Leslie Brenner Does NOT Get Dallas (Continued) P2

On September 24, 2014, in Eating & Drinking, by Bev Garvin

Top 10 Reasons Leslie Brenner’s Texan Transplant Card Should Be Revoked!

Photo Credit: Crave DFW

Photo Credit: Crave DFW

1. Brenner has Snubbed Big Tex Five Years in a Row
I don’t know if Leslie Brenner has ever checked out the food at the State Fair of Texas. If she has, she hasn’t written about it once in her five-year tenure. State Fair food isn’t fancy, but there’s much to explore and it’s been tremendous part of Dallas’ food culture since 1886. I recommend she try my personal favorite, the Belgian Waffle. They’re served hot off the griddle, topped with fresh sliced strawberries, whipped cream and powdered sugar. They’re quite messy and oh, so GOOD! Heck, it’s worth a trip to the fair just for that.

2. Queso: a Dissenting View (Brenner)
Granted, some queso is better than others, but Dallas Morning News Critic Leslie Brenner Really Hates Queso (Reitz). I don’t blame her for not liking fake process cheese. But you gotta admit, writing off an entire food category kinda makes you look like a dip – and not the melted gooey cheese kind.

3. “Tex-Mex is not Dallas’ strong suit.” (Brenner)
Tex-Mex food can be traced back in Dallas to 1916, when Miguel Martinez opened Martinez Café and El Fenix in 1918. Today, El Fenix along with countless thriving Tex-Mex restaurants and food companies make up a multi-billion-dollar industry. Brenner does like actual Mexican food (which is not Tex-Mex), but the traditional “don’t touch, the plate is hot” platters with rice and refried beans we all know and love repulse Brenner.

4. Pancita Taco Fiasco
In spite of Brenner’s hatred of Tex-Mex and queso, she apparently does like tacos. Go figure!

Brenner’s bloopers reared their ugly head in August when she wrote about a pancita taco she claimed was goat belly. The word “pancita” translates literally to “belly” or “tummy,” but that’s not what the dish is made of. Pancita is a Mexican form of haggis. To make pancita, a stomach lining is filled with visceral parts (heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, tripe, etc.) along with veggies, chilies and spices. The stomach is sewn shut, boiled then chopped up and can be served as a soup, stew or in tacos.

Brenner’s fallacy lit up the blogosphere: Pancita: A Note on Brenner’s Belly (Scott of DallasFood.org). Taco Trail’s Jose Ralato, Dallas’ resident taco expert, also tried in vain to educate Brenner on the matter. Eater Dallas’ Whitney Filloon got involved, and Brenner responded smugly, defending her delusion. She made a partial correction, but refused budge on the biggest boner move she made. Pancita is not pork belly, goat belly, nor any other animal belly, proving that ignorance plus arrogance is an offal, OFFAL thing (how punny is that)!

5. Best Burgers? (Brenner)
Brenner noted a few good burgers on her list, but only eight, in all of Dallas and Fort Worth, cut the mustard. The article read like a dry single patty with no bun. A few of my faves, not on her list are Lee Harvey’s, Maple & Motor, Keller’s Drive-In, Angry Dog and Cock & Bull. And seriously, how could anyone deny the awesome Angus burger at The Grape? Many of these meaty marvels were mentioned by readers in comments, but Brenner branded them “B+ burgers that just didn’t quite make the list” or as “inconsistent” without any explanation or detail. It left me wondering, how many burgers did Brenner bother to bite?

>> Next  |    1    |    3    |    4   |    5    | Last <<


Leslie Brenner Does NOT Get Dallas (Continued) P3

On September 24, 2014, in Eating & Drinking, by Bev Garvin

Top 10 Reasons Leslie Brenner’s Texan Transplant Card Should Be Revoked!

Photo Credit: Itty Bitty Foodies

Photo Credit: Itty Bitty Foodies

6. The Truck Yard Tirade
Brenner dropped the ball in her rant on the Truck Yard more than usual when she wrote,“Truck Yard: It is so totally not awesome.
The Truck Yard is a bar, off lower Greenville Avenue, with a fun, recycled-retro trailer park vibe, cheap drinks, a great patio with a tree house and rotating food trucks (three to four per day). But Brenner slammed it because it was not a food truck park with several dozen of food trucks, which it is not, and it never claimed to be.

The food truck schedule was posted, but Brenner didn’t like the options because she had previously tried one of them, another was not there that day and she thought the third one was a sponsored food truck (which it was not), and she balked at the Philly cheesesteak (an in-house option) without giving it a try. Brenner blathered on that they “searched and searched” but “the Carnival Barkers food truck wasn’t even there that day,” which isn’t even a food truck at all. It’s another in-house option, located right at the entrance!

