The Dallas Food Pyramid
Here in Dallas, our traditional favorite foods stem from a wealth of culinary roots: Southern cooking, cowboy cookery, and Mexican cuisine, among others. Modern-day additions to our list of food and drink include burgers, healthy fast food, and craft beer. The practical (albeit not USDA approved) Dallas diet incorporates all of these components in some measure with this food pyramid’s mix of representative local eats.
When new-to-market Thai restaurants find it vital to have one on the menu, you know our burger obsession has hit critical mass. Every restaurant worth its farm-to-table pedigree has some kind of burger on the menu, be it a classic beef patty topped with cheese and bacon to a house-crafted veggie burger on a gluten-free bun. We simply can’t get enough, which is why burgers edged out steaks as the biggest chunk of our local food pyramid.
Being at a historic center of cattle country, Dallas has fostered a deep love of beef for a good chunk of its existence. Today, we enjoy steak in numerous forms, from a longbone ribeye seared to perfection, to beef fajitas delivered to the table sizzling, to a tenderized, chicken-fried slab drenched in cream gravy. Cholesterol level be damned, we ride or die for steak. Oh, and did you think we'd forgotten barbecue? Don't be crazy. While most of the rest of the country (wrongly) throws pork on the smoker, we know a platter of brisket or a dino-sized serving of beef ribs is worth an hours' long wait.
Tacos are enjoyable all day and in so many freaking varieties you’ll never get bored. Our local variety include tiny street tacos that show off the flavors and flair of Mexico best (see: El Come Taco or Los Torres Taqueria); Americanized tacos that are bigger and reflect fillings that are closer to home (Velvet Taco, Torchy’s Tacos); and modern tacos -- fancier iterations that are edible palettes for some of the city’s top chefs (El Bolero, Madrina). And let’s not forget the range of breakfast tacos out there.
Rest of Tex-Mex
There’s, of course, a whole world beyond tacos, and we love exploring it, margarita or cerveza in hand. Burritos, enchilada plates, and their crunchy-tortilla cousins flautas and tostadas are beloved in their own right, as are breakfast-y migas and chilaquiles. You can also tuck that most popular of appetizers -- queso -- in this category, too. A food pyramid must.
Independent breweries have cropped up like wildflowers in DFW in the last five years, engendering a devoted breed of beer lovers and connoisseurs. Whether you’re a fan of the bitterest IPA or the lightest amber out there, our booming beer scene’s got something for you. And with beer-pairing dinners available on nearly any night of the week, brews are a cool, new force on the food scene.
Amid the modern move to healthier eating, handmade sweets are enjoying a renaissance of late. Think one-of-a-kind chocolatiers (a la Dude, Sweet Chocolate and Kate Weiser), craft doughnut shops (Hypnotic Donuts, Glazed), cupcakeries (Fluellen Cupcakes, the Sprinkles ATM) and niche bakeries (Cake Bar, Emporium Pies) and you get a sense of Dallas’ mighty-big sweet tooth.
Fried chicken is a beloved go-to, which is very much expected here in the South. But we love ourselves a deep-fried veggie (okra, zucchini, mushrooms), too, don’t we? And deep-fried everything else: every year, Dallas becomes the center of all things fried, thanks to the State Fair of Texas’ wacky fried-food competition, which then has us traipsing around Fair Park looking for chicken-fried bacon, fried butter, fried beer, and the like. What’s not to love?
Fruits & veggies
In true Dallas style, we bring fruit and vegetables to the brink of healthy eats. Elotes are a prime example, taking fresh cob-shucked corn and drowning it in butter, cream, and cheese. And how many giant baked potatoes at your favorite BBQ spot are overloaded with barbecue meats and sauce and cheese until they’re barely unrecognizable as a vegetable? As for fruit, it still goes toward your daily quota if it’s folded into a cobbler or fried hand pie, right?
Healthy fast casual
In the last two years, Dallas has proved to be fertile ground for incoming mini-chains that serve healthy eats quickly. Modmarket, LYFE Kitchen, and Snap Kitchen are just a handful of the concepts that’ve sprouted on numerous corners, bringing various levels of good food, whether you crave a gluten-free pizza or need a calorie-limited prepackaged vegan meal to make up for the other layers of the pyramid you’ve mowed down.
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Farah Fleurima is a Dallas freelance writer who is rumored to store grain in her food pyramid. Follow her at @TheDallasDiva