Tag Archives: downtown

THE WILD SAINT | San Salvaje (CLOSED)

Stephan Pyles is a Dallas, nay, Texas culinary legend.  I was quite excited when San Salvaje invited me in to try some of their offerings … like … beyond excited.  Pyles has been a bastion of Southwestern cuisine and is branching out to a new cuisine … Peruvian.  Nestled in the former Samar space on Ross Avenue, San Salvaje opened May 13 with bar, restaurant, and outdoor seating.  The decor threw me a bit at first — it’s a bit of a juxtaposition of crosses and skulls (after some research, he apparently did it on purpose as his travels showed people leave church, do something sinful, and head right back into church).  Overall, expect bright colors and little touches just about everywhere in the open plan (the kitchen opens right up to the restaurant).

The entire staff was as considerate as they could possibly be.  (The valet walked me from my car to the restaurant and opened the door … that’s serious service.)  Out waiter, Tony, was very knowledgeable and helped us along the menu.  Our entire meal was determined by Chef Pyles himself and Molly Hagler, the bar manager.  (I have to admit … since I hate making decisions, that was the way to best enjoy a new restaurant!)

We started with a Peruvian Welcome Drink (Pisco Porton, Chica Morada, passion fruit foam) which was as flavorful as it was colorful.  The foam made it really delightful and extremely unique and the tartness struck just the right balance.  Round 1 of food was the Three Cheese Arepa (a small corn dough filled with cheese and served with salsa verde), the Causa Limeña Classico (no words — the best I can do is a Peruvian deviled egg on steroids topped with shrimp and a little quail egg hidden inside), and the Sweet Corn Humita (a lobster and avocado corn tamale-type delight).  I could have left a happy woman after the first course.  I am no foodie, but I know that food was day-yam good.

Drinks flowed and food just somehow appeared on the table.  If I wrote that much about each course, you’d check out like … a paragraph ago. (TL;DR below).

DRINKS:

  • Pisco Margarita (Pisco Portón, lime, simple syrup, lemon juice) – I posted a picture of this almost-too-pretty-to-drink cocktail on Instagram in real time and said that this margarita gets me as close to me liking a margarita as it’s going to get.  The rim is festooned (this verb is deserved here) with lime and lemon zest, and it enhances the flavor if you don’t drink it from the straw.
  • Saoco (rum, coconut water, hibiscus reduction) – this drink could be the best summer drink like … ever.  Order one of these out on their patio this summer.  My notes say, “It has coconut water … so that means it’s healthy, right?”
  • Rabo-de-Gajo (Cachaça, vermouth, sugar, angostura) – the Old Fashioned lover in me died for this drink.  Other than a cool name, it was the perfectly sippable drink for those of us who like a stout drink.  (Oh, and they use Luxardo cherries in it.)
  • Rum flight – we shared a few sippable rums to accompany dessert.  Ask Molly for recommendations as she knows the options inside and out.

FOOD:

  • Quinoa Salad – this was a delight and the slight crunch from the dried cherries were the perfect touch.
  • Yellow Fin Tuna Ceviche – the tuna pairs incredibly well with Kaffir lime and virgin coconut water.  This dish is served in a coconut and best enjoyed with a bit of each component … including the coconut meat.
  • Sea Scallops Tiradito – while this dish was extraordinary, it was my least favorite of the dishes we had.  It was very mild and perhaps a good starting point for those who aren’t ready to dive head-first into ceviche.
  • Pork Belly Tacu Tacu – weird word, delicious dish (it’s typically a Peruvian rice and bean fried cake).  The pork belly was perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the fig compote that accompanied it.
  • Wild Mushroom-Huitlacoche Emanada – get this … and don’t skimp on the guava sauce dip!
  • Fried Squid Taco – effff me these were incredible.  The tempura had to have been some magical mix of spices and it was perfectly fried … just perfectly fried.  Excuse me while I lose myself in a trance thinking about these tacos.
  • Fried Whole Red Snapper – served completely whole, this is more than just amazing presentation.  The flavor is mild and the fish tasted like it was caught an hour before and was easily forkable.  (That’s a word … right?)  The pickled lightly fried green beans were slightly sweet and were only somewhat addictive.
    Ask your waiter to carve it tableside for you.
  • Heirloom Bean Feijoada – I couldn’t pronounce this work for all the rice in China.  This was a large dish and the flavor was powerful, but wasn’t my favorite of the night.
  • Lucuma Suspiro – I can’t exactly describe the creamy goodness that was served to us, but I’ll say this: yummmmm.  It was topped with Maracuya meringue and served with a uniquely shaped funnel cake-type swirly thing (all of those are technical culinary terms).