Her temper tantrum over the Truck Yard not delivering her skewed vision of reality, read like a spoiled brat who didn’t get what she wanted immediately upon demand.

It really is too bad she failed to see the giant ice cream cone at the Truck Yard’s front door. All things are made better when there’s ice cream involved.

7. Leslie Brenner Doesn’t Speak Our Lingo
In a recent review of Lockhart Smokehouse, Brenner wrote “on that visit, they’d run out of burned ends,” a slip of the tongue that undeniably exposed her lack of food knowledge (open mouth and insert foot one).

The correct term is “b-u-r-n-t ends.” Amateur barbecue enthusiast Cody Neathery, @DFWBBQ, was quick to catch the misstatement and jokingly tweeted about it, to which Brenner ignorantly replied:


What?!? Yes. Poor Leslie was oblivious because she didn’t bother to check the facts. Even when someone pointed out the error, she still had no clue (insert foot two).

This caught the keen eye of Culture Map’s Teresa Gubbins, who gave Brenner some new lingo of her own. As if the public comments and Gubbins’ article weren’t enough to help Brenner figure it out, this greasy barbecue stain on Brenner’s record remains uncorrected in her article to this day. Does Brenner really have no clue, or does she actually believe she’s correct?

8. Barbecue-Gate (Nichols)
When you use another’s paper to write yours in school, that’s called plagiarism. What’s it called when a writer uses another’s writing? Daniel Vaughn had that same question in 2010 when Brenner used his work for her “Best in DFW: Barbecue” article. Vaughn was a barbecue blogger who had written about his love of smoked meats for years, visiting more than 600 barbecue joints.

D Magazine hired Vaughn, as a subject matter expert, to write a cover story “The Best Barbecue in Dallas.” D Magazine knew barbecue is a pretty big deal in Texas and their readers would be best served by a professional who could authentically articulate this matter of marvelous meat.

However, Brenner didn’t think twice about taking a shortcut, primarily using Vaughn’s list (and others) to compile her own. But she hung herself when she copied a mistake Vaughn made in his original article.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire and this saucy story sparked more controversy than usual, reaching national press because a journalistic breach of ethics was on the table.

Anthony Bourdain had this to say about the matter in an interview (fast forward to 28 minutes in):

No Reservations from South Boston from zpz on Vimeo.

Brenner stayed pompous and carried on. She admitted to using Vaughn’s work and attempted to “clear the smoke.” She claimed that copying Vaughn’s error was “an honest mistake,” and mentioned her job is “holding restaurants accountable for what they’re selling.” She went on to say “…certainly readers and others should hold me accountable as well.”

But, Brenner’s hypocritical words suffocated any sincerity she tried to convey because she didn’t hold herself accountable. She maintained she did nothing wrong and fired off, “Perhaps you’re not familiar with accepted journalistic practices…”

She went on to extend the burned burnt end of an oak a hickory branch with “It’s natural that there turns out to be a lot of overlap in our lists, as there are a limited number of barbecue places in the DF-W (note Brenner’s typo) area that smoke their meats over wood” she added “Of course I’m grateful for all your footwork — thank you for that.”

Perhaps there are a limited number of barbecue places if you only consider others’ lists. I’d guess there are probably more like a few hundred barbecue joints in DFW, but with a food critic like Brenner, how would DMN readers know any better?

9. Does Leslie Brenner Even Like Dallas? (Heid)
Brenner blasted Toko V before it even opened with “A wasabi-filled dose of sushi revisionist history” because she believed the sushi rolls listed on the menu under “classic rolls” didn’t belong there. Her opinion wasn’t based on a defined culinary term, but merely her interpretation of what that meant, based on sushi in her hometown, Los Angeles and a visit to Japan. Sumo wrestling a restaurant before it’s served its’ first dish – Kisama!

10. Southern Hospitality is Lost on Brenner
Texans are known for being friendly. But if you’re server who encounters Leslie Brenner (or “Beverly Mitchell,” one of her aliases) on your shift, don’t bother to introduce yourself. She’s not there to make friends with you. She expects you to wait on her, answer her questions and be attentive but not too friendly. Don’t tell her your “favorite dishes” unless she asks (she hates that). Whatever you do, do NOT serve Brenner a dish garnished with a charred half lemon, she really hates that, too.

>> Next  |    1    |    2    |    4   |    5    | Last <<

UPDATE 10/4/14:Could the hottest new dining trend in Dallas be banning the city’s major critic from your restaurant?


Leslie Brenner Does NOT Get Dallas!

There. I said it.

I had a few good laughs over the viral media storm and commentary surrounding chef John Tesar’s* antics after Leslie Brenner’s three star review of Knife. While I don’t agree with how he chose to make his point (venting on social media, including a late-night “***BLEEP*** you” tweet and banning Brenner from his restaurants), I do understand why he was infuriated.


