* … it just doesn’t need anything else.
Coal Vines is in the same location in Uptown, but they have a few new tricks. Stop in and see what Chef Angelo is cooking up. (Obi, make sure to order the White Pizza. And be sure to meet Wolf, their bartender that has been there for at least eight years! He’s the kind of guy that you just know has some amazing stories to tell if you could only get him started.)
If you want to read a seriously old review about their brunch, you can check it out here.
*It’s 1:30am. I’m not sure where that metaphor came from … but I don’t hate it.
I remember the days when weekend nights were spent at The Loon (RIP) and were often followed by late night burgers and fries at Village Burger Bar. If I had a dollar for every time I called a cab to pick me up at VBB, I’d have about $7. (I miss the days that I could do that and not feel like death warmed-up the following day. Damn y slowing metabolism and adult responsibilities.)
Village Burger Bar has been around for years and has proved its staying power. So many other burger joints have come and gone, but they’re still around flipping burgers and slinging drinks until 2am in West Village — oh … and at three additional locations now.
Throughout the years, I remember craving their frozen rum & Cokes (which are a bit sweeter than what I usually go for). On these 100º+ days, though, they’d be a welcome refreshment. However, VBB recently switched out their longstanding Cuba Libre with an even more summery option–Frozen Cherry Limeades. Let me tell you, folks … they’re dangerous. They’re sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. Make sure you bring a Sharpie to keep count of how many you’ve downed.
The next drink that hit the table (gently) was a Strawberry Martini (vodka, strawberry puree, simple syrup). It packed a decent vodka punch … along with some serious vitamins. The strawberry was just enough to give the drink some flavor without making it too goopy.
While VBB is famous for its burgers (and bar), that’s not all it has to offer. Their Grilled Buffalo Chicken Strips are a light way to start a meal, served “naked” with their hot sauce on the side. However, if you’re into the whole “eat so much that I need to unbutton my pants” thing, go for the West Village Dip. This dip’s legit, y’all … cheese, bacon, tortilla chips … damn. I mean damn.
VBB offers “Bespoke Burgers” where you can choose your own patty (beef, turkey, or chicken) then pair it with any (and all) of 9 cheese, 14 sauces, and 17 toppings (including a fried egg, dried cranberries, and bourbon caramelized onions). I kind of hate math, but my calculations show that you could make … a lot of different burgers. If you’re not super into the whole “define yourself by your burger choices” thing, they offer eight suggestions. My long time favorite has been the Swiss ‘Shroom Burger. Make that happen sometime.
I took my dad along for this review and he’s a finicky eater. (It was his second review with me and he’s getting good at it! I don’t have to smack his hand anymore when he tries to take a bite of his food before I’ve gotten sufficient documentation.) When I say finicky … I’m not kidding. This man likes well done cheeseburgers, “plain and dry with ketchup only and a side of well done fries” … and that’s exactly what he ordered on our visit to VBB. He said, as boring as his cheeseburger was, that it was a great burger and the accompanying shoestring fries were perfectly crispy.
To top off the meal, my dad got a tall, frosty glass of St. Arnold’s draft root beer. I mean … I was sick to death that I was sick (literally) and couldn’t steal a sip of it.
They offer a full bar, the aforementioned burgers, paninis, plenty of sides (the siren call of the onion rings and truffle fries was nearly unavoidable), some desserts (hello, root beer float), and plenty of other deliciousness.
Overall, Village Burger Bar is as good as I remember it. Now that I have eaten it (a bit more) sober than I was accustomed to previously, I realize the quality behind the menu.
I had the pleasure of taking a private tour of the store … and believe you me, there’s a lot to look forward to. WFU will be trolley themed to honor Rosie, Betty, and the rest–their made-to-order sandwiches on their interactive touchscreen menus even allow you to order sandwiches named after our iconic trolleys! The store even features wood from the very trees removed from the land cleared to build the store which was built partially on historic land. Eight stories of Gables apartments will sit on top of the store and 17 three-story townhouses will line the back of the store.
They have the shelves stocked with everything from (quite literally) soup to nuts–expect the fresh produce … which is now in place–and they’re ready to open to the public. Opening day’s festivities include:
7am – Dixieland Band and Notre Dame School cheerleaders
7:30am – speeches and the breaking of the 6’ Challah loaf
8am – the taproom opens early!!!
6pm – Exclusive tapping and tasting of Post Oak Pale Ale (won’t be available to the public until September 18)
We all know what kind of amazing goods and produce Whole Foods features, but let’s get down to the real business … the booze.
The Uptown store will sell beer and wine, which were on the shelves begging to be consumed on our tour. The wine selection rivals that of “the mothership”, Whole Foods’ flagship store in Austin. The beer … phew … imagine in 36 FEET of cold beer. (That’s the length of a typical classroom. Talk about getting schooled!) They focus on local and craft beers in both the grab-and-go area along with the Taproom. (More on that below.)
WFU’s Taproom is complete with 32 seats indoor and space outdoors. (Ya know … for when it’s not hot as balls outside.) Check out their 24 drinks on tap–19 beers, four wines, and even one local bourbon barrel-aged cold brew coffee. Grab a drink and relax on their bar or patio complete with misters, six TVs, and a view of McKinney. Don’t feel like hanging around? Pick up a growler for your beer and/or wine to take some of the fun home. (They’ll even sell kegs if you preorder them!) Unique to WFU? A firkin. (WHAT THE FIRK DID YOU CALL ME!?) The firkin, beside a unit of measurement (1 firkin = 0.697326051 of a keg), is a unique type of keg tapped on its side and theirs will be dispensed by a beer engine.
OH … and don’t forget that sharing is caring. If you buy a beer for someone, they’ll note it on the “BEER IT FORWARD” board allowing the recipient to get a beer on you on their next visit! (Sooooo who’s gonna buy me a drank?)
Other features of the store include:
Squeeze & Grind — a juice, smoothie, and coffee bar with an imported Italian espresso machine
A spacious parking garage with multiple floors and two electric car power stations
Racks for up to 24 bikes and a FREE bike repair kit
A custom filled cupcake bar (uhhhhh this is the only one in Dallas doing this … can I live here?)
More then 200 grab-and-go options including pizza by the slice sold 2 for $6!
A smokehouse with in-store smoked meats (and catering!)
A bunch of cheeses. (What!? That’s super important.)