American, Dallas, Fort Worth, Italian, Seafood, Uncategorized

The Charles- Dallas, TX

Driving through the Design District in Dallas on a Saturday night the streets are quiet, barely lit from street lighting appearing to be…lets say questionable. My friends, Diana and Jonathan, are finally taking me to their favorite spot. They’ve constantly talked about this vibrant, dashing Italian inspired restaurant. The Design District, being dark and my first time in the area, made me curious about the spot based on the surroundings (although I could be wrong). Then you walk into The Charles and you are immediately transported into a different world.

It’s 8:45pm and the party is just getting started here at The Charles. The bar full to the brim, every seat filled with happy faces of satisfied and hungry customers. It takes me a moment to adjust to the crowd as we made our way to the bar, where we wait for our table. Every server is squeezing by and weaving through people, kindly acknowledging everyone they may accidentally tap. The bartender, who comes to help us, greets us with a smile and energy that is too hard to explain- an electric charge that exudes around him. One of the collaborators, Chas Martin, knows my friends and makes a point to say hello, give us each a kiss on the cheek, and give off the energy ten times bigger than the bartender. You can tell he has put his heart and soul into the restaurant. You see him fluttering from table to table, person to person, making a point to connect with everyone in his establishment.

The decor of The Charles is like entering the fantasy of someone’s innermost dreams. Exposed beams create an industrial look, light fixtures that resemble bubbles or balloons adorn the ceilings. Dainty wallpaper on one wall contrasts with the leopard print chairs and benches. Boars heads, ancient Italian vases and corbels, and feather looking chandeliers all contribute to the fantasy image that one embarks upon entering The Charles. A different feel and vibe than any other Italian restaurant and I loved every bit that I took in.

When our table was ready, our sweet waitress took the time to explain the concept and idea of The Charles- family style dinner where you order several different courses and share. How very Italian. She, like the other bartender and staff, had a “je ne sais quoi” that is something you have to experience there for yourself. My friends and I all agreed, there must have been extensive or precise training for the staff to have gone through to all make the experience an incredible and special one.

The chef, J. Chastain, and Martin traveled to Italy together to immerse themselves in the Italian culture, look, and food. I learned this from my insider friends who know what’s what, especially in the Dallas food scene. You can tell by looking at the menu that this trip struck inspiration because it exudes Italian inspired items. The chef did his research and created a menu that is exquisite, rustic while also being elegant.

We started with wood fried oysters and I must say that I do not like oysters, but my friends convinced me that these are not your typical oysters. These are wood fired topped with crispy pepperoni and parsley- these will most likely be the only oysters I will ever eat in my life. The texture is not that of a raw oyster, but rather lightly cooked and not the usual slimy touch. The other item that was a first for this carnivore was beef tartare- the theme is that I don’t typically eat anything raw. This tartare was divine though, the bed of beef on top of a toasted piece of garlic bread and adorned with pepper chips and served with ricotta. These menu items I highly recommend for your starters and both are a good introduction to raw proteins.

Our next few courses came out and they are true stars. I’ll begin with the pastas:

Our first pasta is the veal ragu cappelloni which appears to be a fan favorite when you look up The Charles on Instagram. Served in a Parmesan cream sauce the cappelloni was stuffed with ragu and paired beautifully with the light sauce. Secondly we ordered the spicy creste di gallo which is a spicy shrimp, red sauce based pasta dish. The spicy kick compliments the dish as a whole and doesn’t leave your mouth on fire or with that kick stick in the back of your throat. Lastly to round out the pastas we couldn’t resist getting the cacio pepe fritters that had a delectable garlic fromage base and hint of lemon. Each pasta dish was cooked to utter perfection. Having been to Italy before each dish had that Italian inspiration with a twist to it and I felt like I could tell the chef knew what he was doing when it came to cooking the pasta. I highly recommend each of these dishes, but for me the creste di gallo takes the cake.

As for our main entree dish the pork spoke to all three of us. Fathoming this much food was a bit daunting, but the menu really has so much to offer and we couldn’t resist. Thank goodness we didn’t let the daunting task win because this pork was some of the best I’ve had. Boasting fennel, mushrooms, and orange twist the pork was a beautiful pink color inside, juicy and oozing flavor. It cut like butter and as soon as it graced my taste buds I was in heaven. It was extremely flavorful and to my delight immensely, but not overpoweringly, peppery. While there are several eye catching entrees, I would return solely for this pork dish alone (but we all know that I wouldn’t get just the one dish either). The chef really took my breathe away with this pork, to the point where I wish I had bread to collect the sauce (I would say that is the one and only downside to the restaurant, I wish I had something to soak up all the sauces and creams from each dish, seeing that licking plates in public is not necessarily acceptable).

