Roots mean everything to the chef Tiffany Derry. Raised in Southeast Texas, she attributes her roots in Southern cooking to spending time shelling peas, peeling greens, preserving fig jams, and helping with other chores at her grandmother’s farm in Louisiana.
“So my roots are, I think, one of the most precious things that I carry,” she says. “Our roots can be not only explored but shared.” It’s why her restaurants bear the name Roots Chicken Shak and Roots Southern Table. It’s why her new show on PBS, The Great American Recipe, focuses on uplifting food and family.
In 2006, Derry put down roots in Dallas, where she says the city’s culinary culture has moved far beyond the “steak and potatoes” menus of a decade ago. A cadre of young chefs have moved in or grown up in Dallas, breathing new life into the city’s culinary offerings. Even beyond the city limits, new development in its northern suburbs make Big D’s dining scene even bigger. “It pushes us all to be creative and…to create great food and have that story and be able to educate consumers on where their food is coming from,” Derry says. “All of that is the job of the chef.”
Downtown digs as a homebase.
Derry’s own two restaurants are in the suburbs of Farmers Branch and Plano, but she says her favorite place to send visitors is The Joule in downtown Dallas. Its centralized location is perfect for out-of-town guests to grab an Uber and explore the rest of the city, she says. “It gives them a little glitz and glamor,” Derry says. “There’s something to do continuously.” Such as Derry’s favorite part of the hotel: The Joule’s spa.
Don’t miss diners.
For a classic diner breakfast, Derry suggests Eddie’s Diner in Plano. “I have a love for diners. In fact, I’ve always dreamed of opening a diner,” she says. “Every time I go eat breakfast, I get the dream again and it feels alive.”
Derry is opening a new Roots Chicken Shak in the suburb of DeSoto, but her original location stands in Plano’s Legacy West development. The 415,000 square-foot retail and entertainment complex features shops and plenty of food. “It has great dessert spots, coffee shops,” Derry says. “There are late night spots that you can kind of chill out in the area too, if you’re looking for that… It’s a mix of everything.”
Derry’s favorite spot for birthday parties, get-togethers and even just a casual lunch is ZENse, a family-owned Thai restaurant in an Irving strip mall. “I have not had a better Pad Thai in the city,” Derry says. “They have a coconut chicken soup. Oh my God. It is so delicious.” For Vietnamese food beyond just pho, Derry recommends District One Saigon Street Food.
For Texas barbecue, Derry doesn’t hesitate on her favorite: “Pecan Lodge, baby. I can’t get past that brisket. I just love that brisket,” she says. The Deep Ellum favorite often has a line out the door when it opens for daily lunch service, but Derry offers a pro-tip: Skip the line, sit at the bar, and order your smoked meats from there.
Date night dining.
Sushi at Tei Tei Robata Bar is a date night standard for Derry. Sushi not your romantic vibe? Try Gemma, a few blocks down Henderson Avenue. Their rabbit pappardelle with swiss chard is Derry’s pick. “Gotta go with the classic,” she says. “Hasn’t come off the menu since day one, and there’s a reason.”