My mom always says that I eat a lot (every 3 hours) and she’s right, as mothers always are. I’ve grown up with many nicknames (Ginger Bread, Ginger Snaps) but thankfully my close friends and family call me GG!
I’m not a food critic but I’m also no stranger to the food business. I’ve been a restaurant and banquet manager and event planner for wine country bachelorette parties to milestone birthday parties with food trucks and restaurant crawls. I love to eat, exploring new restaurants and I balance the calorie eating by running wherever the roads and trails take me.
Throughout the years I’ve been asked for countless restaurant recommendations not just locally but also throughout the US and abroad. Friends want to know where I’m eating next, scoping out their next exciting venue for various occasions and I love to steer them in the right direction.
When I saw that a hip bartender friend of mine checked into a place called ‘Here’ last year –he intentionally misnamed the place to maintain secrecy– a place with a name that begs the question, “Where?”, I was instantly intrigued. Since then I’ve been to Lounge Here many times, sometimes twice in one week because I love it so much but was hesitant to write about it because I too, wanted to keep this little East Dallas gem all to myself!
What’s so special about Lounge Here? For starters, it’s easy to overlook its plain, white exterior among the vibrantly painted shops adjacent to it. Second, it’s nestled in a neighborhood known for housing more mature and laid back residents (think Austin vibe before it was overrun with hipsters!) than flashy Highland Park or Uptown neighborhoods.
Brussels sprouts—smoked, charred, covered in bacon. It doesn’t matter how they are prepared; they remain the darling veggie. But one non-profit, Promise of Peace Gardens (P.O.P.) gives the spotlight to another veggie: okra. That’s right, okra.
September 17th P.O.P hosts its 8th annual fundraiser, Okrapalooza at the dog and kid-friendly The Lot in East Dallas. From 11am – 2pm twenty celebrity chefs will create their best okra dish for guests to taste.
The Chefs include last year’s winner, Chef Peter Barlow of Flora Street as well as Chef Graham Dodds, The Statler; Chef Mark Wooton, Garden Café; Chef Thomas Archer, 3015 at Trinity Groves; Chef Daniel Pittman, Luck; Chef Anastacia Quinones; Chef Ryan Barnett, Lark on the Park; Chefs Noelle Hendrix and Nick Amoriello; Chef Uno Immanivong, Chino Chinatown and more!
Five celebrity judges will choose one top chef while guests will award the People’s Choice award. And in case you were wondering if there will be anything else to eat besides okra, Elizabeth Dryer, founder of P.O.P. promises me that we can expect much more!
Okrapalooza supports P.O.P. Gardens and its comprehensive programming aimed at restoring urban communities while making sure that all have high quality nutritious food on their plate. P.O.P. transforms unwanted land into thriving gardens and teaches low-income families about sustainable living. Portions of produce grown in P.O.P. gardens supply a few Dallas-area food pantries.
Purchase tickets online for $50 in advanced or $60 on the day of the event. Entrance to the event includes live music, all food and beer from Lakewood Brewery. Cocktails will be available for purchase. Get the discounted price of $40 by purchasing your ticket in person at North HavenGardens.
In the not so distant past, a craving for any type of ethnic cuisine besides sushi or Mexican food would typically require a trip to the suburbs. But in the last few years, Dallas-proper has been the lucky recipient of a few establishments that fall outside the realm of New American or Southern cooking–not that there’s anything wrong with that!
Enter Zatar (Lebanese oregano or spice blend), a Lebanese tapas restaurant in Deep Ellum with an attached hookah lounge. The first time we visited, you’d never know that Zatar was then only 4 days old as they operated like a well-oiled machine with Chef Mo Khazem providing the most palate-pleasing food I’ve tasted in a long time. Even more impressive, this is the first restaurant for Lebanese owners and partners in life, C.K. Khoury and Mark Mansour, who modernized a few of the traditional recipes—the beef shawarma flatbread—in order to make their cuisine more accessible to Americans.
The question I’m asked the most is “What’s a good new restaurant in Dallas?” Fortunately for Dallas residents and visitors alike there are usually at least two new options every 6 months. In this case my new favorite spot is in downtown Dallas on the top floor of a very posh boutique (Forty Five Ten) with a terrace that overlooks the art piece that locals call “The Eyeball”.
I had a feeling that Mirador would be great simply because of the culinary backgrounds of the two collaborating chefs, Josh Sutcliffe (executive chef) and Nilton “Junior” Borges (executive chef of The Joule Hotel). Sutcliffe, most recently, was executive chef at Filament and before that worked at FT33, both led by Food and Wine’s Best New Chef-Southwest and James Beard nominee, Matt McCallister. Borges also had a stint at FT33 as an executive chef. Prior to that, he was executive chef at Uchi when they earned 5 stars from the Dallas Morning News. Uchi, by the way, is also owned and operated by another James Beard winner, Tyson Cole.
Three forces collaborated to produce one heck of an event dubbed Kaizen & Cocktails. The Uchi Dallas team brought their culinary smarts to the Parliament team of all-star Adult Beverage Chefs (I suspect they hate being called mixologists) for Japanese-inspired cocktails and food all in the name of charity. A $25 ticket gave guests a choice of one out of five out-of-this-world cocktails and unlimited bites from Uchi. While that price seems quite high for one cocktail – additional drinks only cost $5 each – 100% of the proceeds went to an outstanding non-profit, Promise of Peace Gardens (P.O.P.), a group that transforms unwanted land into thriving gardens.
Additionally, P.O.P. teaches low-income families about sustainable living and portions of produce grown in P.O.P. gardens supply several Dallas-area food pantries. Eddie “Lucky” Campbell, the mega-star Dallas bartender with a personality to match tells it better here.
How did this idea come to fruition? Hold on tightly…Elizabeth Dryer, founding director of P.O.P. tells me that Alex Astranti, current Chef de Cuisine at Uchi Dallas leased two garden plots from P.O.P. when he worked at Top Knot. According to Dryer, Astranti and his team would come to garden while his wife and baby sat on a picnic blanket. Astranti then moved to Uchi and met current Uchi Sous Chef Chad Graybill, who falls in love with Parliament upon moving back to Dallas. Listen to Graybill describe the rest of the story here.