By the end we were stuffed, the idea of dessert out of the question. But this meal was so special and we didn’t want the night to end so dessert was ordered and again we made a great choice. We tried both the infamous olive oil cake and the tiramisu. This tiramisu had a much darker color than the typical one, but still had that the great rich flavor everyone loves. The olive oil cake was moist and fluffy, drenched in almond tuile and bedazzled with grapes and a blanket of mascarpone.

The food at The Charles is obviously the principal of the show, but the soloists and corps de ballet frame the principal to create a performance that is technical, fluid, and stunning. From the interior decoration, the personalities and hospitality of every single person working there, and the attention to detail is what really makes The Charles an experience that you will forget. Accompanied with the great company of fantastic friends, The Charles is a place everyone should treat themselves to, whether it be a quiet date night or a fun night out with a group of friends. Either way you will be welcomed with open arms, just as the Italians do.

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American, Bakery, Breakfast, Brunch, Coffee Shop, Dallas, Fort Worth

Magnolia Table- Waco, TX

One week ago Fixer Upper fans watched the final episode of Chip and Joanna Gaines’s broadcasted projects. The Magnolia cult is not dead though, from a Fixer Upper spin-off to the Silos in Waco, TX Chip and Jo are pretty set for life. Why stop there though? Fans everywhere rejoiced when Chip changed the Elite Cafe sign to ask “Avocado Toast?” and the Gaines’s made their official announcement to open Magnolia Table.

Y’all I can’t lie, I’m a huge Fixer Upper fan and I’ve tried so hard not to fall in love with Waco (Go Frogs), but I can’t help it. Waco has grown on me and I love Chip and Joanna and everything about them and their Magnolia brand. When Magnolia Table opened I immediately opened my calendar, called my best friend Hannah Haston (she’s an amazing professional photographer who works in the DFW/Waco/Austin area, click the link!!) and we made plans for a Monday, months into the restaurant being opened. I have been waiting forever to eat, see, love, and write about Magnolia Table for so long! Two things before we dive in: this blog will contain somewhere around thirty photos (y’all IT’S SO PRETTY I LOVE YOU JO) and it 100% met my expectations from design to food. 

Going into a place that’s been so hyped up and can, let’s be honest, ride on the name to get business I was unsure if the food and service would be any good. And after seeing so many professional photos and the episode of it being fixed up (haha see what I did there?!) I wasn’t sure if it actually would be as stunning in person. I was proven wrong on all fronts. Yes, it was an hour and fifteen minute wait, but you know that going into this it’s going to be a long wait. And that’s when checking out the Take Away section and outdoor waiting area are two smart ideas on their end. The Take Away is primarily there for people to grab either chicken salad, strawberry butter, chicken salad, pimento cheese, or chicken salad (maybe they’ll expand the options soon) as well as some Magnolia merchandise like shirts, tea towels, mugs, and some food extras like coffee and honey. The outdoor waiting area is really well done with some tables and chairs, bench seating around the perimeter, and a shaded area for those hot Texas days. You can grab a coffee while you anxiously check your place in line on your phone. Sipping on a delightful lavender coffee was just the ticket to pass the time. It had just a hint of lavender that wasn’t too much or too little! (Now I bombard you with more outdoor photos 😁) 

Then you walk inside and it’s almost a whirlwind, if that’s not too dramatic to say. You want to take it all in as you’re being seated, the interior really is stunning. From structurally speaking to all the detailing it’s truly eye catching in person as much as in photos. Hannah and I were seated in the back room that had some private seating as well as their community tables and bar seating. We got lucky and got our own table with patio viewing and all of that natural light Jo loves! 

Our waitress was super cute, feeding into the lightness you’d expect from the employees working here. She loved giving us her opinions when we asked, checked on us frequently, and always had a smile. 

Okay, remember Cara (hi that’s me, I’m at the bottom of the post in those overalls) this is a food blog…SO LET US TALK ABOUT THE FOOD! Oh y’all…it is so scrumptious, delicious, met my brunch food expectations. They aren’t riding on their name, they are firing really amazing food here. 

We started with Jo’s buttermilk biscuits with fresh strawberry butter. They weren’t layers of dough, it was almost more of a British scone than a Southern style biscuit on the outside. The inside was, however, pretty classic and a lovely crumbly mess of fluffy buttery goodness. The strawberry butter was superb, with no apparent added sugar it seemed to be just butter and fresh strawberries mixed in one spreadable piece of joy.