As a native Dallasite, and avid lover of Texas cuisine, I’ve frequently been confused by the inconsistency of Brenner’s reviews. One day, she’ll scribe a glowing write-up, but will give the restaurant just two stars. The next, she’ll verbally sucker punch a place, then award a place three, or even four stars. How does that make any sense?

I sent an interview request to Leslie Brenner. She responded with a link to the Star Review Rating and Price Key, saying only “I hope this helps.”

I thanked her for the information, explained I have questions about the review process and would like to interview her, but she did not respond. I’d hoped an interview would help me understand her process and gain insight. But her lack of response seemed par for the course for Brenner, who’s had a long-standing reputation of being snooty.

What I really wanted to know was how a high-end, upscale restaurant and a casual neighborhood spot could both deserve four stars? Are people to believe a strip-mall sushi place, even a really good one, is performing at the same level of food and service as a fine dining restaurant? Since it’s substantially more difficult to operate a restaurant at the fine dining level, one would hope that would correlate to its’ ability to earn the higher ratings. The key alludes to this, but is unfounded when comparing Brenner’s reviews side-by-side. Shouldn’t only the best restaurants be eligible to earn the highest ratings?

I stopped reading Brenner’s reports a while back because they didn’t make sense and often lacked factual integrity. Brenner’s blunders happen frequently and have become infamous. When they occur, she refuses to acquiesce. No one’s perfect, but the only thing more damaging to a critic’s credibility is refusing to admit or correct an oversight at all.

Let’s just say Brenner’s not cooking with gas. In the 5 years of Brenner’s Texas residence and reviews, she’s managed to put her foot in her mouth (and sometimes both feet) when it comes to the most “Texan” foods of all.

With that I give you…

>> Next  |   2   |    3    |    4   |    5    | Last <<

UPDATE 10/4/14:Could the hottest new dining trend in Dallas be banning the city’s major critic from your restaurant?

* In the interest of full disclosure, I worked with chef John Tesar November 2011 to January 2013. The opinions expressed in my writing and through social media are my own. I have not been asked to write this article by anyone, nor have I received any form of compensation for my work.


Leslie Brenner Does NOT Get Dallas (Continued) P5

On September 24, 2014, in Eating & Drinking, by Bev Garvin

Critic Critique

Brenner has been bestowed a tremendous responsibility, but she doesn’t take it seriously where it matters most.

In response to Tesar’s outbursts, Brenner said “I don’t work for chefs, I work for readers. But Brenner fails because she needs to let go of the “us vs. them” mentality. Brenner writes to appease herself more than anyone else. She’s too presumptuous and is too frequently misinformed, which is shocking considering Brenner’s education, experience and accolades.

Brenner’s L.A. Times ‘Diners Bill of Rights’ from 2007 was very telling. I see what she was going for. It misses the mark because (as in most healthy relationships) there must be both give and take. I’ve been told too many stories about Brenner’s inhospitable ways, for instance how she likes to “close down a place.” It’s a little game she plays, where she and her party will stay at the table long after the check’s been paid and the restaurant would be closed. If the restaurant does anything to indicate it’s time to go before she’s decided she’s ready to leave, Brenner takes offense.

It doesn’t matter to Brenner that the person in charge of closing, may have worked a 12 to 16-hour day and probably hasn’t had a day off in a while. Never mind that the busboy (earning minimum wage) needs leave so he can catch the last bus before midnight because if he doesn’t, he or he won’t have a ride home. This behavior is unprofessional and is flat-out rude!

Hospitality means welcoming a guest. But a good guest is appreciative and is respectful to not take advantage or wear out their welcome.

Brenner misses important details because she’s completely self-absorbed. She operates under a self-serving (not a reader-focused) agenda. Brenner talks down to DMN readers, as though she’s on a personal mission to educate people on how to eat, or what good food is because she doesn’t care for the food many Texans enjoy. She does the same thing with restaurants and profiles them based on her skewed vision of what she thinks it should be, or what she would prefer it was instead of how it actually performed compared to others in a similar category. A food critic (certainly the highest ranking critic in a major U.S. city) shouldn’t be making such rookie mistakes – or writing to further their own cause.

Brenner is paid for her palate, but has a difficult time putting aside her personal biases. She prefers a more European style of dining, where the service is professional and not too personal, the portions are small, the food quality is high and one can linger over a perfectly posed plate. And I agree, it is lovely to enjoy an artful dining experience at a chef-driven, bustling (but not too loud) hot spot where the service is on-point, and the food is just right.

But we aren’t in France, Italy or Spain. This is Dallas, where even the most creative, talented and discriminating restaurants must be a profitable business first and foremost if it is going to survive any length of time and be able to provide jobs in this highly competitive restaurant market, something else Brenner does not seem to understand.

