Arlington Texas: Casual Dining No Suit or Tie Required
By Decima Cooper-Mullen & Nikki Stephens
Arlington leads the state with the most diverse and eclectic mix of restaurant options in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The city has remained true to its Texas roots while becoming fluent in the international language of food. Down-home favorites are a staple and global cuisine is plentiful, redefining Texas flavor at its best. Here are three can’t miss restaurants in the American Dream City.
Damian’s Cajun Soul Café
There is a quote by Thomas Keller that says, “A recipe has no soul. You as the cook must bring soul to the recipe.”
Thomas Keller must have eaten at Damian’s Cajun Soul Café, because few chefs bring as much soul to the table as Damian. His cooking skills are Cajun real. You’ll find a whole lot of authentic Louisiana flavor in the middle of Arlington, Texas.
A man with a brilliant smile, Damian Placide, Sr. learned everything he knows about the art of cooking serious Cajun food from his mom, who still owns a restaurant in New Iberia, Louisiana. “Everything I cook is from my heart, we don’t use recipes here,” he says. Named after his son, his quaint restaurant sits in a shopping center right off the highway. When the food is gone for the day, Damian’s closes, so it’s wise to arrive early – the lunch crowd line often stretches out the door.
From the seafood étouffée to some of the best smothered pork chops you’ll ever taste, the entire menu is prepared from scratch. Damian begins each day at 3 A.M. to ensure that each dish receives the proper amount of soul.
The pork chops are so tender that they literally fall off the bone with the mere touch of a fork. Spicy shrimp, sweet hush puppies, jambalaya, and gumbo will have your mouth watering and your heart singing.
For dessert fans, the pound cake is an absolute must – we promised Damian we wouldn’t share his secret, but let’s just say that a cake that takes 4 hours to perfect is worth standing in line for.
Taste of Europe
Irina and Mikhail Frumkin are the outgoing chefs and owners of this one of a kind gem in the middle of the city. Known for its eclectic mix of Russian gifts and a warm, welcoming atmosphere, the restaurant has been featured on American TV shows like Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives.
The owners are friendly and they genuinely care for their patrons, a sentiment you can feel from the moment you arrive. Taste of Europe welcomes you visually with a large Russian-inspired mural painted on the building, and once inside, you won’t know whether to visit the store or eat at the restaurant first. The smell of Belarussian kolduny, a potato pancake stuffed with a layer of ground meat (half beef, half chicken) will draw you in as your wallet is teased by the vibrant colors of beautiful amber jewelry, Russian nesting dolls, and unique international gifts.
Honorable mention goes to the hot beet borsht which is slowly stewed, producing a sweet yet tangy flavor that is gently amplified by the coolness of the sour cream on the side.
Fairly priced and authentic, these dishes don’t disappoint.
Chop House Burgers
True Texans know beef, and when you go where the locals go, you’ll be headed in the right direction. That’s definitely the case for locally-owned burger joint Chop House Burgers.
The man behind the burger, Chef Kenny Mills, famously takes brisket and ground beef and creates a mouth-watering masterpiece unlike any other. The star of the show and namesake, “The Chop House Burger” is a celebrity in its own right; Texas beef smothered in glistening melted cheddar cheese, tangy house-made steak sauce, and aromatic applewood smoked bacon served on a buttery toasted bun. It’s bliss!
Some insist that bleu cheese is an acquired taste, it’s likely they’ve never tried the “Blacken Bleu Burger.” Flatter than the rest of the menu, the patty is thinned down, blackened and adorned in bleu cheese. Even those who typically turn away bleu cheese find themselves with a new favorite.
As an added bonus, once you’ve made your order, you’re given the name of a well-known celebrity, character, or public figure. Instead of a name or a number, the waitress will be yelling out “Beyoncé!”
Not to be forgotten, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike adore “The Veggie Burger.” Quinoa, cremini mushrooms, pinto and black beans and Cajun seasoning come together to create the patty which is topped with a to-die-for spicy chipotle mayonnaise.
Did someone shout “Beyoncé”? I swear I heard my name…