The new Chinese restaurant Cafe Hunan is open on SMU Boulevard in Dallas


A Chinese restaurant with a familiar past opened in April 2022 on SMU Boulevard in Dallas.

Cafe Hunan is the reincarnated version of Hunan Express, a restaurant that served Chinese cuisine in Dallas from 1997 to 2012 in a small storefront near the Ritz-Carlton in Uptown.

Chinese chicken salad is one of the menu items that owner Mark Carey is delighted with at Cafe Hunan in Dallas.(Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer)

Dallas chef Dean Fearing was a regular on the Hunan Express. In a Dallas Morning News story in 2007, Fearing called it “a little dive that I love”. Her favorite dishes were stir-fried shrimp and green beans and Mongolian beef, with added broccoli.

After the Hunan Express closed in Uptown, savvy Dallasites could find Carey’s food if they really went for it: It was available inside UT Southwestern, at two food courts.

Now, owner Mark Carey has decided to dive back into traditional restaurant ownership with a new eatery on a former block – SMU Boulevard, home to college hangouts like Milo Butterfingers and Barley House as well as new restaurants like Oishii and the upcoming Goodbye Horse Bar.

Hunan Cafe is located next to Torchy’s Tacos in the former SushiFork food court.

Carey started working in Chinese restaurants as a young teenager in Houston, where chefs taught him how to cook. He then went to work in the landscaping business, but he always wanted to run his own Chinese restaurant, he says.

He opened Hunan Express in the 90s after moving to Dallas and said he “couldn’t get good Chinese food”.

Hunan Express eventually shut down because rent got too high in Uptown, Carey says. He looks forward to reopening the restaurant in a new part of Dallas, using many of the same recipes from the old location.

Pork spring rolls and vegetable spring rolls are among Cafe Hunan's bestsellers in...
Pork spring rolls and vegetable spring rolls are among the best sellers at Cafe Hunan at UT Southwestern.(Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer)
For more than a decade, Mark Carey's Cafe Hunan restaurant has served Chinese cuisine at UT...
For more than a decade, Mark Carey’s Cafe Hunan restaurant has served Chinese cuisine at UT’s Southwest food court. Savvy foodies could order from there, if they missed the original restaurant, Hunan Express, which was open from 1997 to 2012 in Uptown Dallas.(Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer)

He brought back Fearing’s favorite Mongolian beef, as well as orange beef and a selection of lo meins. He expects to sell hundreds of spring rolls and spring rolls, which his team prepares every day.

The restaurant will occasionally roast Peking Duck, to make Peking Duck Galettes. And Carey is working on a new recipe for ravioli stuffed with leeks and vegetables, pork or chicken, which are then fried.

He hopes his Chinese Chicken Salad with Crispy Noodles will be a popular addition. Inspired by a Los Angeles chef who sells around $50,000 a month in Chinese chicken salad, Carey’s will feature lettuce, white-meat chicken, crunchy noodles and a coconut oil vinaigrette. ginger and sesame.

“It’s not really too complicated,” he says. “But what’s in it is really good – strong and powerful.”

Hunan Cafe is located at 5600 SMU Boulevard #101, Dallas. It opened in early April 2022.

Story updated in April 2022, after we confirmed the restaurant was open.

For more food news, follow Sarah Blaskovich on Twitter at @sblaskovich.


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