If Leslie Brenner works for DMN readers and wants to stay in Dallas, she should embrace her civic role. She should write for the people of Dallas with a servant’s heart. Imagine the change possible for Dallas’ food culture if Brenner approached her reviews with a focus on “How can I provide value to the restaurant and readers at the same time?” What if her vague criticisms were more tactful and focused, answering “How can I help the restaurant improve, learn and grow?”

Brenner must stop making assumptions and do a better job of fact checking. It’s unacceptable for Leslie Brenner to be making so many mistakes about cuisine, facts specific to a concept, cooking techniques, considering how long she’s been a food writer. She’d command a higher level of respect if she’d consult with industry experts on occasion, instead of pretending to be an expert on everything edible. She is not.

There’s a profound difference in providing constructive criticism and being disrespectful. Appreciation attracts support. It’s fine to throw in a zesty zinger, but not to be mean-spirited. When you treat a subject matter with the respect it deserves, that fosters good will and earns credibility.

It’s also clear there’s a problem with the integrity of Brenner’s work that needs to be immediately rectified. I don’t know if she has plagiarized or lied about food she’s never eaten. But, the facts indicate a high probability those allegations could be true. Regardless, when Brenner makes mistakes, she should gracefully accept responsibility without making excuses. Use it as learn experience and move on. Arrogance in the face of controversy does not reflect in Brenner’s favor.

UPDATE 10/4/14:Could the hottest new dining trend in Dallas be banning the city’s major critic from your restaurant?

Bon Appétit

For me, food is an adventure. It’s a story that unfolds. Some stories tell about our history or our culture. Others hint at what the future holds. The food industry is a fascinating, creative machine that’s constantly evolving. Food stories can be hot and spicy, or even bitter, while others are sweet and sublime. Food nourishes the body. When done right, it can feed the soul. Food brings me a sense of wonder, like I had when I was a child. It’s captivating and enchanting. The more I learn about food, the more I want to know.

Brenner has a passion for food too, but her actions and sentiments don’t reflect the same care and reverence she seeks to find on her plate. Perhaps Leslie Brenner’s been a critic for so long that she’s lost her sense of wonder. Maybe she’s a pessimist, who’s unable to see her glass is brimming with possibilities. Maybe she just needs to reconnect with her place and purpose in the world. Maybe she (like many of us) has a bit too much on her plate, or maybe she just needs to go a new direction altogether.

Whatever it is, Brenner owes it to her readers to hold herself accountable for producing a much higher quality of work. It is her duty to report factual, accurate information without exception and she must understand that she holds a very important post, with a level of responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly or handled in a reckless manner.

I’m grateful for the incredible influence food has had on my perspective of life. My favorite thing about food is that it connects and it has the power to unite us all. I only hope that Leslie Brenner can see that, too.


>> First  |   1    |   2   |    3    |    4   | Previous <<


Leslie Brenner Does NOT Get Dallas (Continued) P4

On September 23, 2014, in Eating & Drinking, by Bev Garvin

What’s a chef or restaurant owner to do?



A restaurant can greatly benefit from favorable reviews, especially if it’s focus is to draw in an out-of-town crowd, national press or if it aspires to be nominated for a James Beard Award (Brenner has a lot of pull there).

If your place is being reviewed, you have two options. One – fasten your seat belt, cross your fingers, train your staff well, put out the best food you know how and pray Leslie Brenner likes most of what she sees, hears, smells, tastes and feels throughout her review process (2-3 visits). However, if you’d prefer to opt-out of Brenner’s review, you could ban her from your restaurant (like Tesar did).

Or, you could elect option two: comp Brenner’s check!

Brenner isn’t allowed to accept any form of compensation – not a free appetizer, or a dessert and certainly not an entire meal. If her meal is comped, she cannot review your restaurant.

Comp her check then leave the building. After you’re gone, send the server over to politely thank her for coming in and let her know you’ve taken care of the bill. She’ll be furious and will likely demand to speak with you, but you won’t be there to argue with. She’ll leave angry, but she won’t be able to write about your restaurant (good or bad) at all.

Brenner’s meals can get pricey (especially when her entourage is in tow), but skipping out on the Brenner review is priceless!

UPDATE 10/4/14: “Could the hottest new dining trend in Dallas be banning the city’s major critic from your restaurant?” (Filloon)  Proof + Pantry‘s owners, Sal Jafar and Michael Martenson, decided they want no review by Leslie Brenner (Nichols) they comped Brenner’s check on a recent visit. According to them, this caused quite a bone of contention. Brenner and her entourage left the restaurant and came back and leaving $500 cash on the table. Martenson and Jafar returned the cash to DMNs office in the morning, DMN refused it. Ultimately the cash was donated to charity. Jafar told me DMN threatened that Brenner still intends to review Proof + Pantry anyway. This can’t end well for Brenner. If she writes favorably about P+P, her meal was comped. If she writes negatively about it, she has an axe to grind because P+P snubbed her review. Either way, Brenner has a conflict of interest because her objectivity has been compromised.