Now those of you who know me personally know that before going to a new restaurant I do ample research on the menu and check Instagram for visual reference…Table was no different and I knew way ahead of time what I was going to order. I mean, how could I (a lover of Chip Gaines) not get Chip’s ham sandwich?! 

A plate of beauty really. Let’s start with them tots, these are not your average tater tots. They were fantastic, packed with potatoes that were so light and fluffy with a crispy exterior fried to perfection. Fresh Parmesan and chives were the perfect topping. 

The ham sandwich, consisting of sliced ham steak, scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese on a buttery croissant (I prepped my body for the carb intake by not eating that weekend) was everything and more. It was precisely what I would expect Chip to want for breakfast. The croissant was flaky and flavorful, the eggs fluffy and light, and ham cooked with obvious love with those stove-top burnt bits. Cheddar cheese melted in these layers and I was ready to take on the afternoon, grab some shiplap and start a demo day. Well done chef and Chip, you’ve won that cooking baton.

I told you I took a bunch of photos! Magnolia Table didn’t disappoint me at all, not that I was expecting it to, but it certainly could have. It fulfilled my foodie tastebuds, pleased my interior designer eye, and had my Fixer Upper heart full…and my stomach. The Gaines’s have made it quite clear: they aren’t abandoning their fans or passions, simply feeding into our lives one of the best ways possible. They’re opening their hearts and doors saying “Meet me at Magnolia Table…where everyone has a seat at the table.”

“Come and Get It

             -Chip”

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Dallas, Ethnic, Thai, Uncategorized

Crushcraft Thai Street Eats- Dallas, TX

Have you ever looked at your TV guide, seen a show like “Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives” and flipped it on to see Guy Fieri in your town? You’re probably thinking one of two things: he’s at one my favorite places or he’s at a place I’m going to have to try. Well, Crushcraft Thai applies to both responses. Either you’ve been a bunch of times or you had never heard of it. In the case of today’s blog, it was my first time. “This…is Crushcraft.” Lets dive in!

Guy Fieri really liked this place, praising it and saying he would return whenever he’s in Dallas. I can totally see why, from the location and interior to the food, Crushcraft is producing some great stuff. Fast, flavorful, punch in your face Thai classics located right in the heart of Uptown Dallas, you can’t beat that. In a small strip of other cool looking restaurants (will have to get back to this area for some food/bar hopping) Crushcraft is right in the middle of it all. They are open late (Three in the morning Friday and Saturday) catering to that late, drunk, “I need food to absorb the alcohol crowd”. Never would have thought of Thai to do that trick, but how have I not thought of that? Good on you Crushcraft. 

The interior is really cool, replicating a street market in Thailand. Colorful strips of fabric encircle the main dining area, a swirling tunnel of light and happiness. Boxes along the walls also create that street market feel, making it a tad more authentic when it comes to the overall look and vibe. They have plenty of seating from the main dining area to the front having some tables. Certainly late night group friendly as well as intimidate date night friendly. 

The menu is really classic with the Thai ingredients and flavors. You see the menu as soon as you walk in and you look it over and are unsure what to get. It all looks so good, but you know nothing will be bad. Everything is reasonably priced too, especially for the quality. I personally had to take Guy Fieri’s advice and try the classic Thai drunken noodles (phat ke mao).

The kitchen is firing food as fast as a hot knife cutting through butter. I swear it took no more than five minutes until I heard my name being called for my food. Seeing the noodles made my heart leap, it was colorful with the red of the tomatoes popping out and bright greens catching my eye. The aromas wafting up into my senses made my mouth water, my taste buds preparing for the spicy goodness. Concocted with chicken, the classic wide rice noodles, fresh basil, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and chilies this drunken noodle was possibly the best I’ve had. The flavors came through strongly, but not overpowering. They all harmoniously complicated each other sending my senses into happiness. Each element was cooked perfectly, the chicken being juicy and tomatoes bursting in your mouth. With a kick of spice, it wasn’t “tongue on fire” spicy just the perfect amount (they also have samplings of different Thai sauces you can grab so if you want super spicy you can make it that way). Guy Fieri knew what he was talking about and I’m glad I took his advice and chose this dish. Another notable dish is the green curry, a little more spicy and and some different flavor profiles. The jasmine rice was a little creamy making it melt in my mouth goodness and it was full of flavor. The curry wasn’t really soupy either which I personally liked…it was possibly one of the best green curry dishes I’ve had.
Casual, fast dining Thai is the general gist of Crushcraft, but don’t let either of those words scare you. The food they’re making and presenting in Uptown Dallas is incredible, packed with classic Thai flavors and fresh ingredients. The interior look and feel of being at a Thai street market adds to the food experience, creating an overall cool and interesting vibe. With that prime location in the heart of Uptown, Crushcraft is certainly crushing it. 

