If you can do without condescending sommeliers, thrice-marked-up wines, and valet parking… you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the great dining experiences – not to mention great values – to be had at Dallas’s B.Y.O restaurants. I’m talking about genuine B.Y.O.’s that will uncork your bottle or lend you a corkscrew without charging a corking fee. In these establishments there’s no worry about whether the wine list will have something which appeals to you at a price less than your car payment. Here if you’re not drinking a bottle of your very favorite with the meal or if you’ve overpaid for it you’ve no one to blame but yourself!
These three East Dallas B.Y.O.’s prove the point that the food has to be damned good in a restaurant that serves no alcohol!
Bangkok Inn. Located at 6033 Oram just off Skillman (at the edge of the Skillman/Live Oak Shopping Center), this is not one of those Thai restaurants that look like the movie set of The King & I.
It evokes instead the feel of a country village restaurant. It’s bright and warm with plenty of Thai artifacts on the walls. Twenty or so tables are spread across two adjacent dining rooms to create very intimate spaces.
Bangkok Inn is owned and operated by the Schuskul family, who came to Dallas from Thailand via Maryland and later Houston.
Expect much of the traditional on this menu. There are good Tom Yam Kai and Kai Tom Kha soups and egg rolls and spring rolls appetizers. Also be delighted by a great Thai Dumpling or a satay in pork, shrimp, or chicken. For me the entrée always comes down to the hard choice between equally tasty green, red and yellow chicken or beef curries. For dessert check out the fried banana with honey over ice cream or the banana in coconut milk.
There’s a good selection of vegetarian entrees here and no entrée is priced above $10.95
Sevan G&G Café. Located at 2221 Greenville between Richmond and Belmont, this restaurant’s name reflects the purchase in 2004 of the Sevan restaurant by current owners Grace and George.
Walk through covered patio dining to enter the dining room, where wood paneling and a cozy layout create the warm and comfortable atmosphere of a true neighborhood bistro. The owners are originally from Lebanon, and art and implements from the Mediterranean decorate the walls. Like an increasing number of restaurants in the area, Sevan G&G draws an eclectic crowd ranging from Lakewood and M Street homeowners to young apartment dwellers.
The expected Mediterranean fare – hummus, baba ganoush, dolmas, and gyro are all without exception well done. Then there are unique offerings like the Pistachio Chicken, an amply-sized chicken breast encrusted with ground pistachios and stuffed with feta cheese.
At just under $23, the rack of lamb is the most expensive item on the menu by a far shot; most entrees range between $10-$15. The owners are always to be seen in both the front and back of the house, and they make you feel like you’ve been invited to dine in their home
Jade Garden. If there’s an inverse relationship between the flashiness of the restaurant and the quality of the food, then Jade Garden is absolute proof positive. Located in a building that looks like it was a Dairy Queen in a past life, the interior can be charitably described as ‘60’s kitsch. At 4800 Bryan near Fitzhugh, Jade Garden sits within eyesight of Jimmy’s Food Store (see my separate post “Dallas’s Italian Grocery“) in a neighborhood best described as transitional.
There’s lots more here, though, than first meets the eye.
A first tip-off is that menu items are listed in English, Chinese, and Vietnamese and there are usually at least as many Asian diners as not.
The menu’s so robust as to almost intimidate, but I always order from the whiteboard specials, usually after the owner walks me through my options. A favorite of mine is the Salt & Pepper Soft Shell Crab. Trust me… the unassuming name doesn’t even begin to do it justice.
(For those who can’t appreciate the kitch there’s always take-out!)
These unique eateries all have in common their focus on great food served in unpretentious surroundings by immigrant owners who take a very personal role in the delivery of customer satisfaction. They’ve all been around long enough to prove their timeless appeal and you’ll see fanatically-loyal customers regularly at their tables.