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Texas Food Adventures

Out-of-the-box oddities and familiar foods done distinctly Dallas, let’s explore some of the more adventurous cuisine found in the Big D. Fruit and vegetables? Sure, if they’re garnishing a margarita or deep fried.

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Photo: State Fair of Texas®

Fair Foods

What food isn’t better after a soak in the deep-fat fryer? To honor the importance of the fabulously fried on restaurant menus and dinner tables across Texas, the State Fair in Dallas holds an annual Big Tex Choice Awards, in which the Fair’s food purveyors compete in fabulous fried fare fabrication. The categories are Best Taste: Sweet, Best Taste: Savory and Most Creative—a category that allows for some truly inspired culinary constructions. Cases in point: winners Funnel Cake Bacon Queso Burger (2017), Funnel Cake Ale (2014) and Fried Bubblegum (2011). Pictured is Deep Fried Shepherd’s Pie by Clint Probst, a 2018 finalist for Best Taste: Savory.

How to enjoy: Visit the State Fair! Every dish that makes it to the finals is sold at the fair—as well as some popular nonfinalists. Also, head over to the Creative Arts Building during your visit to see what happens when you hand a sculptor 1,000 pounds of butter.

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Photo: George W. Bailey / Shutterstock

Hot Pepper

Dr Pepper—the oldest American soft drink—was invented in 1885 in Chip and Jo’s hometown of Waco by a pharmacist who liked to tinker with the mixtures of the soda drinks. Dr Pepper is now enjoyed throughout the world, but how about this Dallas deviation—Hot Dr Pepper! I know, I know: It’s hard to imagine our warm, Southern city deliberately embracing a toasty version of a conventionally icy drink, but they have a close and trusting relationship. Dr Pepper was produced and bottled in Dallas for close to 100 years, although now the soda’s home is in the (gasp) Yankee territory of Massachusetts. The Hot Dr Pepper sensation was actually the product of an ad campaign in the 1960s to boost soda sales during the winter, and Dallasites still enjoy it to this day, especially in December and January when the temperature plunges into the low 60s.

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Photo: Fanfo / Shutterstock

Tex-Mex Treats

As you may have noticed, Mexican food is a big deal in Texas. It's a culinary love affair between the southern state and its southern border, and Dallas is no exception. Menudo and pancita ("little stomach") are traditional Mexican soups made from, well, do we really need to say? Sometimes their names are used interchangeably, but menudo generally contains hominy and is made with honeycomb beef tripe (the cow’s second stomach), which is what gives this spicy soup its noteworthy texture. It varies regionally, but pancita is often made without hominy and can include sheep tripe instead. Both soups have hooves or feet or knuckles (depending on the donor animal) to flavor the broth. Don’t get cold feet now. What do you think that bone broth stashed in your cabinet is made from?

How to enjoy: With the plethora of authentic Mexican offerings in Dallas, you shouldn’t have trouble finding it. Gonzalez keeps it on the menu and Cuquita’s offers it on the weekend. You can also make it at home. You’ll have time for siesta; cooking it right is an all-day kind of endeavor.

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Photo: CBD Provisions

Wow-Worthy Carnitas

Berkshire Pig Head Carnitas could be the most delicious entrée on the extreme end of the carnivore-herbivore spectrum. Let’s face it, there’s not a hope of pretending you’re not eating a pig’s head with this dish. When you taste it, however, any moral reservations will wash away in a delectable deluge of fat and flavor. Preparation is no small feat: CBD Provisions chefs brine each pig’s head for five days, steam it for 12 hours, roast it for 2-3 more and then broil it a bit to crisp the skin before serving. The upshot is lip-smacking and reflects the effort. It’s hard to imagine a vegetarian alternative to this one.

How to enjoy: Visit the modern Texas brasserie CBD Provisions in the Joule Hotel downtown, calling 24 hours in advance to reserve your head.

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