After a busy week last week, The Road More Traveled returns home to Dallas to continue my quest for fine food in the Central Business District. Today’s pick, Fearing’s, is technically in Uptown, not Downtown, but since it’s a tolerable walking distance from the office, it’s close enough for me to include.
Reminder of how my top secret rating system works:
5 – I Would Walk 500 Miles (And I Would Walk 500 More) to visit this place
4 – Worth a visit when in town
3 – Meh; I won’t object if a friend suggests it, but I wouldn’t recommend it on my own
2 – Only if nothing else is open
1 – Run, Sriram, Run!
- 2121 McKinney Avenue, Dallas, TX; in the Ritz-Carlton Dallas Hotel
- Hours: breakfast, 6:30-11 daily; lunch, 11:30-2:30 weekdays, 11-3 Saturday; Sunday brunch, 11:30-3; dinner, 6-10:30 Monday-Thursday, 6-11 Friday-Saturday, 6-10 Sunday
- Price (lunch): $20-30 per person without alcohol; considerably more expensive for dinner.
Directions: In the Ritz-Carlton Dallas, on McKinney Avenue about a block west of Pearl. The easiest way to get there is to find your way to Woodall-Rogers Freeway, exit at Pearl Street, go north, then turn left at McKinney Avenue. The hotel is on your right. If you are coming from the west side of downtown, you can also go north on Akard, then turn right on McKinney after passing Woodall-Rogers; the hotel will be on your left. I advise against coming down McKinney from the north. The traffic can drive you mad, especially late evenings Thursday through Saturday.
Unfortunately, as with all of Uptown, the Ritz is not convenient to DART Light Rail. The nearest stations, Akard, Pearl, and St. Paul, are about a 15-20 minute walk. You can take the McKinney Avenue streetcar from St. Paul Station, but it is not air conditioned. Or you can take the free D-Link from Pearl Station. Both will take you to the corner of McKinney and Pearl.
Fearing’s is the flagship restaurant of hometown celebrity chef Dean Fearing, billing its style as “Elevated American Cuisine”. In this case, that means the typical modern Texas/Southwestern cuisine that has become ubiquitious at upscale restaurants in the Dallas area. It is a direct competitor to downtown restaurants like CBD Provisions and arch-rival chef Stephan Pyles’ namesake restaurant. Like both of those establishments, Fearing’s, to the extent possible, sources its ingredients from Texas producers, preparing dishes you might expect to find in the Lone Star State (example: the carintas street tacos) with a modern twist.
The interior is a little more traditional than CBD Provisions, but not quite as austere as the larger Stephan Pyles (a place I don’t really care for food-wise). Fearing definitely goes a little too over the top in the lobby area, though. You can’t tell from the second, but the rough, natural hide coverings on the furniture nearest the hostess stand is…interesting. Perhaps a little too farm-to-table for some. Like CBD, Fearing’s also has an open kitchen, if you fancy watching the chefs in real time.
I’ve been here twice, and I’ve ordered the same thing both times – Dean’s tortilla soup to start with, and the Dr. Pepper braised short ribs for the main course.
I’m not usually a big fan of tortilla soup, but I like Fearing’s version. The tortilla strips are crispy, and manage to stay crispy until you finish the bowl, and the tart tomato base has appealing hints of cumin and chili powder (guess that’s what they mean by “south of the border flavorings”). I could do without the avocado chunks, but at least they don’t get in the way. Yes, I realize my dislike of avocados and guacamole makes me a Texas-sized traitor.
Meanwhile, the Dr. Pepper braised short ribs came highly recommended around town, so I gave them a try. I see why this dish is so highly recommended. This is a fine example of how to mix together traditional Texas ingredients (mashed potatoes, beef ribs, and Dr. Pepper) into a modern, upscale dish. The short ribs are melt-in-your-mouth tender with a nice hint of fat for extra flavor, and the mashed potatoes are well-whipped and creamy. But the star of the show is the Dr. Pepper-laced sauce. It’s light sweetness is a perfect foil for both the beef and the potatoes. Don’t be decieved, although the dish looks small, it’s actually quite filling. If you come to Fearing’s for lunch, you really need to try this dish.
Since our accountants were footing the bill, I decided to splurge on dessert. I chose the double brown stout ice cream cake with beer nut nougat and toffee sauce.
The description sounded great, and it looked pretty. But this dessert was a major letdown. In fact, it might be one of the worst desserts I’ve ever had. Beer batter might work well with onion rings, but it made the dessert way, WAY too bitter. The beer foam was basically inedible, and even in the ice cream and nougat, the bitterness of the beer overpowered everything else.
The restaurant is also home to the Rattlesnake Bar. It’s a decent spot for people watching; the crowd is a little older, but since it’s the Ritz, you do get your share of Dallas high society. Not quite as interesting as the nearby Hotel ZaZa, though. In any event, the Rattlesnake Bar has an interesting bar menu, featuring items like bratwurst, smoked chicken and mango quesadillas, and bison tacos.
Oh, and when you come to the Ritz, always check out the cars out front. You’ll often spot gems like this Maserati Granturismo.
Rating: the short ribs alone warrant consideration for the top rating, but given the dessert fail, I’ll stick with 4 stars. It’s better than CBD Provisions, and much better than Stephan Pyles. Just be aware that while lunch is reasonable, dinner will take a big bite out of your credit limit.