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Leslie Brenner Can't Help But Love Cafe Momentum

Plus verdicts on Al's Italian Beef and Thurber Mingus.

Cafe Momentum.
Cafe Momentum.
Ivy Phan

Leslie Brenner reviewed Cafe Momentum: The charitable pop-up group recently found more permanent digs in downtown that the critic says "may be the ultimate feel-good restaurant" — and besides that, the food and service are really good. Brenner "wasn’t expecting to find cooking so inventive and precisely executed here, knowing that the kitchen is staffed by young kids who are just learning their craft." Instead she was impressed by refined dishes like octopus tiradito, "house-made smoked carrot pappardelle that cradled bits of delicious chicken-mole sausage," pork rillette fritters, and a whole roasted cauliflower head. Smoked fried chicken is "awfully good" and served with an "excellent" biscuit. An unusual setup for the wine program means there are plenty of bargains to be had, and service is "refreshingly free of pretension and the usual annoying service clichés." [Dallas Morning News]

Scott Reitz went to Al's Italian Beef: Chicago transplants are going nuts for this recent Addison arrival, which specializes in thin-sliced roast beef sandwiches that can be dressed up with hot or sweet peppers and a judicious (or heavy-handed) dose of beef gravy. Reitz recommends you order your sandwich dipped, "because Al's is not a place for restraint, and a sandwich that has been completely submerged in a rich brown sea of savory is a beautiful thing to behold." Other menu items include Chicago-style Vienna beef hot dogs and the unusual Chi-town specialty of a tamale boat. [Dallas Observer]

Malcolm Mayhew checked out Thurber Mingus: "[Chef Cody] Baumann’s clever and approachable takes on Mex-American make his first restaurant a cut above the norm." The popular goat cheese and bacon jam burger arrived "nicely charred and juicy," though it could have benefited from more seasoning; "toasted and buttery brioche-style buns were a good match for the patty." Tacos are solid too and skin-on fries are excellent, particularly when ordered "Border-style" ("drizzled with a lemony crema"). A poundcake and fruit dessert served in a jar is "worth every bit of $5." Many of the ingredients are local, including all the beers, and the restaurant has a "rustic, homey feel." Service could use some improvements, though. [DFW.com]

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