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Dallas, Fort Worth, French, Savory, Sweets, Uncategorized

Rise Soufflé- Dallas, TX

Qui penserait Ă  aller Ă  un restaurant soufflĂ© Ă  Dallas? 

No need to Google translate that (how do you think I was able to start a blog post in French?), but seriously who would think to go to a soufflĂ© restaurant in Dallas, TX? I’m sure few people think of French cuisine when entering this great state, but a small company of restaurants is making us rethink this. Rise, with “rise no1, no2”, and “no3” are making themselves known for the French classics, one in particular. 

For those of us who don’t know, soufflĂ© is a classic egg based French dish known for its puffy, airy look and texture before collapsing. Many people see soufflĂ©s as a complicated dish to make, achieving an airy whipped egg center and risen browned exterior. With locations in Dallas, Houston and most recently Fort Worth, “rise” is taking the metroplex by storm.

It’s almost as if you’ve walked into a “mom and pop” front in Paris. Toned down colors of purple and red, adorations like wine bottle chandeliers and Parisian styled decor welcome you. The location in Dallas is small and quaint, bursting with energy and laughter. Just as the wall says “Smile you’re at rise”, you can’t help but abide. 

The menu is quite classic, but I am certainly happy if you’re reading this before going. It’s an experience, with a cheese cart and way to order, and so many different options. Here they take your order for everything up front as it takes time to create and cook these soufflĂ©s. I’m glad I went with my friends, Diana and Jonathan, because they knew how it worked and had their own recommendations. One thing we all agreed on was cheese and marshmallow soup.

At rise they have a cheese cart where you can order anywhere from three to five to however many different cheeses, all from Europe including France, Italy, and Spain. They have a real deal spinning cheese board that as you crank the handle it shaves the cheese into small triangles (note that many of the special dinnerware items and dish towels are for sale). Another notable, and what they are quite known for, is the marshmallow soup. No, it’s not real marshmallows, but rather a nice thick tomato soup with goat cheese “marshmallows” on top. Yes, goat cheese marshmallow balls. This soup is heavenly and honestly I don’t think it needs much description, you just need to know goat cheese balls and then check out pictures below. And yes, that’s homemade pesto drizzled on top.

Now onto the star of the night, the soufflĂ©! For the first visit I had to go classic with the jambon (ham) and gruyere. Two very French ingredients harmoniously combined in this spectacular dish. The soufflĂ© came out piping hot, risen to a nice height with a golden brown top. The eggs were cooked beautifully, perfectly whipped and fluffy. There was a good ratio of egg to ham and cheese I thought, the ham diced into small cubes. The flavor was all there, seasonings coming together and filling my stomach, heart, and taste buds with warm happiness. 

Naturally you can’t get a first course, main course, and indulge in the cheese cart without trying the dessert soufflĂ©s…right?! They do have seasonal specials for both savory and sweet options, this night the strawberry soufflĂ© was speaking to us. Our waiter, who was absolutely the cutest, highly recommended it and offered it with the strawberry, chocolate, and grand marnier sauce. He was a keeper, speaking our language of food. Again, beautifully risen soufflĂ© with a gorgeous brown top. The fresh strawberries had a ton of flavor and all the sauces only enhanced the sweetness alongside the base. 

The overall look and feel of Rise is just adorable and welcoming. The dishes are beautiful, full of color and had an authentic homemade look. The decorations at the Dallas location make it feel intimate and special, I’m sure the same look applies to the Houston and Fort Worth locations. The staff always had a smile on their faces, our main waiter being absolutely phenomenal and showing true pleasure in his work in serving us and making sure we got the full experience. 

Rise SoufflĂ© is quite the dining affair to find in Texas. I continue to be proven wrong as I find higher end restaurants serving cuisines other than steak and potatoes (which I never object to, but you know what I’m getting at). It’s so wonderful finding places like rise’s French cuisine and ambiance that as you leave and are given a quote for the evening you really just look around and feel grateful that you get to enjoy fantastic and special meals with beautiful, supportive friends. It’s truly a blessing going on this food journey and having a fun blog, but it’s the people you’re enjoying these meals with that you will never forget. 

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