Sweet eats in Irving, beyond the PDK

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Daniel Orazio
Staff Writer

 

Griff’s Hamburgers, 718 E Irving Blvd

 

Heading back to campus after my recent haircut at Henry’s Barbershop, I spotted Griff’s and stopped in for lunch. I can imagine no better complement to a haircut from Henry than a burger from Griff’s.

Griff’s Hamburgers, which dates back to 1961, was once a major chain but has over time been reduced to just 15 locations, eight of them in Texas. Irving is lucky to have one. I’m not enamored of chains, so I’m happy that Griff’s doesn’t have much of that dreary chain feel. You could believe that Griff’s was a one-of-a-kind. I can’t think of a chain restaurant other than the Waffle House that feels so personable, whose pace is so relaxed, and whose aesthetic is so muted. It may seem an odd way to talk about a fast-food restaurant, but I’d call Griff’s calm.

And the food is good. I enjoyed my double-hamburger very much. It’s got that old-school grease, taste and texture; it’s the hamburger McDonald’s wants to make but lacks the touch to pull off. The buns are toasted on the grill, the patties are thin and fresh, and the toppings – notably the pickles and mustard – fit the bill. A Griff’s-style hamburger, I do believe, is what our parents and grandparents ate at diners and hamburger-joints throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s. Not being a fries guy, I ordered two “chix-on-a-stick” to go along with my double-hamburger, and was delighted with how well cooked my favorite meat was. Griff’s doesn’t offer chicken tenders per se, but these chicken things are a fine substitute. The texture was crispy, the color was healthy, and the taste was first-rate. My meal of hamburger, chix-sticks and Sprite came to just $5.72.

Stop by Griff’s sometime. It’s refreshing in a world of Taco Bell and Five Guys to come across unaggressive fast food. Griff’s won’t assault you with 10 pounds of fries, and you won’t feel sickly after eating a hamburger here. You’ll simply feel loved and leave happy.

Gennarino’s, various times and locations in Irving; check the Facebook page “In Napoli, where love is king / when boy meets girl / here’s what they say . . . ”

Dean Martin will be crooning in your ears as you talk with Raffaele, Armando and Alessio, and, even better, eat their delicious food. Gennarino’s – named for San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples – is a food truck run by the three brothers Ranieri, who hail from Terzigno, a town just outside of Pompei. The food truck is a friggitoria, meaning it sells fried Neapolitan “street food.” One doesn’t often associate Italy with fried food but, especially in Naples, it does exist.

I can’t imagine anyone eating a timballo rosso (fried hand-held spaghetti and meatballs) or timballo bianco (fried hand-held fettuccine Alfredo) and not wanting more. I thoroughly recommend the sandwiches too, especially the Caprese (tomatoes, basil and mozzarella) and Granny’s Sunday Gravy sandwich, which is loaded with meatballs, braciole and pork in a delicious tomato sauce (aka the “gravy”). The pizza fritta and the Italian cream sodas are also delightful. Really, anything you’ll have will be good.

But the best thing about Gennarino’s is the fun and friendly brothers themselves. Armando and Alessio, who do most of the cooking, are always ready to tell you what you should eat, and will never lead you astray. Last Friday, Armando told a certain ruddy-haired graduate student to eat the spinach and ricotta lasagna, that day’s special; the student was thrilled with his meal. You may remember Raffaele from when he worked in the UD cafeteria. You’ll rarely come across a nicer, more personable guy. In fact, I’d say that Raffaele is the distilled quintessence of Italy: warm, smiling and ever-ready with good food.

Gennarino’s roams about Irving every day, but can usually be found Fridays from 11:30 – 1:30 at 1000 W John Carpenter Freeway, at the old Shell station. Look on the Facebook page for daily updates on where the truck will be. And mangia bene!

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