DESSERT:

  • Alfajore Torte with Dolce de Leche – I’m not a huge torte fan, so this wasn’t my favorite.  While I’d be a good sport and share it with a buddy, I wouldn’t order it myself.
  • Picarones with Guanabana Ice cream – again … sounds silly, but this is serious dessertage.  The donut-type pastries are tossed with cinnamon and sugar with a slight hint of anise.  Don’t miss the ice cream.  Just don’t.
San Salvaje - Picarones with Guanabana Ice cream
San Salvaje – Picarones with Guanabana Ice cream

Something amazing about this meal was that we ate (and drank) a LOT and I left upbeat and satisfied, yet not too weighed-down … a testament to the brilliance behind the stove and bar at this new restaurant.

TL;DR: This place is a revelation.  The food and drink are unique and unexpected.  Try it out for a splurge dinner or enjoy their tapas and drinks to unwind from a tough day.


SAN SALVAJE by Stephan Pyles
sansalvaje.com
2100 Ross Avenue, #100 (Downtown)
(214) 922-9922

 

Fuse Blew a Fuse

This was meant to be my last article in QUICK but it didn’t make the final issue.  RIP QUICK! We’ll miss you … and the former Fuse.

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Up until about a year ago, Fuse was one of my favorite places in Dallas.  Their rooftop bar couldn’t be beat; it had it all, a bar, misters, a pool (you weren’t allowed to swim in it, I learned that the hard way), and even pagodas with mattresses to make the best place to have a small party or meet-up in Dallas. Please note the use of past tense.
 
In December the boom was lowered; Fuse was closing to renovate and reopen with a new concept.  Rumors spread like wildfire about what the “new concept” would be.  Some said it would be a hamburger joint concept by O Bar, others said it was just closing completely, along with about another dozen or so ideas.  We finally found out what the “new concept was”, which wasn’t a new concept at all, but new owners, a new menu, and a completely new feel.
 
The Scene:  They don’t have a website, but they do have a Facebook page with spotty updates, awkward pictures, and severely limited information about the restaurant/bar itself.  The look of the restaurant hasn’t changed a bit – bamboo, dark cement, and Asian-feeling curtains to give it some mystery … they almost had me duped.
 
I ventured to Fuse Japan with a veritable motley crew of drinking buddies, and once we arrived and ascended the bamboo-lined staircase to the second floor bar (on our own accord as there was a noticeably-empty host stand), we expected to see $30,000 millionaires and their floozies waving their Discover cards at the bartender barking to be served;  but what we saw was not only a shock, but a disappointment.  A couple hangers-on were at the bar and a few patrons were milling around by the pool.  We chose a table outside next to a lovely chair swing with a great view that was far away from the questionably-smelling misting fans.
 
The drink:  After waiting a good while for a waitress, I sought one out and ordered a round.  When she brought them, we were informed that they closed ½ hour before and the round in her hot, little hands would be our one and only.  Feeling bad for dragging my friends out for one drink, I decided to pick up the tab.  Expecting a $45 tab (as I am of the former Fuse school of thought), I was amazed when the tab was a mere $16.25.  Apparently, Fuse Japan offers a great reverse happy hour from 10 p.m. to close along with their standard happy hour from 5-7 p.m. – finally, a redeeming quality.
 
After the drinks were slurped, I took a poll of the drink strength using my usual scale (1 is all mixer and 5 is all liquor à la The Loon).  The result: an average of 1.68 between the five of us.  Not great seeing as they all came out a little wrong – a lemon here, a mixer there.
 
What people are wearing: the dress was much more casual than the former Fuse, mostly cotton dresses and some simple cover-ups with the faint smell of chlorine.
 
The food:  Hoping I could get an order of the brisket potstickers that I have dreamt of since my first Fuse experience in , I was told that the entire menu was new.  The food pales in comparison to the former Fuse’s beautifully constructed and imagined sushi and oriental-cum-Texas dishes.

I will take advantage of their “Taco Tuesday” where you can get tacos for a mere dollar, but you all are painfully aware of my cheap streak.

