DALLAS -- A visit to the Highland Park Cafeteria begins with a course in American history. Before you pick up a tray and begin assembling plates of food, the service line leads past a wall with portraits of every president from George Washington through George Bush. It is difficult to concentrate on this hall of honor, however, because the great men are on the right, and as compelling as they may be, the food is on the left -- and it is gorgeous.
What a menu! Dozens of salads, dozens of vegetables, dozens of pies, corn bread, biscuits, onion-dill loaves, cheese toast, cloverleaf rolls, sticky buns and muffins. As for entrees, some of the more memorable ones include superb chicken-fried steak and gravy, butter-tender slices of beef brisket, gorgeous slabs of prime rib, rosy pink baked ham, turkey and dressing, pork tenderloin, and shatteringly crisp fried chicken (white meat or dark).
Many of the recipes used today by the HPC kitchen are still Mrs. Goodman's; and there are certain dishes, like cranberry sauce, jalapeno corn bread, Southern hash and millionaire icebox pie, that are practically legendary among Dallas eaters as well as among traveling chowhounds for whom the HPC is a culinary landmark. We are mesmerized by the variety and color of the gelatin salads available on any single day. Hereabouts they are known as congealed salads, and their numbers include ambrosia (with shredded coconut), cherry salad spiced with red-hot candies, guacamole mold, and a well-nigh perfect perfection dTC salad, our version of which we will share forthwith.