According to DMagazine’s Nancy Nichols, Proof +Pantry is not the only restaurant that desires to not be reviewed by Brenner. According to Nichols, an unnamed restaurant refused DMN’s request to photograph dishes reviewed by Brenner earlier this week.  DMN intends to run the review with no pictures.

Sadly, Brenner’s refusal to walk away when her meal was comped leaves a chef or restaurant owner with only one option. If your establishment does not want to participate in Brenner’s review the only option is to ban Brenner.

Why do I care about this so much?

I’m a proud native Dallasite. I grew up in a food-and-wine focused family and have a profound appreciation for gourmet food and fine wine. I feel it’s also important to note, this article is not about Brenner’s review of Knife.

I started out to write about the review process. I wanted to understand Brenner’s methodolgy, as this had been an ongoing source of confusion for me. As I interviewed people (chefs, restaurant owners, industry people, local food writers and food critics in other markets), checked facts and conducted research, the story evolved as I realized my frustration about Brenner’s process was actually about something bigger and much more important.

When you consider there are more restaurants per capita in Dallas than there are in any other city in the U.S. The number of restaurants to be reviewed is mind-blowing. Because Dallas only has one major newspaper, Leslie Brenner is the primary voice of authority on our fine city at the national level. This means one person (who hasn’t embraced our local culture or cuisine in five years) speaks for all of us.

As long as I can remember, the national food scene has been about New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Dallas is a bright star in the restaurant arena – but we’re frequently out-shined by Houston, Austin and sometimes even San Antonio. That’s disappointing and it’s inconceivable to think Brenner isn’t largely to blame. If the voice of Dallas’ food culture despises Dallas’ food culture, what are outsiders going to be inclined to think?

The city of Dallas and readers of DMN deserve a food critic who can honorably serve our diverse and lively culture – without their ego getting in the way. Sure, hiring a controversial writer might temporarily drive clicks to DMN’s website, but at what cost to Dallas’ reputation and our local economy?

Are Dallas’ hottest new restaurant lacking, or is Leslie Brenner WAY off base?

Brenner’s bird-brained grandstanding was apparent again just recently on Facebook when she posted:

Brenner-FB-1 That sparked a lively conversation, which was followed by this a few days later:


Perhaps Brenner should have led with the latter of the two posts, but I fail to see how her opinion, that Dallas is running low on fresh ideas, can be validated.

There’s been a consistent pace of new openings, certainly not “a snail’s pace.” The number of brand new (never appeared before) concepts might not have exceeded the number opened in 2013, but to say we’re running low on fresh ideas is preposterous, especially when you look at the diversity of places that have opened in the past 12 months.

We already know how Brenner felt about Knife and Truck Yard, and we can now add bars to the long (and ever-growing) list of things Brenner hates. But how can she honestly say there aren’t many fresh ideas?

Did Brenner somehow miss the unique inventiveness of places like San Salvaje, Gemma, HG Supply, or The Blind Butcher? Was she underwhelmed by places like Palapas Seafood Bar, Stock & Barrel, Lyfe Kitchen, or Proof & Pantry? What about late-night hits CrushCraft Thai Street Eats or Scotch & Sausage? Brenner likes sweets, does she not think Kate Weiser Chocolates’ concept is clever?

Is she not excited to see the all the new places coming like VH in Oak Cliff  or Teiichi Sakurai’s ramen shop, Ten at Sylvan Thirty? What about Café Momentum, a concept that does so much for our community, that’s a fresh idea, no? What about the whimsical Spork, or Bohemian Café, Oven & Cellar, Ten 50 BBQ or Bottega Italia all set to launch before year’s end? Heck, there’s already least a dozen concepts slated clear into 2015. What about the highly anticipated Uchi Dallas, or Bradley Ogden’s Funky Chicken? Do you think any of these are fresh ideas that might show even a spark of creativity?

Brenner’s complaint that there are too few, “a snail’s pace,” of new openings is confounding because that’s an irresponsible point of view. More restaurants opening and at a faster pace is not better or even a good thing. Too many openings is why Dallas diners can be so fickle. Promoting that mentality is ignorant because it depicts a restaurant as a disposable commodity.

It’s sad to see new places open, then close in less than 12 months. Sustainable growth and longevity should always be the goal. Fewer openings focused on what’s needed long-term would be beneficial. It should be about quality, not quantity. Ask “What don’t we have that we need and the local community could support?” not “I’m unimpressed, what’s next?  Won’t someone drop a half a million dollars or so for a raffle ticket chance to see who can entertain me?”

