Expectation management is a critical part of providing goods and services to the public. If people have a good idea what they’re in for, they can calibrate their standards appropriately, and everyone has a better experience because of it.
Dallas Pizza & Steak House barely requires such mediation. If you can’t calculate the experience you’re likely to have within moments of walking through the door of its Forest Heights strip-mall premises, it might not be the place for you.
Dallas Pizza is every bit a typical family-style restaurant of the old school stripe, right down to the old Greek travel posters and un-updated décor, AM-radio musical ambiance, and ouzo-flavoured after-dinner candies that allude to the ethnic heritage of its proprietors. For many Albertans, dining at Dallas will be rich in nostalgic value; this was certainly true for my group of 40-something co-diners.
This is also how we knew not to take personally the abruptness of our server, who turned on her heel and disappeared without another word when we indicated we weren’t quite ready to order. For all her brusqueness, she was also the right amount of attentive, pre-emptively aware that we were there for food and not chitchat with the staff. Given that the joint was hopping on a Wednesday after work, there was no question she had many demands on her supply of courtesy.
Dallas’ menu works the typical steak-and-pizza-house vein, with salads, pasta and staid seafood and poultry options supporting the eponymous features. If you’ve got it in your head that you’d like prosciutto, marinated eggplant or charred lemon on your pie, you have fetched up at the wrong pizzeria.
Having heard yarns of people travelling from as far away as Spruce Grove to get take-out from Dallas, we felt we had no choice but to try the house special pizza (XL: $26.95), along with one each of the Greek (L: $11.45) and Caesar (L: $9.45) salads. One co-diner insisted he could handle both pizza and steak, so he ordered a seven-ounce steak ($13.95) with fries.
The salads came first, as requested, and didn’t meet expectations so much as physically embody them. The generous Greek salad was comprised of plenty of lettuce, with tomatoes, black olives, cucumbers, onions and feta in oregano vinaigrette—in other words, a completely authentic steak house Greek salad. The Caesar, also sizable, was made up of crisp Romaine, a little too much dressing and plenty of pre-fab croutons and simulated bacon bits, identical to countless Caesar salads I ate in identical venues in the 1980s. We easily polished them both off.
Before long the main event arrived and one co-diner noted that the server seemed to be struggling with the sheer mass of the thing on the way to our table. “She looked like she was carrying a safe,” he testified later. You could see why just from looking at it: contrary to prevailing fashion, this pizza was thick, heavily layered with cheese and toppings (pepperoni, ground beef, ham, green peppers and onions) on a visibly sturdy crust, and cut grid-wise. Even the smaller corner pieces weighed about as much as a regulation softball. In other words, it was a textbook example of a steakhouse pizza: hearty, cheesy, crunchy and satisfying, rather than strikingly unique.
Good thing we enjoyed it because three of us couldn’t even put back half of it, guaranteeing future pizza repasts for everyone present. I don’t know if that, or my co-diner’s ably made steak sided with peas and fat steakhouse fires, make Dallas Pizza a must-try proposition. But it’s definitely a reliable outpost for a, shall we say, timeless and tasty style of cuisine that no chain could ever hope to replicate.
Dallas Pizza & Steak House
7834 – 106 Avenue