“I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure”
― Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”
― Orson Welles
In North Texas there are two slivers of time each year – one in the spring and one in the fall – where the weather is passable for outdoor activities. The rest of the time the air is cold and wet or – especially – deadly hot. Right now, in mid-October, is one of those salad times.
Last spring – April – Bike Friendly Oak Cliff sponsored a bicycle tour of taquerias in their part of the city. I went, wrote about it, and had a good time. Now, as part of their Cyclesomatic October, a celebration of the nice weather, they were sponsoring a second helping of tour de taqueria.
On Saturday I rode in a bike ride where we toured a number of breweries. Luckily, I was careful to not imbibe too much, yet stay hydrated, so I felt good enough to venture forth on two wheels and pedals for a second day in a row.
I had been having trouble riding lately and thought it was due to bad hay fever or the ravages of age, but this morning I did some routine maintenance on my road bike and discovered a simple fault I should have noticed (the front tire off-center and rubbing on the fork) and didn’t. I fixed it, adjusted and lubricated everything and was set to go. It made all the difference.
However, the maintenance work took up a couple hours and set me, as usual, behind schedule, so instead of taking the train to Oak Cliff I loaded up my car and drove down. One nice thing about driving with a bike is that you don’t have to park close – which helped out in Bishop Arts on a nice Sunday Afternoon.
The tour started out at The Wild Detectives – one of my favorite places in the world. It’s a combination bookstore, coffee house, and craft beer dispensary – what can be better than that? An establishment dedicated to reading material, roasted Arabica beans, and fresh suds on tap… I’m glad it’s a long way from where I live or I would be there all the time.
Last time, the taco tour had five stops and a huge crowd. This go-round we only had three taquerias scheduled and a more manageable group – and I was happy for this.
Our first stop was El Taxqueño Taqueria at 207 W. Suffolk Ave – a nice restaurant with indoor seating and a patio. It’s right off Interstate 35 going south of the city – pretty handy. The owners were very welcoming and bike-friendly – I’ll definitely be back.
Then we headed west to Los Torres Taqueria at Clarandon and Edgefield. It’s a popular spot that has won best Taco Joint from D Magazine the last two years. It’s reputation is well deserved.
After Los Torres we headed north on a long downhill run on Edgefield until we crossed Interstate 30, then turned East to the rapidly developing West Dallas neighborhood off the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.
We stopped at La Gaviota Taqueria off the Interstate next to the huge postal service station there. I had never seen this place or known it was there, but it too was worth the effort to find and ride there.
Now it was time to head back to The Wild Detectives and we had to earn back the downhill coasting. There are some steep heart-wrenching hills in Kessler Park, and we earned our daily tacos fighting up them.
A great time. Next week is another bike ride in in Oak Cliff – the Stevie Ray Vaughn Memorial Ride. Be there or be square.
I don’t know if these are really the “top ten” – it tends to list middle-road sandwich places – but there are some interesting choices here.
I absolutely have to go see this.
Actually, this seems like a way to drive the “little guy” out of the marker – who can afford that sort of ultra-freezer?
One of my favorite things ever is riding in the monthly Dallas Critical Mass ride. It runs from Main Street Garden Park in Downtown Dallas to a different, usually secret, destination – the last Friday of every month. To find out more, check out the Facebook Page.
Here’s a nice video of the last one – which ended up at a party (DJ, ice cream truck, keg, tamales) in the Sheep Barn at Dallas Fair Park.
The month before, June, was epic in that the ride was caught in a massive thunderstorm and we had to take refuge under the overhang of Dallas City Hall.
Here’s a 8X speeded up version of the ride.
And, if you have the patience to sit through it, is the whole thing.
For about I year I watched the progress of a new small brewery here in my own town of Richardson. It was established by two experienced home brewers that wanted to take the next step and open up their own establishment. It was called Four Bullets Brewery and has finally had its soft opening, with the official grand opening scheduled in a couple months.
It’s been open on Saturdays from noon to six with the typical tour deal – ten bucks for a glass and three beer tickets. I have been enjoying these craft beer tours for a few years now and really wanted to check out Four Bullets. The last couple weeks were too busy for me but today I was able to make a visit.
The brewery is located in a little industrial area north of downtown, near the Arapaho DART train station. It’s very close to where I live – but there is a railroad track blocking the way, so I rode north past the rail station and doubled back. It was a nice, easy ride, about three and a half miles.
