On my first trip to the DFW area to visit family almost 8 years ago, I would have never labeled Irving a foodie’s destination. Almost a decade later (with more money to spend), I’ve changed my mind. Irving is for sure a foodie’s dream. From Tex Mex staples to old school diners, Irving is sporting restaurants featuring cuisine from Texas to India. It’s a smorgasbord of deliciousness you can’t help but return to. I mentioned in the recent Five Things To Do post that I had the opportunity to join an Irving press trip during my most recent visit to Texas. A few of the destinations I’m about to share with you were included in that press trip and boy am I glad they were. Lori, the amazing woman who organized this press trip pulled out every single stop and made sure there was no question that we enjoyed our weekend discovering Irving. So check out the five joints below and tell me in the comments what you look forward to when visiting Texas when it comes to food. I’m all ears!
Big State Fountain Grill
Big State Fountain Grill is one of those places you’d expect to see on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. It’s an old school, corner restaurant with a little shop when you walk in and classic diner seating in the restaurant part. The menu consists of anything you can think of but one of the things they’re known for is ice cream. Get a scoop as big as your head and just try and eat that on cone. The Floats and Ice Cream Sodas are for sure a favorite and I was the poor soul who ended up trying both (what dairy intolerance?). Being someone who has always detested the taste of Root Beer, I got all Dr. Pepper and my taste buds were tantalized. Big State uses Bluebell Ice Cream, a brand that is apparently HUGE in the South. Please excuse my northern ignorance. We’re all about that Oberweis.
Big State is more than ice cream though. The chili cheese fries, for one, are a local favorite and let’s not forget their “Dang Good Burgers.” I’ll tell you what, on my next visit I will for sure be ordering the Big State Cheeseburger with a side of Stroker’s Fries...or maybe onion rings (what the heck, how about both). While the food is dang delicious, the service is even better. Big State is a family-owned business (my favorite) and everyone is crazy friendly. It’s owned by Rick Fairless who owns a few other businesses in the area but his daughter is the one who really handles Big State and she’s one of the sweetest, coolest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. She’s also the one who insisted that I get the Float on top of the Ice Cream Soda (because you can’t leave Big State never having tasted a Float in your entire life). I swear there are good things about being a northerner...we have the best pasta and pizza and we have four seasons!
Empa Mundo Empanadas
If there is an empanada joint in a city I’m visiting, you bet I will find it. Empanadas are my weakness. Sweet, savory, spicy, a combo of both...I love them all! And since they’re so small, you can try several without feeling guilty (or several halves). It’s a food lover’s dream come true. There’s nothing worse than being committed to only one dish! Empa Mundo was a spot that came recommended through the Visit DFW website and as soon as I found out about it, I needed to try it out. My cousin Catherine and I ventured over on a rainy day for a late lunch treat. Let’s start with the lady who owns it. Her and her husband are both from Argentina and they’ve brought their Argentinian roots to Irving. She’s super friendly, talkative and will walk you through the empanadas if you like. While we were chatting, she told us how how people come to her with suggestions and they figure out a way to add them to the menu. That’s actually how the Pulled Pork empanadas came to be. Someone suggested them, her husband spent a day perfecting a recipe and voila! Now you can order pulled pork empanadas.
I ordered four empanadas during our visit and we took them to go with this AMAZING red sauce that I have no idea what it is but I want to go back to order a giant jug of it. Anyway, I chose three savory: Chorizo, Spinach and Ricotta, and Cheesesteak, and one sweet: Banana and Nutella. They were all fantastic. The chorizo is made with potatoes and peppers. It wasn’t too spicy and even had a sweet note to it. The spinach and ricotta also had parmesan and eggs. When the description said “eggs,” I thought it meant the egg was worked in like any other ricotta pasta filling. No. It’s actually cut up hard-boiled eggs so be prepared. I still enjoyed it but I definitely wasn’t expecting it. The cheesesteak has onions and peppers and was mind blowing. I wasn’t expecting to love this one so much but I think it was my favorite. Finally the banana and nutella is exactly as it sounds but with marshmallows. Everything is all melty when you bite into it and it’s a nutella dream. This is a great quick-stop if you don’t have lots of time.
