Sunday, March 20, 2011

BEE (Best Enchiladas Ever) – EXACTLY

Yesterday Mary had enchiladas for lunch at BEE (a not so humble acronym that stands for Best Enchiladas Ever) with one of her work buds. This new “fast-casual” place is conveniently located near her gallery district work home, south of the Trinity River in historic Oak Cliff. She came home with glowing reports of quality and flavorful enchilada offerings and entreaties that she/we go back soon – for more. This “enchiladeria” is located at 202 West Davis a stone’s throw south of the Cuellar Family’s highly regarded Tejano restaurant so I wondered who could be so bold (perhaps impertinent) as to set up shop next to a Mexican food icon.

Mary is always to be trusted and like restaurant critic extraordinaire and sometimes potty mouth Alice “Fat Bastard” Laussade of the Dallas Observer, exhorted that BEE, “Lives up to its name.” and “They were the best. Enchiladas. Ever.” Laussade cops an attitude (that serves her well) and she usually hits home runs. I trust her judgment. I trust Mary’s more. If truth be told, the next day wasn’t too soon for us to re/visit BEE. Indeed, (sanity check) why didn’t we go down there that same evening?

The Oak Cliff neighborhood is in recovery mode and given its historic and strategic importance to Dallas along with a dedicated local leadership and committed citizenry, is fast regaining respectability and livability. No security issues here though we did note that across the street is a now boarded up apartment building made somewhat more picturesque given a huge wisteria vine marking the spot where the infamous Lee Harvey Oswald once resided.

BEE’s physical location used to house The Quinn Bar & Grill and Long John Silver’s (LJS) and while I don’t want to shoot arrows at my Celtic cousins or LJS, BEE given the efforts of Best Restauranteur (D Magazine) Monica Greene of Aca y Alla and Cayuse fame (long inspirational story) and Beekeeper K. Steven Roberts has substantially upgraded that locale in both stature and creative, meaningful cuisine. It brings Oak Cliff yet one step closer to prosperity as businesses including merchants and restauranteurs with unique, marketable products move into the area. Not unlike Atlanta’s Grant Park and Virginia Highlands neighborhoods, this is a success story in the making.

Another Dallas Observer contributor Andrea Grimes, an award-winning freelance journalist and columnist for the Observer also reviewed BEE. She hit the mark with her review and since I couldn’t do better, part it follows.

“Go straight for the Chipotle Crema Sauce.

Actually, first go left, when you walk in the door and fill out the little order card, then give that to the cashier, then tell Monica -- or whoever is behind the counter -- all of the many and various extras you want on your personalized enchilada. Just make sure there's chipotle crema in there somewhere. You can have the thick, spicy sauce on a corn, wheat or flour tortilla filled with all manner of peppery meats or cheeses. You can have it with rice. You can have it with beans. But you'll want it as a smoky complement to any of Monica's many ingredients.

Between the epic crema and the near-infinite seeming personalization choices, BEE might really have some of the best enchiladas ever. It's not just that the food is great -- it's that you can build your best enchilada. And that'll be the title of my first self-help book.”

A Google search will reveal even more reviews and even a nod from the apparently not so distant New York Times who tapped BEE as a must stop for visiting 2011 Super Bowl revelers. Good news travels fast as they have only been open for about two months.

The BEE with its check list menu/order card and counter-service enchiladeria reminded me of a cross between Chipotle, Freebird’s and Which Witch. New customers don’t take long to figure out the system and then get down to the most pleasant part of this experience – eating your enchiladas. Your toughest decision might ultimately be how many to order.

BEE always makes their enchiladas with fresh, natural, and organic products. BEE’s staff appears dedicated to help you build the perfect enchilada, your way with extensive choices of fillings, tortillas, cheeses and sauces. Some of the meat fillings include carnitas, beef brisket, chicken tinga, beef picadillo, shrimp Diablo, tilapia, cheese or even vegetarian/vegan alternatives (“venchiladas”) including the Sweet Amarillo a mashed sweet potato enchilada with roasted Amarillo (roasted yellow bell pepper) sauce. It appears to this uninitiated writer that there are strong hints of an Aca Y Alla influence. The more the better…

Now if you want to pursue more food options at BEE, yes, you can order tacos, burritos, salads and a variety of what they call “beesides.”

BEE is an idea born out of 30 plus years of experience in the restaurant business in Dallas. This appears to be a carefully crafted concept (with some precedence) where the owners appear to be willing to go the distance. This concept looks to be easily replicated and with their lighter and healthier fare their success looks to be a given. I do wonder about their margins – such high quality for a low cost. Yes, they have to make money on what looks to be slim margins. We do earnestly hope that they will be able to sell in sufficient volume to justify the concept and, hopefully, other locations when they have their formula polished.

Eating is once again a celebration at BEE and I give the food an A+++++ (the Best) though the dining area could use more tweaking. Having said that, I didn’t go to BEE for the Mexican tile and the exposed wood beams. I went there for the food (that’s the point) and was not disappointed. Welcome back, Monica. We hope you have the same positive influence on Oak Cliff you’ve had on Deep Ellum. We thank Beekeeper K. Steven Roberts for his hospitality and vision.

So, get out there and support this eatery and spread the word about the genius of their offerings. Be selfish. You’ll be doing yourself a huge favor.


Ned Buxton

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