Unless you’ve been living at the bottom of White Rock Lake, you have felt the pain excitement of the George W. Bush Presidential Library opening up at SMU a few weeks back. I try to get as non redneck vs. granola treehugger as possible so I won’t be discussing the library itself. Rather, I’ll stick to what I know – food.
Unbeknownst to me prior to being invited to a media luncheon, Cafe 43 opened its doors complimenting the library. In order to dine at this locally sourced spot, you do not have to visit the library OR visit the gift shop. Executive Chef John Maas has created an menu that offers dishes that are made entirely in house with a focus on using sustainably and local ingredients. All of this wrapped up in an unsuspecting and simply decorated room, much like the White House itself.
Within seconds of sitting down we were presented with plates of beautiful starters. Chunky hummus topped with sweet peppers and grilled flat bread was a nice treat. Although the texture was more like baba ganoush, the hummus was delicious but the flat bread itself is what made the dish great. Charred and topped with fine herbs, the flat bread is something I wish they would bag and sell out the side window. My favorite of the starters was the in house made ricotta served with tapenade and crostinis. Although I am not generally a ricotta fan, this dish made me want to run home and figure out how the hell to make it. Light and fresh – this dish would be great on a Sunday afternoon with a glass or twelveof chardonnay.
An interesting twist on salads line the menu including kale with duck prosciutto, crab cake salad with melon slaw and one that I was able to sample, the turkey cobb with fried green tomato. Your tradition cobb with bacon, blue cheese, tomatoes and freshly sliced turkey is then topped with two plump fried green tomatoes. Although I wish the fried green tomatoes had flavor within themselves, Cafe 43 gets points for effort. A sampling of sandwiches was presented next and although I heard several comments about the slow cooked pulled BBQ pork being “the best in town, yall!” I dont fuck with pig so I can’t speak from personal experience on that one. However, I did take a nibble of the jalapeno cheddar bun and I wanted to wrap by body in it. I was able to taste the turkey pastrami with fontina and grain mustard and it was decent. The best? No. The marble rye bread that is made specifically for Cafe 43 by La Spiga absolutely makes it though. Side Note: Hey, La Spiga – fucking open up a location downtown will ya? Next up was the entrees! We were served the arctic char which was laying on a bed of corn and sweet pea succotash and creole vinaigrette and perhaps the thinnest piece of fish I’ve ever seen served. The flavor was off and the succotash didn’t make up for it enough for me to be a fan. Hand cut pappardelle with mushrooms, asparagus, tomato and pecorino lined the table and was calling my name the second it was set down. Beautiful and plump pasta piled high and was just as delicious as it sounds. Let’s be honest, I could house an entire plate of this as an appetizer alone. I wonder what it would take for Chef Maas and I to come to a little agreement that this dish would be delivered to my house on any given rainy and/or cold day… Last but DEFINITELY not least, dessert. The desserts here are incredible. As in, to the point where I would change out of my pajamas, get in my car, drive here, sit by myself and gorge on the desserts here at Cafe 43 – that is big news, folks. Before the starters even arrived at our table, I spied this sucker and almost flew out of my seat: griddled.carrot.cake. GRIDDLED, dammit! Nestled on carrot puree and topped with a dollop of cardamom cream cheese, this dessert does not suck. I suppose you could throw a piece of carrot cake into a George Foreman and make your own griddled cake. Best of luck to you on that one. Remember that part about how the chef over at Cafe 43 make everything in house? They even make the ice cream in house! There is an ice cream and sorbet made every day so the flavors will vary but on our particular day, the flavor was a simple and delicious chocolate. This enormous scoop of ice cream has a pile of crisps hidden underneath so that it doesn’t slip and slide all around.
I was so pleasantly surprised with the meal at Cafe 43 and encourage everyone to check it out with or without the visit to the Presidential Library. The menu here will rotate based on what is in season in order to provide the freshest and therefore, most delicious meals possible. I am anxious to go back and see what else my face can destroy.