One Dallas restaurateur is giving drive-thru junkies solace from the nightmares of Doritos Locos tacos and KFC Double Downs: Erin McKool, who recently debuted the second location of her healthy concept Start on Lemmon Avenue near Oak Lawn. A former attorney who saw an unfilled niche in the market for healthier, high-quality food combined with the convenience of a drive-thru window, McKool recently described Start's offerings as "slow food served as fast as possible."
Woman cannot survive on quinoa salads and stuffed sweet potatoes alone, though; below, McKool spills on her favorite Dallas dining (and drinking) spots.
What's your favorite breakfast or brunch place?
My favorite brunch place is La Duni, and I always get the exact same dish (to go with my favorite bloody mary anywhere): Huevos Rancheros, with both red and green sauces, adding the beef medallion prepared medium rare. My friend and I eat the same meal together at La Duni together about twice a month, and neither of us even look at the menu. For my fortieth birthday, I cherished brunch at the NorthPark location with a couple of friends, adding a flaming slice of Cuatro Leches cake to my usual order.
Where do you go for a quick lunch?
For a quick lunch, I go to Start! Right now, I'm on a turkey club kick with a side of dijonaise. I can eat and meet, and since I genuinely crave Start several times a week, it's the perfect lunch spot for me. Otherwise, I'm not a fan of quick lunches. I love long, lingering lunches with my husband or friends. I have my favorite places, but they vary according to whom I'm meeting. I have a friend up north that I eat lunch with often, and we always eat at Houston's on Belt Line Road. I always get the chicken salad with peanut dressing, with a side of red cabbage and goat cheese, if it's available. If my husband and I have extra time to spare, we like to meet at Café Pacific or R&D Kitchen. But, my current favorite lunch spot to meet friends is Forty-Five Ten's T Room. I love the combination options!
Where and what do you eat after you get off work late?
Getting off late from work doesn't really apply to me anymore, but when our family gets home late from football practice or some other activity, we love to order food in. With the new courier apps, like Favor, the sky is the limit on what we can order! If it's really late, too late for a proper meal, my favorite quick meal is a bowl of cottage cheese with cherry tomatoes, sliced avocado, chopped pine nuts (or pecans), with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of this amazing salt/pepper blend from Sur la Table.
Where do you like to drink, and what do you usually order?
Before we had our son, my husband and I spent many evenings lingering over wine and cheese at Cru in the West Village. These days, we have to be more deliberate in planning a drink, but when we do, we still love to sip red wine (he's a Pinot/Burgundy lover, and I'm a fan of huge California cabernet blends) or we'll have a fresh-made cocktail. The cocktails at Gemma are amazing, and closer to home, we enjoy the margaritas crafted at Neighborhood Services.
What's your go-to date night destination?
Thankfully, dining in even the best restaurants in Dallas doesn't require dressing up anymore. Still, it's nice to put on something extra special for romantic dates, and in that spirit, we really enjoy Al Biernat's. In fact, that's where we spent our Valentine's Day dinner.
What's your favorite pizza place?
I can't remember the last time I went out for pizza, but I know it was at Cane Rosso, and of course it was delicious! More typically, pizza is ordered for in-home eating, and that means Campisi's for us.
Do you have a favorite burger in town?
I absolutely love Hopdoddy's burgers and their truffle fries with aioli. I hesitate to say it, since I've already mentioned Start once, but I also really love our own grass-fed burger, with sharp cheddar and applewood-smoked bacon.
What's your favorite ethnic restaurant?
I love so many different cuisines that it's hard to just name one favorite ethnic restaurant. I would have to mention Foods From Galilee, though, as it's a McKool family favorite. We love everything there from the hummus and labneh to the kibbeh and grape leaves. It's also a wonderful date place, and since it's BYOB, the wine list is unlimited!
Any hidden gems or hole-in-the-walls you swear by?
I'm not sure that it's a hidden gem anymore, but Sakhuu is incredible. I love curries, and theirs are to die for. The hard part is picking just one dish, so I like to try to go with friends who share! It's also a BYOB joint, and from what I understand, a family-run business. The food is excellent, and the service is always so friendly.
Any other favorite restaurants elsewhere in the U.S.?
My favorite city to eat in (outside Dallas of course) is New York. We spent half our time there for almost four years, traveling back and forth every two weeks. During that time, I ate my way through Manhattan and just got started on Brooklyn before we came back to Dallas for good. I love every concept Danny Meyer has created, and one of my favorite restaurants that is still open is Gramercy Tavern. My favorite sushi restaurant in the country is in New York: Sushi Yasuda. My favorite burger joint is in New York: DBGB, and the most unforgettable dining experience of my life was at Per Se with our family and friends.