Brenner’s ill-considered choice of words and capriciousness about what’s good for the economy was painfully obvious, as she referred to expanding concepts begrudgingly as “duplications.”

Expansion means our local chef-driven and family owned concepts have successfully passed the proof-of-concept phase and have flourished at a time our economy is still rebounding. Now, that’s something to write about!

After the recession in 2008-2009, I’m thrilled to see the growth of so many locally owned concepts (to name a few):

  • Pecan Lodge moved from their tiny Farmer’s Market booth into a their own brick-and-mortar building in Deep Ellum.
  • Twisted Root Burger Company now has more than a dozen locations with more scheduled to come.
  • TJ’s Seafood Market has gone from a few market-style cafes (with just a couple seats) to multiple locations and a full-blown restaurant at their new Preston Royal location and has a highly successful catering business.
  • Jay Jerrier’s wildly popular Cane Rosso now has five booming locations throughout the metroplex.

There’s also been a growing trend of popular Dallas hot-spots heading north, expanding to Plano:

Which brings up another ignorant question Brenner asked in very bad taste “…why does Plano only get used ideas?” TJ’s Jon Alexis enlightened her:


I’m not sure if I was more upset by Brenner’s crassness, referring to highly successful businesses that have earned and deserve her respect as “used,” or if I was more shocked to realize Brenner’s was clueless about basic restaurant 101 and demographics?

Those “duplications” and “used ideas” are driving millions of dollars through our local economy. Some are even receiving national press recognition in spite of Brenner’s lack of enthusiasm.

>> Next  |    1    |    2    |    3    |    5    | Last <<


Philosopher Chef David Uygur Dishes on the Secrets of his Success

If you’ve been lucky enough to score a reservation at Lucia in the Bishop Arts District, you probably already know what a gem this place is. For those who haven’t already experienced it, Lucia is small (only 36 seats) and reservations are booked out months in advance because the food is so simple and lovely that it will transport you to a land far, far away. However, if you don’t have a reservation and you’re dying to check it out, you can try your luck at the four open seats inside at a counter (available on a first come basis) and there are a few non-reservation tables outside on the sidewalk that are used when the weather is nice.


Photo Credit: Lucia Dallas

Photo Credit: Lucia Dallas


I spoke with David Uygur to discuss his unique approach to Italian cuisine and his recent James Beard nomination. I asked chef Uygur to describe the food at Lucia and what they do that makes it so special. “I want to feel good about the food we prepare and where it comes from. Style wise, I really do like Italian food, it’s what I’m most interested in. But since we’re in North-East Texas, we work with ingredients that are local. The cuisine is completely influenced by what we have around us and what we have to work with. In that way, the food at Lucia is very Italian-American as far as processes and techniques. What we do here is our version of Italian food. It’s influenced by the food of Italy, in that it’s all about the raw product and respect for the ingredients. I get inspired by traveling and the changing of the seasons. I love when it starts getting warm out after a long winter and you get the first peas of the season, ramps and green garlic, it’s a celebration of the ingredients. We make everything from scratch in-house as much as possible. I taught myself how to make charcuterie, we make that in house, too. We make all of our own bread and pastas, we butcher a whole hog every two weeks. I take a lot of pride in doing things like that, it’s neat.”


Photo Credit: B&B Food Media

Photo Credit: B&B Food Media


I asked, now that people are becoming more educated about food, how do you think that has that changed the dining experience? Uygur – “I think it’s making things better, it always drove me nuts to see big restaurants with closed kitchens. It creates a disconnect between the kitchen and the dining room. People would look at the menu and talk to the waiter, order the food, they’d take the menus away and then the food just comes out like auto-mat. Ding! There it is, you know? The disconnect always drove me nuts. Back in the kitchen you could tell diners had no idea what it took to make that food be what it is. Today, I think people appreciate the fact that they can see the people who are preparing and actually tasting the food that’s being served. I stress to all of my cooks, they must taste the food. It’s good for people to see them eating it (not chowing down). But, people need to know that not only are you cooking it, you care about quality control. That’s crucial, it’s the only way it works. I like having that connection and for people to see how we do interesting things in the kitchen.”

David Uygur is no stranger to the James Beard House. He has been invited to cook there in the past, but this year was David’s first nomination for an award. I asked, it must feel really good to be recognized by JBF for your efforts. What a nice reflection of the attention to detail you place on every dish in your restaurant. What would it mean to you to earn such a prestigious award? Uygur was very modest and humble in his response and replied simply, “I don’t know. I mean, I think that all chefs are competitive, you know? It’s great to see new names from Dallas on the list too, I think it is a sign of how the Dallas food scene is evolving. But yeah. I would love to win a James Beard award, that would be a-w-e-s-o-m-e.”

