Holy mackerel, is this place good.
Look, I will be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for anything fried, chocolatey, or bacony; so, Ida Claire already had a leg up on the “OMG! Love!” list with me, but I’m no sell-out. Just because you say you’re deep fried and delicious doesn’t mean I’m taking the bait.
Okay, so technically I had to take the bait because I needed to try it, but that didn’t mean I was gonna like it!
Not only is Ida Claire my new BFF, she hit high technical marks in all categories and even added some new vices to my list, like their remarkable Bird of Paradise dish. We’ll talk more about that in a moment.
The vibe is reminiscent of your old, eccentric great-auntie’s attic without all the dust – humorously eclectic and oddly comfortable. The ceiling adorned with bird cages and walls plastered with uniquely charismatic plates and cups caught my attention, along with the huge, “auntie-esque” chairs along the wall booths (without the plastic covering). Even the crew exhibited a bit of eccentricity that contributed to the vibe: servers singing to the music, runners noticeably excited and proud of the food they were delivering and a few interesting styling choices sprinkled across the room. Plus, the added bonus was hearing both Journey and Michael Jackson in the mix overhead. Hee-heeeee!
Anyway, I’ve been excited about this place since I heard it was going to open. Being a huge fan of Whiskey Cake and Mexican Sugar, I expected nothing less than amaze-balls from Ida Claire, and she delivered. I decided to wait a few weeks after their official opening before giving them a try, and it was so worth the wait.
Our server Tracey was a superstar. Not only did she know her menu, she asked great questions to help steer us in the right direction and lead us down the path of “goodness gracious that’s incredible.” We started with a couple of delicious cocktails, an Ivan Collins (classic Tom Collins but gin replaced with vodka) and the Hemingway Daiquiri. Then, Tracey suggested their Crawfish Corn Fritters and the Pecan Wood Roasted Oysters.
I’m not a huge fan of hushpuppy-like fritters because so many places under-season the dadgum things and ruin my groove once I penetrate that crunchy exterior. But, I do declare, Ida Claire knocked this one out of the park. I would have taken a picture of the crawfish-laden, brightly colored interior had we not eaten them all up with that phenomenal remoulade sauce right away. And, those oysters??? The warm spiciness running through the greens and smoky bacon was the perfect touch to the crisp, buttery breadcrumbs wrapped over the oysters.
Bear enjoyed their spin on a fun classic, Chicken and Waffles. Their play included chili-spiced watermelon and a hearty but light cornbread waffle. Plating could have used some assistance, but the flavors were all present and accounted for here.
I, however, indulged in the Bird of Paradise. And, boy was it ever. This unassumingly dynamic combination of pecan-grilled tender, succulent chicken breast perfectly seasoned and delightfully perched on top of a bed of cippollini onions, greens, enoki mushrooms and local peas was simply spectacular and the star of the evening. Every single mouthful was like a sultry, seductive dance of unctuous flavor and contrasting textures, creating more and more depth with every bite. And, the next time I visit Ida Claire (likely this week), I will most definitely struggle with ordering something different after my delectable initial encounter.
Now, if nothing I’ve said has convinced you to try Ida Claire thus far, get ready for a Vice Cake grip that will bring you to your knees. This friggin’ cake is UH-MAZING. Ida Claire ain’t kidding around with this final act. We were leaning towards the Bartender’s Cake when Tracey asked if she could choose our dessert, to which we trustingly obliged. Then, she showed up with the mother of all indulgences, the Vice Cake.
My soul was touched – truly. It was an Oprah “a-ha” experience in every way. The layers of smoked stout cake alternating with the coffee buttercream, covered in milk chocolate ganache and teased with candied bacon had me squealing in my seat. Yes, little piggy, that was me. When I think of Pastry Chef Sarah Lewis creating this masterpiece, I think of that Charlie Daniel’s tune “Devil Went Down to Georgia” but instead he went down to Ida Claire, and Chef Lewis is like Johnny on the fiddle but instead Chef Lewis kicked the devil’s ass with Vice Cake!
It was that damn good. Go get you some!
For those who want the video version, here’s my short 20 second clip I made of our visit via Tastemade.com.
5001 Belt Line Rd, Dallas, TX 75254