The music:  The music was mostly the catchy-pop a la Lady Gaga and new Britney; music cliche enough not to offend but upbeat enough to keep customers awake.

Parking:  You can either use their valet or park in one of the pay gratuitous amounts to pay in the garages in the area.

The bottom line:   If you were a fan of the former Fuse, stay away as your memories of the swanky fusion food and drink heaven will be forever spoiled.  
Newbies: have at it, but only during reverse happy hour.

Fuse Japan
Facebook Page
1512 Commerce Street, Suite 100 |
(214)742-3873

Specials:
Happy hour: 5-7 p.m., 10 p.m. – close
Taco Tuesday: $1 tacos (minimum 3)
Daily food specials

Hours:

Mon-Thurs: 11:30am-2:30pm, 5-11pm
Friday: 11:30am-2:30pm, 5pm-12am
Saturday: 5pm-12am

Wild Salsa

I’m always stoked to try new places and the new taco joint (if you can call it a joint) on Main was a pleasure.  Upon walking up to the front door, I was worried that the entire place would take the lead of the awkward sign in front, but it certainly didn’t.

The decor was complete with backlit Patron bottle columns (top right), authentic Día de los Muertos art from Mexico City, and a curtain separating the walkway from the bar seating area with rose designs on them.  It was quite a festive atmosphere and I look forward to heading back to explore the concrete bar further – it spanned half the restaurant!

The patio was lit by large string lights and was complete with tables and one in particular with a fire pit smack dab in the middle.  I look forward to heading back to enjoy the patio when it dips below triple-digit temperatures to watch the beautiful people frequenting the adjacent Mercantile pool.

Once at our table, our waitress recommended the Wild Rita … the Wild Rita was no slouch.   It was spicy, fragrant, rimmed with chili-lime salt, and it was BIG.  I’d give the drink a AAA rating – and I don’t even like tequila!  They also have Negra Modelo, Dos Equis, and Bud light on tap, a drink list with five interesting margaritas and six cocktails to choose from.

The only thing better than the margarita was the food.  The chips were just about average, but the avocado salsa was to die for; it’s no wonder that this place is called Wild Salsa (I went through two bowls myself before our food came).  They offer other salsas for a cost and sadly my dinner guest didn’t feel the need to try them … bummer.  I partook in the three-taco platter with rice and beans and tried three different ones … including a “lengua”, or beef tongue, and it was delicious!  They use local ingredients and they are listed on a chalkboard at the front of the shop.

Bottom line: I like a swanky place that can still keep its focus on the food and drink, and Wild Salsa does just that.  Definitely put a night aside to jump in here and enjoy the unique fare and strong drinks.

Extra info: they have a great wait staff, everyone is very friendly.  Food is served late on Fridays and Saturdays (but I don’t know how late).  ALSO, they may be opening for some serious late-night drunk taco action because they have what looks like a to-go window on Main.

Drink strength: 4.5
Overall: 4

Wild Salsa 
www.wildsalsarestaurant.com
1800 Main St (Downtown) | 214-741-WILD

Specials:
Monay-Friday | 4-7 p.m. | $3.50 beers, $4 house margaritas, $4 wells

The One Year Itch

Last year, when Sala closed, I was a little crushed because I only had two chances to enjoy the delightful drinks they offered. So I waited and waited … and waited some more to find out what would replace it. There was a glimmer of hope when construction activity started in the former Sala space. What arrived wasn’t worth the year of waiting, but I’d have waited six months.

My first venture to Cedars Social resulted in them turning my coworkers and me away for happy hour and asked to come back an hour later; we felt dejected (ok, we were pissed). When we finally made it inside a week later, we sat at five two-tops pushed together and commenced ordering. (If you can, avoid the booths because the cushions are deceptively fluffy and firmer padding is necessary to avoid feeling like a midget.) I started with one of the weekly specials, a Green with Ginvy; with only one exception, the rest of my nine coworkers ordered Moscow Mules. My first sip was so strong and flavorful that it sent me flying – literally. I put the drink down and did a crazy combination of a shimmy and whinny (yes, it was a bit embarrassing). After finishing my first drink, I jumped on the bandwagon and ordered the drink of the evening, the Moscow Mule … and it was incredible. The owner of our company, a savvy lady with a discerning palate, said (verbatim), “This is the best thing I’ve ever had in my entire life!” That’s quite a testimonial if I’ve ever heard one.