I folded my Xootr Swift and locked it to a sign out in front – I should have ridden around to the back of the building, but I didn’t know.
The brewery is small – about the size of a generous garage, but it has an extensive open area out back with tables and some games. The crowd grew throughout the time I was there, until they had a very respectable bunch hanging around. A food truck sold barbeque in the back – he had his smoker located upwind and the smell made it impossible to resist.
I’m not expert on beers – but I enjoyed the three I tried. They all had the complexity and freshness you expect in a small batch craft beer. I especially liked the Oatmeal Stout – excellent and not too heavy, and the Pale Ale – very drinkable with a lot of flavor without being too hoppy. It’ll be interesting to watch Four Bullets as they go along – see if they get more adventurous with their beer varieties.
The City of Richardson looks at this industrial park as a potential little Design District – with the same kind of development – restaurants, galleries, breweries – that Dallas is working on in the area between downtown and the river. A food truck park is slated to open soon. I hope the trend continues – it would be a cool thing.
I will definitely go back, maybe try and organize a bike ride from a DART station through the east side of the city down to the brewery.
Yeah, that’s the ticket.
“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
In all its glory.
When I look back on the past, In some ways I feel like the same person I was when I was seven years old. In other ways, I feel like my memories are those of an alien that used to occupy my body.
For example, for the first few years after I graduated from school, I used to eat fast food all the time. I used to love Burger King. What was I thinking?
I guess in one sense I was living in a place and time without a lot of choices. I did attempt to cook at home as much as I could – but it’s not easy to vittleate for one and cheaper to simply eat out. I was traveling a lot – and always liked getting a quick break from work at lunch. That adds up to fast food. At that time there simply weren’t the healthy and local diversity of dining options that there is today. There was no smartphone internet to search for the closest Pho place or the best Big Salad on the West side.
Those times have thankfully passed and I haven’t eaten at a Burger King in over twenty years. I’m sure the last were traveling with the kids and lured into places with a big indoor Playland – my kids were connoisseurs of ballpits and plastic slides.
The other week I came across an internet article criticizing Burger King – calling it The Saddest Chain in Fast Food – documenting its precipitous slide into the lowest depths of inadequate mediocrity.
And human beings in general are calibrated in such a way that they can inherently pick up on the sort of existential malaise your typical BK is now spewing into the atmosphere.
Until I read this article I hadn’t even thought about Burger King for decades – the thousands I’ve driven past have been invisible smears of red and yellow in my peripheral vision.
Then I heard a radio ad the other day. After that I came across another version on television.
The Yumbo had returned.
A Yumbo is a bilious concoction that resembles a ham and cheese sandwich. These were popular items in the early 1970’s – I remember them and can’t believe that it was that long ago.
Actually, I never ate one back in the day (I was out of the country in the Yumbo’s heyday). What made an impression on me, something I remember vividly until today, was a magazine piece I read at the time. I’ve had to dig around the internets to find out what it was:
It was from May 1977, from the magazine The Atlantic. A short Essay by Andrew Ward called, “Yumbo.”
I have not been able to find a current copy – but that’s not important. I remember it well.
The story is a simple one. A distinguished, intellectual older man walks into a Burger King and orders a ham and cheese sandwich.
“Do you mean a Yumbo?” asks the woman behind the counter.
“A ham and cheese sandwich, please,” is his reply.
“You mean a Yumbo?” she repeats.
And they are at a standoff. She will not sell him a sandwich until he utters or confirms the word, “Yumbo.” He refuses to do so – out of some desire to retain the small amount of dignity the modern world might allow him to posses.
The man leaves the establishment hamandcheese-less as well as Yumbo-less… hungry. It is a sad tale of the coarseness of modern life and the helplessness of trying to defend against the onslaught of the uncivilized horde.
So now, after somewhere around forty years, the Yumbo is back. I had to give it a shot.
So as I was driving home through the desolate stretches of some north Texas upscale suburb I asked the little woman inside my phone for the nearest Burger King. She offered me a choice of destinations and I selected one that I had no idea actually existed until the little pin showed up on that map spread across that tiny screen.
I confidently walked in, breathed deep the thick miasma of existential malaise and ordered, “A ham and cheese meal, please.”
The manager simply said, “What size?”
He didn’t make me say “Yumbo.”
I was disappointed.