I went to check out the new Townhouse Kitchen + Bar at the Dallas Galleria the other night, not because I had some shopping to do but because – like the Monkees in their ’60s theme song – it may be comin’ to your town. In fact, the Dallas restaurant is the first of three scheduled to be up and running in Texas by the end of this summer. The others are, quite happily, slotted to open in Houston and Austin.
Any restaurant that has deviled eggs on the menu has to be at least a little into childhood food nostalgia – and on some dishes Townhouse is a lot into it. Sure, there’s a dizzying variety of popular Latin tastes plus a nifty array of Asian (as you’ll see). But American food is the key to understanding the high-quality but also high-casual cooking emerging from this kitchen. These deviled eggs, by the way, are excellent, mostly the classic mix of mayo-lush and mustard-tangy but given a kick by the Asian hot stuff called sriracha.
And… speaking of Asian, one of the menu’s acts of pure genius is something called kung pao shrimp tacos. Come on! That’s like three of my favorite things, in a single dish. The spicy shrimp with peanuts are out in full force, all ablaze in the hot-meets-cool collision that makes Vietnamese and Thai food so terrific. And after all, few actions make anything taste better than putting it inside a taco.
Nobody doesn’t like a quesadilla, right? And nobody doesn’t like barbecue either. Those seem to be the deep truths behind the duck barbecue quesadillas. It’s cheese, of course, that glues the two tortillas together. But inside of that lurks some of the deepest, sweetest and smokiest meat you’ll ever slip into your mouth. There’s an extra wonderful taste here that I never could quite identify, and I ate a bunch in the effort to do that for you. Neither the menu nor the chef was in any mood to give away secrets.
Just as there’s the Better Burger movement making the rounds in America, there’s what I hereby dub the Grownup Mac-and-Cheese Movement. You know the type: usually dripping with obnoxious truffle oil, a product that most actual truffle lovers (like me) despise. In this case, the mac and cheese is classically yellow and extremely cheesy, with no truffle oil in sight. And for a few extra dollars, you can make it almost an entree by adding applewood-smoked bacon or shrimp.
Side dishes, it turns out, are one of the strongest suits at Townhouse Kitchen + Bar. When you’re not shoveling mac and cheese in the general direction of your lips, you really need to try the hash browns. Or, to be precise, the Jalapeno Bacon Hash Browns. I ate as much of these as I could, then took the rest home. In my kitchen, the leftovers will soon find a home in what might be the best potato omelet ever.
With everything else Townhouse has going for it, including a fun wine list and even funner cocktails, you’d expect large, indulgent desserts. And you would be correct. The one we sampled was all that and more – involving, like so many other dishes here from start to finish, a salty-sweet flourish of bacon. These are “bacon doughnuts,” fried balls of sweet dough in a sugary caramel sauce plus bacon crumbles on top, topped by the perfect vanilla ice cream. Maybe your mouth needs something as simple as vanilla ice cream after an assault of barbecue duck quesadillas and kung pao shrimp tacos!