UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT
A HOT SECTION OF TOWN IS THE SETTING FOR A SLEW OF NEW RESTAURANTS. HERE’S A LOOK AT SOME OF THE TASTIEST.
Byline: Lynne Richardson
DALLAS — Europe comes to Dallas along McKinney Avenue, in the trendy area known as Uptown, just minutes from the arts and business centers of the city. Clustered along the trolley route, everything from the smartest restaurants to the liveliest burger and beer joints rub shoulders in the space of a few blocks.
A terrific new addition to the mix is Bistral, a bistro that actually understands the term — good, well-prepared and presented food; long on interest and short on pretension. With a pleasant patio and a tasteful interior, Bistral has avoided the flashy decor and put the accent on food and service.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Bistral aims to become the neighborhood venue of choice for the young professionals who are rapidly moving into Uptown’s new apartments and homes.
The menu changes intermittently, determined by the season, but shows the European influence. From the dinner menu, the goat cheese and caramelized onion-tomato tart Provencal appetizer ($6), with philo pastry and chunks of feta, could thrill any Greek. The pork loin chop entree ($11), crusted with dijon mustard and served with banana chutney and thyme roasted potatoes, transports the diner to the south of France with one bite. Salads ($4-$7) make a satisfying meal and might be a good choice when saving room for dessert. The deliciously light philo pastry returns as a pocket for a strawberry and rhubarb mixture, which perfectly blends the sweet and sharp fruits ($4).
The lunch menu includes excellent sandwiches ($7-$9), salads ($6-$10) and a handful of entrees ($7-$9).
Bistral serves wine by the glass or bottle and has an attractive bar that might encourage locals to hang out there. The wine list gives flavor guidelines to aid the uninitiated, with palatable prices — glasses $5-$10, bottles $18-$42.
The service at Bistral will be the reminder that you haven’t left Dallas; everyone is very friendly and they speak English and Spanish, not French.
The bistro makes a great neighbor for another Euro-style place in Uptown, only a block away.
Cork, a wine and cheese bar, is run by couple of twentysomethings, Julie Stevens and Clancy Martin. The charming and eclectically furnished spot perfectly captures the look and feel of a neighborhood wine bar anywhere in Paris. Wine is the raison d’etre of Cork, and there’s no shortage: no fewer than 62 red wines, 52 whites, a dozen champagnes and 20 or so ports and sherries are offered, along with some interesting ales and beers. Prices are by the glass, carafe (half-bottle) and bottle, with a good selection under $10 a glass. The glasses are the large, professional variety, designed for swilling and sniffing.
A good selection of international cheeses is served with tasty farmhouse bread or crackers ($4) and many a Frenchman would happily dine on “Clancy’s Favorite,” which includes two salamis, olives and fruit ($18). Other snack plates feature selections of pate, olives, salamis and fruit ($4-$6).
Cork is an ideal place to start the evening — it opens at 5 p.m. — or close it out.
There’s no mistaking Le Paris Bistrot for anything other than the real thing. From the sign sporting the correct French spelling to the vibrant murals depicting Parisian scenes, to the menu itself, authenticity reigns.
Owner Jean-Michel Sakhouri is from Dijon, France, and has a following in Dallas, where he has been in the restaurant business for a number of years, including a stint at the prestigious Mansion Hotel. This new venture is his second restaurant, which he has housed in a delightful Twenties-era building on McKinney Avenue. The cozy interior has tables tucked around corners, giving an intimate feel to the dining spaces, although the back room can be arranged for groups and the two patio areas can accommodate diners en pleine air.
Elegant and pricy, this little gem of a place has ambience and character in abundance.
Following the French tradition, portions are not huge, but the food is beautifully presented and the plates are hot. The lunch menu features a good selection of salads, sandwiches and entrees.
They range from French bean salad with chicken, peppers, onion and dijonaise dressing ($7.50), through portobello mushroom sandwich with grilled vegetables and goat cheese ($6.95) to grilled tenderloin with shallot demiglaze and pommes frittes ($12.95).
The dinner menu, in true bistro fashion, is not extensive. Appetizers include soups ($4.25) and salads ($4.75-$5.95), but excel with items such as a coarse pate maison, served with a delicious mustard ($6.50) and bite-sized pastry puffs stuffed with escargot and mushrooms, with a garlic red wine sauce ($7.50). Smoked salmon with julienne cucumbers, onions and capers in dill sauce ($8.25), steamed mussels in white wine and garlic butter ($6.95) and duck comfit with caramelized onions and natural jus are all worthy of plate cleaning, especially since entrees are not huge.
The advantage to eating smaller portions, of course, is that there’s always room for dessert, and that’s very good news here, as the creme brulee is outstanding ($4.50). Also offered are sorbets and ice creams ($4), chocolate mousse ($4.50) and apple tart ($4.50).
The wine selection is heavily weighted to French wines, but prices are very fair ($21- $55) and the house wine by the glass ($4.75) is excellent quality.
McKinney is not all French bars and bistros, however. Situated between Bistral and Cork is Chelsea Corner, which styles itself after the traditional English pub.
Among the beers offered are choice draft ales from England, Ireland, Germany and The Czech Republic. Quality American beers, Fat Tire and Thomas Kemper, are poured alongside the ubiquitous Coors. A dart board and pool table add to the atmosphere, aided by $2 pints at Happy Hour, 4 to 7 p.m.
Although the menu here is broader than one might expect to find across the pond, it does include fish and chips ($6.50). Mostly Tex-Mex appetizers ($3.50-$6.50) join salads ($1.75-$5.95), burgers and sandwiches ($4.95-$5.95), soup ($1.95 and $3.25) and an Irish Stew ($3.50 and $4.95), but Chelsea Corner is famed for its pizzas ($6.50-$15.95), which last year helped earn it a local title for “Best Pub Grub.”
Owner and manager Wes McWhorter recently moved his pub to the McKinney location and inherited the colorful mural on the outside wall, depicting the neighborhood trolley.
“It’s a landmark,” he says cheerfully. No doubt the crowd from his former spot has found it already.
A couple of blocks up from Chelsea Corner, Breadwinners Bakery is a totally different eatery. Recently celebrating its fifth anniversary, Breadwinners was among the pioneers to open in the newly designated Uptown district. Opening initially as a European-styled bakery, Breadwinners soon added tables, a lunch menu and then dinner as demand for full meal service grew.
The bright and airy interior gives the feel of dining in a cool courtyard, while the patio, with its iron tables and chairs, is preferred by the coffee and cake crowd.
With its bakery credentials well established, the meal menu has been extended progressively.
Dinner starters include lobster bisque ($5.95) and scallops in peanut sauce ($8.95). Salads are popular, and only the freshest ingredients are used. A garden salad ($6.95) seems expensive compared with the five-pepper tuna salad ($9.95). Side dishes ($3.95-$4.95) added to entree prices can ratchet up quickly.
Turkey sweet potato meatloaf is a good buy at $10.95, and it comes with leek mashed potatoes. Other entrees include Gulf red snapper ($15.95), double pork chop with whipped sweet potatoes ($16.95) and grilled salmon on sauteed spinach (16.95). A few pasta dishes are offered ($10.95-$15.95), and the bakery’s dessert list is so extensive, it’s printed on a separate sheet. Cakes, pies, cheesecakes, brownies, biscotti and muffins abound, proving Breadwinners’ title of cafe and bakery still holds.
Uptown also boasts Italian and English restaurants, with more authentic Irish and French places opening soon.