Stephan Pyles Stampede 66 has already created a lot of interest among Dallas diners. There is going to be even more now that the restaurant has introduced “Sunday Supper” where we were invited media. I predict that this seating is going to prove as popular with Dallas as Sunday brunch. The basic idea is that there is a set menu, live music, and a fixed price for food (a regular bar menu is also available) of $35 for adults and $20 for children.
The helpings are large enough that you are actually getting two meals for the price of one (we took Monday lunch and dinner home!) so this is an undiscovered bargain – even without considering the complimentary valet parking. When you add in the fact that there is no traffic to contend with on Sunday nights, I see Stampede Sundays becoming a favorite with Uptown, Downtown and Victory Park residents very soon.
The menu is a winner with Dallas palates. The three courses start with (local) Tassione Farms salad of roasted beats, baby mustards and candied pecans. Not listed on the online menu is the delicious crumbled blue cheese sprinkled over in generous quantities. Accompanying the salad was Homestead Gristmill Shrimp and Grits. That is a rather glib description of what must be one of the most addictive dishes in Dallas. The caramelized onions don’t even get menu space (they must have been in the wrong union) but they contribute a sweet and lasting complexion to the salty grits (that’s powlenta to y’all in Italy – TX) and the plumb shrimp. Put me down as a voter for this as a Great Dallas Dish of 2013.
Next is the Mother Of All Main Courses. On one side, Honey Fried Chicken. On the other, Barbecued Venison Flank Steak. Accompanying them were Maple Buttermilk Biscuits, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Smokey Southern Green Beans and Apple-Celery Root Slaw.
This is simply a feast of memory lane. Nothing falls short of contender for best in class (executive sous chef, Alex Astranti sweats the details). The chicken is crisply battered without a hint of greasiness (the Queen of England might say “We shall pick up our drumstick”). The barbecued venison is a stealth attack on the ingrained conservatism of barbecue culture. Nobody (?) else has venison on the menu at their barbecue joint but Pyles take is a compelling recommendation. It is moist, intensely flavored, and deserving of instant cult status. The slaw — I never eat slaw, but I shall beat the moll to the refrigerator to scarf the remainder of this down. Earthy, tingling, fruity. All these adjectives seem on cue for this side dish.
Finally, the cardiologist’s friend. Malted Chocolate Panna Cotta, Peanut Butter Mousse, Candy Corn was a tour de force. Like chocolate? The light panna cotta here will enrapture you. Junkie for peanut butter (or mainlining on Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups – like me)? This dish will have you putting your credit card for rehab. on auto-renewal. I don’t know who the dessert wizard is at Stampede, but I need to find out.
Putting Stampede 66 into context is both hard and easy. It is hard because if anyone asks you what is like it, there is nothing. It is a new category of dining in Dallas. It is easy because, if you ask Stephan Pyles, he instantly and intuitively puts it into context. “This is not a style of cuisine, this is a memory of what I grew up with in Big Spring, TX”, he says. The Sunday night dinners with live music. He plays piano, although the fact is little known. I asked him if he would offer to do so at a charity auction for the North Texas Food Bank that he so feverishly supports in return for the high bidder raising by a $1,000. He retorted that the high bid would likely go up another $1,000 if he promised not to sing! FYI: The live band on Sunday played Texas country favorites at a respectable volume that allowed people to enjoy the music and their company.
This is a classic Pyles establishment in another respect: He and his team are the best at creating places that are, in the modern idiom, ‘democratic’ or ‘inclusive’. Stampede is a comfortable place to come as you are, whether it is the jeans we wore, or the church wear of a family at another table, or the suits of some business guys in town for Monday meetings. The staff, especially our waitress Saundra, went out of their way to make us feel welcome.
So put Stampede in this category: Unique. Texan. Quaility. Sine Qua Non. All of those adjectives fit the bill.
Stampede 66 | 1717 McKinney, Dallas | 214.550.6966