Friday, August 19, 2011

Company Cafe in Dallas

Exciting new!  There is a new restaurant in Dallas with an extensive gluten free menu and ALL of their desserts are gluten free!

I was so excited to hear about Company Cafe, which is located on Lower Greenville Avenue in Dallas.  According to D Magazine, the restaurant came about after the Kozy Kitchen chef and other staff members walked out.  Now, I liked the Kozy, but it was located right next door to Chuy's on McKinney Street at the Knox Henderson exit off 75.  There just was no way I was going to drive all the way down there and NOT eat at Chuy's.  Chuy's pulls me in with the gravity of a black hole.  The event horizon is somewhere around Plano, and only because there is another Chuy's there.  

So I only ate at the Kozy once.  It was good, but not great.  (Though now that I know they have a new chef, I guess I'll have to go give them a second try and see what changes they have made.)

Company Cafe, on the other hand, is a total winner.  Unlike the Kozy, the seating area is very open with a lot of light, and there are tables outside as well, which will be great if the temperature in Dallas ever drops below 104.  (40 days over a hundred degrees -- it's got to stop sometime, right?)

The minute I read about this place, I dropped all my plans for the afternoon and called my friend (and partner-in-crime) Debi.  She's got a kid who is a vegetarian, and this seemed like a vegetarian friendly place.  They also seem inordinately fond of jalapenos, which her son is addicted to, so I thought it would be a good fit.  (Plus, I hate to drive, so I needed a chauffeur.)  After convincing Debi that she also needed to drop all her afternoon plans and drive me all the way into Dallas, we headed out.  (I love you, Debi!)

We were there at lunchtime, but they continue to offer their breakfast menu items until 3 pm, so two of the kids got GF chocolate chip waffles.  It came with whipped cream and real maple syrup.  I am a maple syrup snob and will not under any circumstances eat that fake maple-flavored corn syrup masquerading as syrup.   (Yeah, Mrs. Butterworth, I'm talking to you!)  The waffles were good, but a little tough.  The kids ate them up though, so perhaps they are a little less picky than I am.

My son ordered a buffalo burger, which comes with a choice or regular or gluten free bun.  I made him get the GF bun so that I could have some of it.  It came with a large choice of cheeses, and Colin chose raw cheddar.  They committed the sin (in Colin's eyes) of putting vegetables on his burger, so I took off the spinach and beautiful slice of yellow heirloom tomato, and ate those myself.  The bun was thin, which is a good thing in a GF bun, as thick slices of bread really show the dryness that is inevitable with gluten free bread.  The burger itself was delicious and, because it is buffalo, very lean.  I hate greasy burgers.  The burger came with sweet potato fries, and these were the best thing we ate that day.  Absolutely perfect!  They were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside and perfectly seasoned.  Also, they fry them in olive oil, which at least gives me a partial pass on the sin of eating fried food.  They had ketchup on the side, but these were so good that the ketchup was merely a distraction.  These were best eaten plain.

My own entree was less successful.  I ordered the Deep Bowl, which is ground beef and sweet potato hash topped with avocado slices and two eggs any style. (I got mine over-easy.)  It was bland before I added the salsa that comes with it, but the salsa really brought out the flavors.  Also, the diced sweet potato were not soft enough for me.  They still had a little crunch.  

Debi's meal was both beautiful and delicious.  She had the Tomato Burrata Salad.  Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream.  Debi is not a huge fan of fresh mozzarella, but she liked this cheese.  The salad had a mix of field greens and basil, with yellow grape tomatoes and a vinaigrette dressing.  I had a bite and liked it a lot.  

For reasons I'm not sure of, I completely forgot to try Debi's son's lunch, which was East Side Tacos.  These were corn tortillas with ground beef, spinach, tomatoes, raw cheddar, and salsa.  I asked Alex about them later, and he said they were good, but that the beef was too heavily spiced for him.  Let's be clear here: it's not that they were too spicy (hot).  Nothing is too hot for Alex.  He just felt they had too much spice and not enough beef flavor.  Unfortunately, I didn't taste them, so I can't give a grown-up's opinion, but for a ten year old, Alex has a pretty refined pallet.  He loves sushi, jalapenos, crab legs, and Chuy's Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom sauce above all things, so he's not a Chicken McNugget kind of kid.  

