Monday, December 2, 2013
Review: The Rustic recreates a backyard bar on one of Uptown’s busiest corners
The atmosphere belies its urban location.
DALLAS The fires and the oak trees from the day Kyle Noonan’s hatched the idea for The Rustic are still there, as are the beers and music. The setting, though, is entirely different – rather than camping with friends on a quiet Texas Hill Country evening, he’s sitting in front of a giant stage near the corner of one of the busiest intersections in Dallas. People in business suits and casual wear are sitting at the outdoor tables and at the large bar indoors, their conversation helping the walls muffle the din of the traffic and city outside.
“Pat, myself, and Josh were out on the ranch in the Texas Hill Country, and we were grilling meat over an open flame. We had a cold beer in hand and we were listening to music – Led Zeppelin, actually – and we said if we could recreate this feeling in Dallas,” Noonan recalls, “then that would be pretty damn cool.”
As nearly a dozen different furnaces roar with mesquite-burning flame out on The Rustic’s massive patio and the band sets up to play the evening’s first set, Pat Green – the same Pat from Noonan’s anecdote – walks by saying hi and shaking hands with customers. Josh Sepkowitz, the third owner, also shares ownership with Noonan in Mutts Canine Cantina and Bowl & Barrel. For Rustic, the trio brought together a combination of experience, vision, talent and fame to create a monument to Texas beer, music, food and comfort.
“Cooking out, friends, family, cold drinks - everybody has some sort of connection to that experience – and that was the impetus for the Rustic,” Noonan says. “The coolest thing that I’ve witnessed is people coming in and sitting in the lounge chair and putting their feet up and just hanging out. You could tell they’ve really kind of made it like home in a way. Right now, you’ve got all these folks after work – maybe some are having a beer, some are just here for dinner. Then you can come out of here on a Sunday afternoon and see people sitting out here reading the paper.”
The cooking out aspect, while not open to everyone, is a task addressed to Chef Matt Balke, formerly of Bolsa and Bolsa Mercado. You won’t find Balke cooking outside, but you will find an open flame in his kitchen; a wood-fired grill (different woods on different days) adorns the kitchen at The Rustic, where Balke puts out dishes that he and consulting chef Sharon Hage designed to fit the atmosphere and feel of the restaurant. Country-style pork ribs, Gulf shrimp and Texas quail are among the entree options that highlight the sourcing aims of the kitchen, while sandwiches and burgers highlight the less formidable fare options. As for the appetizers, boar meatballs and chorizo empanadas both dot the menu, and one can’t miss the calf fries and buttermilk dip, whose menu description merely states, “If you have to ask …”
“Of course we have the music and the outdoor aspect, but our objective was to make sure it was still centered around the food. That was very important to us here. We set out to create a restaurant and bar that happens to have a stage to play some live music,” Noonan says.
The Texas influence on The Rustic is unmistakeable in not just the kitchen, but in every aspect of the design and sourcing. The expansive bar stocks around 40 Texas beers and a wide selection of Texas wines, and many of the tables are made from one of the three oak trees that were taken down during the development of the space. Even the music is primarily from the Lone Star State.
"We don’t say we’re Texas themed, but we are inspired by Texas. We’ve got a big state with a lot of different climates, and because of that we have a lot of unique products that come out of the state,” Noonan says. “We’re a proud state with proud people, and we wanted to showcase it here.”
The actual music venue at The Rustic typically revolves around smaller local bands, and a the grassy area around the patio presents an opportunity for picnic-style music listening, people watching or merely a relaxing respite from a busy week. The entire venue sits on more than two acres of land, but once indoors, the atmosphere belies its urban location.
“We didnt necessarily have the idea of being on the prime corner of Lemmon and 75, but as we started going around and telling our story and talking about it, it got bigger and bigger and bigger,” Noonan says with a laugh. “To recreate this backyard oasis was not easy, but I think we got pretty close.”
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