La Margarita was another one of the restaurants we stopped at on our Irving press trip. It’s a classic Mexican/Tex-Mex restaurant. We sampled a lot of different dishes so I’ll be doing a full restaurant review in the future but I still wanted to touch on it a bit for the round-up. La Margarita serves up a combo of traditional Mexican dishes and classic Tex-Mex. For example, they make tableside guacamole with all the fixings...including bacon which my Mexican best friend says is a big no-no. Munch on tacos, nachos, quesadillas, fajitas, bocadillos...anything you can think of. The food is incredible. This is another spot where I have zero complaints.
Another stop from our tour of Irving, The Ranch is located in Las Colinas, a community of residential buildings, hotels and lots of entertainment. It’s kind of like its own town inside of the city of Irving if that makes sense. The Ranch is a Texas Steakhouse serving up all the meats, classic sides, and dishes with innovation and creativity you wouldn’t find at any random steakhouse. They’re farm-to-table cuisine which means they source local for their meat and produce, something I am a HUGE fan of. The Ranch has locations all over Texas (mostly south and east) so if you can’t get to the Irving location, check out one of their others for a bite.
We had a ton to eat here including a tour of their dessert menu (again, dairy overload) so I’ll be sharing a full restaurant review in the future but for now, I’ll highlight my personal dinner and one of the starters we enjoyed. The Chef’s “Favorite 4” (pictured above) is a platter of queso blanco, onion rings, mini elk tacos and fried green tomatoes. Holy fried food is all I have to say. But is anything really as good as when it’s fried? I mean come on, those onion rings were massive and to die for. I ordered the Smoked Fried Chicken after one too many recommendations. It was great and I loved the sides (especially the cornbread and mac n’ cheese) but after the amount of food I ate that day, I still wish I went with a flatbread I had my eye on. This girl has one too many food intolerances and when they’re all put to the test at the same time, death is an outcome I’d like to have the option to choose. Let’s just say the next three days were spent sipping ice cold coke and eating saltines. I love the job of food blogger and I love working with food in my day job as well but man, does my body hate it when I overindulge. I blame bad genes…thanks ancestors.
The Final Spot I’m Too Embarrassed to Give A Title
So, the final “restaurant” I want to share is a little unconventional compared to what I typically lean towards when it comes to food. You know those places that everyone raves about, the ones that have a large hype around them and you feel like you’re missing out if you haven’t tried them? Let me forward by saying I am not a fast food diner...ever. I have my “quick” places when I need a bite to eat but on the traditional fast food scale, it’s not my thing. It makes me feel sick, I always regret my decision and it often feels like a waste of money. Whataburger would be my one exception. I’ll have a cheeseburger on occasion while visiting family in Texas. This last time, I felt like I needed to try In-N-Out for the first time. I blame Selena Gomez. I’ve seen so many Instagram posts from her eating In-N-Out and raving about it. It seemed like I couldn’t go anywhere online without seeing how life changing In-N-Out burgers were. So I put the hype to the test and ordered my very first In-N-Out burger (disclaimer: I’m not sure if it was actually in Irving but we’ll include it regardless).
The verdict...it’s a burger. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but I am still flummoxed on all the hype. It was just a burger. They have this special sauce on it that is pretty good but I wasn’t blown away by any means. I know a lot of you are probably reading this thinking, “how has she never had In-N-Out before?” I grew up in the south Chicago suburbs and have lived in the Chicago area my whole life. Until the last couple of years, we’ve only had the larger chains (McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, etc.). Whataburger, In-N-Out, Sonic, Wing Stop...all those don't exist. We only got a Chick-Fil-A like five years ago. I didn’t see a Wing Stop until after I graduated college. And don’t even talk to me about Sonic because those commercials look damn good and you can’t find one within a 100-mile radius.
So tell me, have you dined in Irving? Have you had an In-N-Out Burger? Chat away in the comments below!