They claim to make only “classic” cocktails (more on that later), so if you want a list of liquid concoctions you’d never dream of trying, check out one of their menus that look straight out of a 1930s schoolhouse. You’ll find a list of delightful concoctions that are “tributes” to original cocktails and seasonal fresh fruit, “hand -crafted” cocktails to satiate even the most sophisticated booze hound’s palate. That being said, I’m a little peeved at them because they refused to make me a dirty martini (twice). Seriously? In my book, that’s as classic as a cocktail can get.

The drinks are great – I’ll give them that, but some weren’t of a portion that I’d call generous. The “pint” glasses seemed to be a bit smaller than a full pint and the cocktail glasses looked like they were made for smurfs (yes, it’s smurfs and not smurves; I looked it up).

Our waitress recommended cheese plates for the table which were a delight (go heavy on the cheese and light on the “salumi” – yes, C.S. serves “salumi” and not “salami”). Since my dad was joining me after my happy hour for dinner, I was eager to try the rest of their fare. After my dad arrived, my experience turned south.

If you’re looking to have conversation with someone, you’ll need to take chalkboards and a few sticks because the music is too loud to have a decent conversation … so it’s totally a great first date place (ha?). We even asked them to turn the music down a smidge – call me crazy, but somehow it almost seemed louder after.

The place as a whole has a warm feel and is anchored by a long bar, a small library for intimate groups, and a large, round fire pit. As a whole, the place has a decidedly 1960s bachelor pad vibe – I secretly wanted to clap to see if the lights would dim and a disco ball would drop from the ceiling. The patio has another fire pit that lights up a view of the Dallas skyline that is to die for – a definite must for the great Dallas spring weather we’re experiencing now.

So, I guess you’ll want to know about the food. I am not a food critic and I don’t fancy myself as one. The food, though, was bland. I had the chicken and waffles and the chicken was tasteless. I’ll go for the Victor Tango dish over C.S.’s take on it any day of the week. We also had meatloaf and potatoes, which unfortunately followed the chicken and waffle’s example. After conveying my indifference toward the food to friends, they said their experiences were much different. We realized that they all had eaten there on weekends and I ate there during the week. Call me crazy, but maybe the chef took a few days off. To read an opinion from someone who enjoyed their meal, check out this review from The Dallas Diva.

In short, this place is good for a couple drinks and a cheese plate, but don’t dedicate dinner to it unless you are sure the resident chef and not the sous chef is running the game.

Drink strength: 4.3
Overall: 3.4

The Cedars Social
www.thecedarssocial.com
1326 S Lamar St | South Lamar
(214) 928-7700

Power Hour

When you think of power hour, do shivers shoot down your spine as your are taken back to the days at the frat house downing luke-warm shots of Natural Light on the minute mark?  Shiver no more, my friend, for power hour will soon take on a new, more comforting (and decidedly classier) memory for you.

Morton’s, the long-time Dallas mainstay for a delicious steak and a to-die-for lobster has upped the ante for happy hour.  Offering drinks and apps for a song (at least relative to other Morton’s prices) in the bar, Power Hour at Morton’s has quickly become a main contender in the “Best HH in Dallas” contest for me.

We’re talking quality HH here, people.  Take a seat in the bar and order a dirty martini and their crab cake sliders and you’ll be forever in love.  The wait staff is so incredibly friendly that you wonder if they mistook you for a celebrity and the laid-back luxury of the place makes you feel like one.

The drinks are pretty darn strong and you can down them like water (though I don’t recommend that).  Order one of the Mortinis or a cocktail and see (double) what I mean after two.  The service is quick so don’t bother ordering before you’re done with your previous drink.

Drink strength: 4.0
Overall: 4.6 

Specials – in the bar Sunday-Friday:
open-6:30 p.m., 9 p.m.-close
| bar bites (below)
all day | $5 beers, $6 wines by the glass, $7 Mortinis and cocktails

 

Bar Bites:$5: Iceberg Wedge Bites | Blue Cheese Steak Fries | Chicken Goujonettes

$6: Mini Crab Cake BLT’s | Smoked Salmon Pizza | Three Prime Cheeseburgers | Four Petite Filet Mignon Sandwiches

Oysters on the Half Shell and Colossal Shrimp Cocktail also available

City Tavern

This quintessential laid-back “pub” has long been a favorite of Downtown residents.  With live music, pretty damn good food, and a varied clientele, it offers something for most of us.