Next, I told the kids they were going to have to make a huge sacrifice for me and order dessert.  (grin)  More specifically, they all had to order different things, so that I could taste them all.  They gladly agreed to the plan.  Here is a run-down of the desserts we tried:
Tres Leches cake -- NOT gluten free.  It contains Bailey's Irish Cream.  Caroline didn't like it, so Debi took a bite and said that the Bailey's taste was overwhelming.
Cookies and Cream Cake -- Garnished with GF chocolate cookies with tons of whipped cream.  Really special.
Italian Wedding Cake -- I liked this one, but my son thought it was a bit too "healthy tasting" for a dessert.  He described it as "more like an oatmeal spice cake."  He did like the frosting.
German Chocolate Cake -- I had been craving German Chocolate Cake for days, so it was a pleasant surprise to see this on the menu.  The cake was a tiny bit dry, but as long as you got a good balance of cake and frosting on your fork, it worked.  I'm pretty sure that my mother's German Chocolate cake was a lot more caramel-y though, so I'm still going to have to dig out that recipe and try to replicate it.  I may just make the frosting and put it on a GF Betty Crocker chocolate cake.  
Cookie Cake -- different from the Cookies and Cream cake, this one had layers of cake alternating with layers of different types of cookies.  Again, dry, but tasty and a lot of fun.
Oatmeal Cookie -- they buy their oatmeal cookies from Wholesome Foods Bakery (not to be confused with Whole Foods, the grocery store).  It had an excellent flavor and it's texture was like a sugar cookie, as they use ground oatmeal flour, instead of flaked oatmeal.  

I enjoyed the experience so much that I drug my hubby out there the following night for Date Night.  We go out every Thursday, and we try to do something different each time (otherwise we'd just eat at Chuy's every week).  So he's used to me dragging him all over creation to check out unique places and funky restaurants, especially if they have a gluten free menu. (I love you, Mark!)

Their dinner menu has a number of items that aren't on the lunch menu, so I wanted to give those a try.  Mark had Chicken Pesto Risotto and I ordered Chef Fred's Gluten Free Chicken and Waffles.  

I thought that the Risotto was fantastic.  Mark thought it was good, but not great.  On the hand, he also ordered a side of cauliflower puree, which he gobbled up with gusto, and I thought was bland.  So, clearly it's a matter of taste preferences.  

My chicken dinner was a winner.  This was Southern style chicken and waffles.  Our parents (my parents and Mark's are all from Pennsylvania) sometimes served chicken and waffles, which was a chicken and gravy served over waffles.  This was fried chicken, served with a side of waffles.  The waffles were the same as breakfast, only instead of chocolate chips baked into the batter, they had jalapenos and bacon.  Excellent flavor, but again, the waffles were a bit tough.  The chicken itself was divine.  It's been so long since I had fried chicken, and I've never had one like this.  It was boneless and skinless, but perfectly fried (in olive oil!).  So crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.  Man, oh man.  That was sooooo good.

We both ordered dessert, in my continuing quest to try them all.  Mark had Mystery Cake, which was described as tasting "sort of like a hot fudge sundae.)  It had good flavor, but I didn't think the icing was anything to write home about.  My own dessert was the Peanut Butter Lover's, which they told me was one of their top two sellers.  (Carrot cake was the other).  I really liked this one.  It reminded me of a peanut butter pie I once ate and occasionally lament that I'll never eat again.  I still say the Cookies and Cream is the best, but this one was a close second.

Mark is harder to impress than I am, so despite my own good feelings about the Company Cafe, I was still waiting with baited breath for his verdict.  Fortunately, he pronounced it a great place and worth a return trip. Yea!  There is more of that fried chicken in my future.  Yum yum.


Edited to add: I went there again for lunch on 8/29/11 and had the chicken fried steak with green beans and mashed sweet potatoes.  Delicious.  Also had the carrot cake.  Again, the cake itself isn't all that special, but man oh man, was that cream cheese icing ever good.  Decadent!

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