Whoa! You don’t get just some stringy bits when you order chicken and dumplings at Dot’s Place; you get whole pieces of baked chicken. The dumplings, somehow fluffy and substantial at once, may be the world’s best use of white flour. The heavenly nutmeg-and-clove-laced mashed sweet potatoes are not to be missed at unpretentious Tony’s Southern Comfort, which has UT linebackers and downtown lawyers for customers.
You can peruse the framed presidential portraits while standing in the often-long serving line at Casa Linda Cafeteria, but special rewards include the finest squash casserole in existence. Plentiful doses of butter coddle the big, tender chunks of beautiful yellow squash. A fine, fresh squash casserole with green bell pepper and onion also stars as a side dish at Kel’s Kitchen, whose interior is a cheery green-and-cream. At South Dallas Café, a holiday spirit envelops diners dressed in everything from suits to work coveralls; that may be because of the extraordinary whipped, cinnamon-spiked sweet potatoes, worthy of Thanksgiving dinner, with toppings of marshmallows and chopped pecans. For 38 years “Mrs. Vern”—Suvern Freeman Simmons—has been making a diverse crowd of comfort-food addicts happy with her lush short ribs, served off the bone in a silken brown gravy, at Vern’s Place. Nearly as winning are her big white lima beans, long-stewed with salt pork. And do not miss the sweet, moist lemon pound cake. At always-comfy Celebration, diners dig into copious servings of tender, juicy pot roast, made from choice inside round and slow-cooked with plenty of onions and carrots. Seconds are only a request away.
Snag a booth against the stone- covered partition in cavernous Massey’s in order to ensure privacy when the spectacular platter of chicken livers arrives. One order of these giant, heavily crusted brown bundles is plenty for two gluttons to share. It’s hard to say which of the unforgettable baked goods has won friendly, upbeat Dixie House Cafe its legions of fans; nibble a giant, hot, yeasty dinner roll, then sink your teeth into a slice of double-fudge chocolate sheet cake and try to decide. Hit Paris Coffee Shop on Thursday, when the legendary chicken and dumplings— featuring big, juicy shreds of tender meat and silken strips of pastry—appears on the lunch menu.
At Soul on the Bayeaux, the catfish is a purist’s delight: sweet, succulent filets fried in a glistening, barely seasoned cornmeal batter. Never mind that your conversation may have to compete with TVs at opposite ends of the small room. And if you don’t mind starting your day with fried catfish, you can get a satisfying filet—with two eggs your way, a steamy biscuit, and a choice of either potatoes or buttery grits—at the homey Breakfast Klub, where monthly changing art lines the walls.
Give yourself a head start on Thursday—pot roast day—to have any chance of getting a seat at Angela’s Café. Falling-apart-tender, served with potatoes, carrots, and onions and topped with a thick, tasty brown gravy, this is the pot roast of the gods.
The 410 Diner is the city’s King of Vegetables; a list of more than fifteen covers the culinary waterfront from butter beans to absolutely terrific fresh steamed spinach; as for soups, take your pick of gazpacho (summer only), split pea, or chicken-and-barley, all served in big rooms with fifties-style-diner charm. Candied yams, fragrant with what seems to be a touch of vanilla, aren’t something you find every day. That’s why you should have this exceptional creation at the small, pin-neat quarters of Mr. and Mrs. G’s, on the east side.
Small-Town Gems — The Pickett House
They do things the old way at this longtime favorite in the little southeast Texas town of WOODVILLE. There’s even a pitcher of cold buttermilk on the sideboard. How often do you see that? Or watermelon-rind pickles? By far the best thing on the short menu is the fried chicken (lightly floured, just like you’d do it at home, if you still cooked, and so good it makes you want to cry). The mashed potatoes would do a church supper proud, and the squares of fresh cornbread, not sweet or tarted up with jalapeños (though, frankly, a tad heavy), are a little piece of the past. The peach cobbler is jaw-droppingly sweet. In October Hurricane Rita interrupted some much-needed renovation on the old converted school building, but the Pickett House expects to be open again by November 1–with its small-town feel intact. PS