This year, I’m going to attempt a ridiculous personal project: cooking a recipe from every country playing in the World Cup. I am having loads of fun researching dishes like thieboudienne, Anzac biscuits, Nanaimo bars, and ghormeh sabzi.
But you don’t have to be that intense about the World Cup. You could try going to restaurants for every country instead. In North Texas, this goal is almost achievable. We’re very close to having restaurants from every corner of the globe.
Ready to start writing your culinary to-do list? Read on. We are dividing the 32 World Cup nations in four tiers, based on the ease of trying their food in Dallas. The further you get down this list, the more expert you are.
None of us should have any trouble finding a good restaurant representing the United States of America or Mexico. The foods of Japan and South Korea are also big strengths in the Dallas area. For France, why not try excellent newcomer Knox Bistro?
Our region has at least three solid options for both Germany (Kuby’s, Henk’s, and Bavarian Grill, in rough order of my preference) and Spain (Sketches of Spain, Cafe Madrid, and Si Tapas), plus a handful of English-owned restaurants and pubs. (Note that you’ll have to look for a specifically English theme, since Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland all field their own national soccer teams.)
Finally, you may be surprised by the variety in our food scene representing Iran. My predecessor at D, former dining critic Eve Hill-Agnus, identified Kasra in Richardson as particularly outstanding.
You can knock out two nations in one go at Plano’s West African Way, where the menu includes favorite dishes commonly served in Senegal and Ghana. While you’re traveling the northern suburbs, stop at Allen’s Tango Empanadas & Bakery for a taste of Argentina and Plano’s Taste of Poland, which has both a dining room and a grocery.
Another twofer is available at Eddie’s EuroMart. Although Croatia and Serbia are not friends, historically—they fought a bitter war in the 1990s—their foods are close enough in style that you can probably check both off your list by ordering a big meal at Eddie’s, where the owners are from neighboring Montenegro.
Australia is making a splash on the Dallas dining scene recently, with Bishop Arts’ Isla & Co. making its debut a month ago. Greenville Ave.’s Meyboom Brasserie serves Belgian beers and waffles. Maple Leaf Diner will help you tick Canadian poutine off your agenda. Brazil is represented by only one restaurant, but it’s one of Dallas’ five best: Meridian. Salum currently has an Uruguayan chivito sandwich on its lunch menu. Finally, for a good Moroccan tagine, you can head to Medina in Victory Park.
Although we don’t have any restaurants that are explicitly from Wales, I found Welsh rarebit on two local menus: The Old Monk and From Across the Pond (in Colleyville). Denmark and Switzerland aren’t represented by full menus anywhere, but you can always have a danish and go for fondue.
Things start getting complicated when we reach the next trio of countries. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are theoretically covered by many generic Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurants, but I’m unaware of any that serve dishes specific to either country. Kabsa rice, available at Richardson’s Afrah and Carrollton’s Breezeway Cafe, is a traditional Arabian peninsula staple.
Then there’s Costa Rica. Most of my memories of eating in Costa Rica involve grilled chicken, fresh seafood, and rice and black beans mixed together in one pot. (Also, Costa Ricans love pizza.) Your best bet may be to simply cheat, by looking for dishes from neighbor Nicaragua or visiting Tex-Mex restaurant Casa Rosa, where executive chef José López happens to be Costa Rican.
Our only Ecuadorian restaurant closed this summer, sadly. To cover Tunisia, read this 2011 Nancy Nichols story about the strange history of an exoticized Dallas restaurant called La Tunisia. Cameroon will be hard to find in almost any American city.
Finally, you may be surprised by two more particularly tough countries to find on restaurant menus. Have you ever consumed anything from The Netherlands besides Heineken? In my visits to that country, the best meals I enjoyed were modern farm-to-table meals on the lines of dearly departed FT33. And here’s another European soccer powerhouse that will be impossible to cross off the list: Portugal. Even Lisbon’s famed egg tarts are unavailable in Dallas bakeries. Similar tarts can be found at some Asian bakeries in Plano.
Update: Alert readers have sent in solutions for The Netherlands and Portugal. Although Henk’s European Deli & Black Forest Bakery serves a primarily German menu, founder Henk Winnubst was born in Amsterdam. And peri peri chicken, such as at the Port of Peri Peri, can count for Portugal. The dish has a global history with roots in Brazil, Portugal, and South Africa, and most peri peri restaurateurs in the United States are from the Middle East.
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