NOTE: The video plays in Firefox and Internet Explorer, but if you use Chrome or Safari and receive an error code on the video, click here to view on YouTube: http://youtu.be/i2vwaO4AsVU




408 West Eighth St., Suite 101

Dallas, TX  75208

(214) 948-4998




Up Close and Personal with Matt McCallister

Some people are obsessed with sports. But if you’re like me, it’s all about food and for this food fanatic, the James Beard Foundation Awards are the “Super Bowl of Everything Food.” When it was announced that none of the JBF Semifinalist Chefs and other category nominees from “Team Dallas” made it to the final round, I was bummed to say the least. I reached out to Matt McCallister, David Ugyur and John Tesar recently to hear their thoughts on the Dallas shut out.  What they had to say may surprise you.


Photo Credit: B&B Food Media

I’ll never forget the first time I met Matt McCallister. He was packing up at the end of an event (not related to a restaurant). We had never met and I did not know who he was. I heard him say “I gotta hurry up and get home to butcher a goat.” I turned to him and implored, “Please tell me you’re a chef, and you are not involved some sort of satanic cult ritual or something.” He replied, waiving his hands emphatically, “Oh no, no, I’m a chef, I’m a chef!” – true story.

Matt has come a long way since he burst on to the Dallas dining scene a little more than four years ago during his first solo gig at Campo (formerly in Bishop Arts). He stands out because of his passion and eccentric creativity, starting with the seasonal ingredients he meticulously selects, sometimes foraging or even growing himself, peculiar protein choices, using cuts of meat often overlooked, right down to drawing out precisely how a dish should appear when plated.


Photo Credit: B&B Food Media

I asked McCallister about his recent JBF nod and the Dallas snub. Here’s what he had to say, “Its’ been a crazy year since opening FT33. I don’t know, its nice to get recognition, especially when you work 90-100 hours every week and you’re just trying to put out the best food you know how to. I’m blown away by all the accolades we’ve received. We’ve got a great team. I think Ugyer and Tesar are both doing really great things and it’s also nice to see so many friends I know across the country being nominated as well.”

Chef McCallister hosts Guest Chef Dinners at FT33 on the third Monday of each month, he recently hosted a dinner with JBF Finalist – Best Chef Southwest, Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine (Austin). But never fear, coming up on June 16th he will host another with JBF Finalist – Best Chef Northeast, Matt Jennings of Farmstead (Rhode Island). Later this year on August 18th, you can also catch JBF Semifinalist – Best Chef Southwest, Seth Siegel-Gardner of Pass and Provisions (Houston).

Matt’s not too sad about the JBF shut out though, last week he was named Food & Wine’s Best New Chef of 2014, he went on to say, “Even though Dallas is out of JBF this year, it’s still great to see so many Texas and especially Dallas restaurants progressing really fast in the dining scene. I’d like to see less quantity of restaurants openings but an even higher caliber restaurants opening in Dallas to keep that going and evolving from here.”

NOTE: The video plays in Firefox and Internet Explorer, but if you use Chrome or Safari and receive an error code on the video, click here to view on YouTube: http://youtu.be/qCM0cT2-i58


1617 Hi Line Drive, Suite 250

Dallas, TX 75207

(214) 741-2629


Twitter: @FT33Dallas @ChefMattMcCallister


Win a $50 Gift Basket for Your Valentine from Empire Bakery!

Dear Empire Bakery,

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways, Linzer cookies, shortbread cookies, chocolate brownies, cranberry scones and cranberry walnut bread and so many reasons more.

If you’ve eaten at any of the best restaurants in Dallas, Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, to Bolsa Mercado, or Lee Harvey’s, just to name a few, you’re already familiar with Empire Bakery Company’s delicious baked goods. What you may not know is they also have a retail store where they sell to the public.

Owners Robert and Meaders Ozarow have been honoring the tradition of bread making in their Dallas, Texas, bakery for over 20 years. This family-owned and operated artisan bakery sells wholesale to many local restaurants and bakes European style natural breads, pastries, cookies, sandwiches and salads at it’s retail location (on West Lovers between the North Dallas Tollway and Inwood).

With goods this fresh, you can order your choice of bread today (download menu Empire Baking Menu), it will be baked from scratch in the morning and can be delivered tomorrow while still warm straight from the oven!


Roses are Red, Gluten is GREAT!

Sugar is Sweet & OMG are Those Brownies!?!?

Starting today through Friday February 14th, 2014 comment below, post on Facebook or Tweet your Valentines using #UrbanValentines and you’ll be automatically entered to win a $50 Gift Card from Empire Baking Company!


