Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Restaurant review: Work in Deep Ellum is worth a visit, though it lacks focus
It has long-term potential if it catches the right crowd.
DEEP ELLUM The on-off again relationship Dallasites have with Deep Ellum is reminiscent to the turbulent Bobby Brown/Whitney Houston train wreck where they couldn't break up because in the end, they really needed each other. Or something like that.
Crowds in Dallas are known for giving false hope by patronizing bars and dance clubs, then bailing when bored. They almost destroyed hopes of Deep Ellum's resurrection. But our love affair with Deep Ellum is on -- for now.
Restaurants, bars and other tenants are finding new homes in a neighborhood that has no reason to be vacant. The difference-maker recently has been the emergence of actual restaurants -- not an oversaturation of seedy bars or dance clubs but respectable restaurants, which have become destination trips for their customer base.
One such new restaurant, Work Bar and Grill, opened its doors in April 2013. The restaurant can be viewed as a novelty sports bar with scantily dressed waitresses, which unfortunately are everywhere, but it also has an upscale industrial theme.
Owner/pitmaster Doug Pickering has brought not necessarily a new concept to life, but one which can thrive if it catches the right crowd. He also may have unknowingly made one of the brightest business moves in Dallas for a barbecue restaurant. With the recent news of Pecan Lodge's relocation to Deep Ellum, those meat travelers who arrive at Pecan Lodge then choose not to wait in line will find Work within walking distance.
Without labeling themselves as solely a barbecue restaurant, they do produce plenty of smoked meat. The menu is very diverse, catering to other palates with offerings such as buffalo fried oysters, mussels and bacon wrapped prawns. There are plenty of green options for those who dig that sort of thing.
I planned my visit around their Thursday-night-only rib offering. Due to my reconnaissance, I discovered the ribs were to be ready by 7 p.m. Upon my arrival to a steady, but not overly busy crowd, the disappointing news came from the waitress at 8 p.m.: They were already out of ribs. I would imagine for a one-night-per-week special, there would be a higher quantity smoked if they sell out in an hour. Early bird gets the pork, I suppose.
I ordered the Sugar Cookie brisket with potato salad and purple haze ginger coleslaw. After discovering the sausage was commercially made (boggles my mind when there are a handful of local meat markets nearby) and for $4 extra, I opted to add pulled pork instead.
With a hearty amount of brisket, I didn't waste any time digging in. The bark was distinctively good and there were several brilliant bites of meat, but more often there were bites which caused my jaw to do more work than I would've preferred. On these slices, the thick fat had more of a congealed texture due to incomplete rendering. This could be remedied by more trimming before applying the rub. The smoky flavor was exactly what one would expect. With more time in the pit, every slice of meat could've been consistent deliciousness.
What was commendable was the fact theses slices of brisket were served with fat -- not lean and trimmed of all the flavoring that the average Dickey's enthusiast believes is real Texas barbecue. While the sauce was served on the side with the brisket, the pulled pork was served with just enough on top to complement the meat.
The sides were above average without particularly standing out. Luckily, there are enough options for the next go-around.
Work Bar and Grill is worth a visit. For a restaurant with an identity crisis (video arcades in the corner next to the posh lounge seating, and is it a barbecue joint or not?), this is an option for the lover of smoked meat who would like to hang out for while, watch a game on one of their many flatscreen TVs and enjoy the wide selection of booze located at their saloon-style bar.
The only change I would unselfishly like to see are the Thursday night ribs as a menu staple. It's normal to crave ribs during the day while regressing to your youthful days at the local Pocket Change arcade, right!?
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