Walking in on Monday, I passed the regulars that bogart the outside tables and walked into the two-story bar.  My eyes took a few seconds to adjust to the dark atmosphere but when they did, my friend and I quickly found our booth and slid in (don’t get the one in the back downstairs – it’s tiny).  The tables are all a little wobbly but do their job satisfactorily. 

You have your typical collection of Downtown bargoers here.  There are the regulars that people watch and smoke like chimneys outside, the boisterous bartenders, just-off-work single men haunched over their brews, and one or two randoms.

From the things I’ve heard of this Downtown mainstay, there are two things you MUST try: the Dirty Dusty and the taco salad.  The famed Dirty Dusty consists of a PBR and a (big) shot of Jack … for a mere $4.  The taco salad IS as good as they say, and bigger than you’d expect (though if you’re on a diet, ask for it in a regular bowl instead of the DELICIOUS taco bowl).

The drinks are decently poured and the drinks aren’t too terribly expensive.  Definitly go on days that you like the special – we went on a Monday (service industry day complete with Jager, Goldschläger, and Rumplemintz – OH MY).  Needless to say, one shot of Tuaca and I was done with shots for the night b/c they were generous shots.

While there isn’t a set “happy hour” per say, they have an all day special each day of the week.  I’ll take that over having to haul ass somewhere after work to make it in time for one drink.

Drink strength: 3.4
Overall: 4.6

City Tavern
www.citytaverndowntown.com | @citytaverndfw
1402 Main Street | 214-745-1402

ALL DAY SPECIALS:
Sunday | $3 calls
Monday | $3 cold cordials
Tuesday | $3 pints, any draft
Wednesday | $3 wells
Thursdays | $3 domestic bottles
Fridays | $3 wells and domestic drafts ‘til 7

iron cactus

When Iron Cactus says they have the biggest happy hour in Texas, they aren’t kidding – I think their only rival would be The Oasis on Lake Travis!  Three patios and an inside bar area comprise the happy hour wonderland that is Iron Cactus.  Their drink options include wells, domestics, and margaritas for incredibly reasonable prices … along with half-price appetizers to keep you from floating away. 

While the wait staff is friendly, the service here leaves a little something to be desired but the slow service gives you time to watch the wait staff on the street level patio chasing the pigeons away.  Make sure you ask for chips because your waiter may not bring them automatically and if you ask for an extra lime or ketchup … you better be prepared to wait.

Watch the clock because they won’t give you a last call for happy hour; but you may be able to convince your server to double up your last drink to make the happy hour a little longer.

Drink strength: 3.5 
Overall: 3

Iron Cactus Mexican Grill & Margarita Bar
www.ironcactus.com
1520 Main Street | (214) 749-4766

Specials:
Monday-Friday 4-7 p.m. and Monday-Saturday 11 p.m. – close | $3.00 house wines, wells, beers, small margs (rocks or frozen), mexican martinis, Texas tea, 1/2 price appetizers (available throughout the restaurant and not just in the bar!)

Campisi’s

The Campisi name is well known in Dallas (and across the US thanks to Courtney’s work with Playboy and Corky’s reality show) and for a good reason … they make a damn good pizza.

The Downtown location’s happy hour is quite a deal: drastically discounted drinks and free pizza.  Who would turn this deal down?  We decided to take a nice walk from my friend’s place instead of desperately looking for a place to park (which I’d recommend) and it proved to be the best idea we’ve had in a while – NONE of us should have been driving after our happy hour at Campisi’s!

The wait staff was incredibly helpful and Sarah, the bartender, was good for a couple jokes and played along with our silly bar games.  Service was snappy and they made sure that we got as much pizza as wanted before it was confiscated by the kitchen.

Most of the people at happy hour were the Downtown crowd just grabbing a quick drink and a bite and the others who just finished work.  None of the happy hour goers strayed outside of their groups, but everyone was fun to watch.

Since you can’t beat this deal, take part – who knows, you may see one of the famous family members while noshing.

Drink strength: 3.5
Overall: 3.8

Campisi’s Downtown
www.campisis.us
1520 Elm St, Ste 111 | (214)752-0141

Specials:
Monday-Friday | 5-7 p.m. | $2.50 domestics, house wine, $3 wells, and all other drinks discounted, also – FREE PIZZA