One lucky winner will be chosen. The more you post, tweet and share, the better your chances to win. Must be over age 21 to win. Winner will be announced on Valentine’s Day at 3:00 pm on social media. Winner must pick up Gift Certificate from Empire Bakery no later than 30 days after announcement, and my decision is final. So, bring on your most clever, funniest Valentines!


Phone: (214) 350-0007

Online: http://www.EmpireBaking.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EmpireBakingCompany

Twitter: @EmpireBaking

Hours: Mon-Sat 8 a – 6 p | Sun 9:30 a – 4 p

Address: 5450 West Lovers Lane (at Inwood Lane), Dallas, Texas 75209

Click the map for Google Maps directions.


empire baking company directions


Win an Invite to the Friends & Family Preview of Kitchen LTO

The highly anticipated permanent pop-up restaurant, Kitchen LTO makes its’ debut this week. The construction dust has settled, the staff has been trained, chef Norman Grimm has developed the menu (below) and Coveal Studios has designed a stellar space for the launch of Kitchen LTO’s first concept. As though that wasn’t exciting enough news, owner, Casie Caldwell, announced today they will be giving away preview invitations through social media to a few lucky people to attend the Friends & Family Preview this Monday September 9th, and Tuesday 10th, where guests can nibble, nosh and savor to their heart’s content.

Here’s what you need to do for a chance to win:

  • Like “Kitchen LTO” on Facebook
  • Follow @KitchenLTO on Twitter
  • Comment or Tweet “I can’t wait for ________. #KLTOImHungry”

The winners will be selected from the categories above, you’ll automatically be entered, (one chance for each new Like or Follow). If you’ve already done that, just tweet or comment about what you can’t wait to see from Kitchen LTO using #KLTOImHungry. You may tweet and comment as many times as you like, each counts for EVEN MORE chances for you to win. Kitchen LTO will announce each winners via social media. Stay tuned to see if you win.

Kitchen LTO’s Dinner Menu

This is a promotional post, written by Bev Garvin for on behalf of my client, Kitchen LTO, photo credit: Claire McCormack.


Chipotle Coupons Support the Dallas Farmers Market

On August 6, 2013, in Shopping, by Bev Garvin

Get Free Produce at Dallas Farmers Market this Weekend

JT Lemley, Lemley's Produce, Certified Organic, Local Farmer, Shed 1, Dallas Farmers Market

JT Lemley’s Produce (Shed 1 Dallas Farmer’s Market) has sold his locally grown goods at the farmers’ market since 1976!

Chipotle Mexican Grill is celebrating National Farmers Market Week by giving away $10 currency tokens at the Dallas Farmers Market! Get yours this weekend (August 10th – 11th) when you  stop by the Chipotle tent at the Dallas Farmers Market. Redeem your $10 currency token that day from farmers at the market for free produce of your choice. Tokens will be given away to the first 250 market-goers who stop by the Chipotle tent until noon each day, while supplies last.  Once redeemed, Farmers will receive back the full cash value of their collected tokens from Chipotle. This local farmers market initiative is part of Chipotle restaurants’ national campaign to donate $110,000 to 55 farmers markets across the country. The Chipotle tent won’t be serving food, but in addition to the $10 produce tokens, they will also be giving away recipe cards for classic menu items like its’ famous salsa and guacamole, “Grow Your Own” cilantro seed packets and a Chipotle coupon for a buy-one, get-one free (burrito, bowl, taco or salad entrée) menu items that can be redeemed at any area Chipotle location. What a great way support buying local, eating healthy and giving back to the community in a healthy way.



About Chipotle’s “Food with Integrity”

“For nearly two decades, Chipotle has been committed to bringing customers better food from more sustainable ingredients, and we believe that supporting local, family owned farms is an important part of this,” said Chris Arnold, communications director at Chipotle. “Local food not only tastes better, but is better for the environment and contributes to vibrant communities throughout rural America.” Through its’ vision of Food With Integrity, Chipotle is seeking better food from using ingredients that are not only fresh, but that—where possible—are sustainably grown and naturally raised with respect for the animals, the land, and the farmers who produce the food.

Mexican Grill is the largest national restaurant company to commit to organic, green earth-friendly practices. Today, Chipotle restaurants source 100% of their meat (pork, beef and chicken) from naturally raised animals that are raised humanely, in open environments, fed vegetarian diets and are never given hormones or antibiotics. Chipotle will soon offer Tofu to its menu, and its’ produce is from locally sourced (within 350 miles of the restaurant) certified organic farmers, whenever possible, and Chipotle has vowed to limit use of genetically modified ingredients “GMOs” or eliminate them wherever possible. Chipotle is also uses green practices in their operations like recycled napkins, and burrito bowls, aluminum and other eco-friendly initiatives. This video describes their culinary philosophy and how it supports these initiatives.