Scratch Shot

Banquet-hall chic

While Carson's stab at refined, imaginative cuisine is laudable, it seems pointless. A fortified game room is not the kind of venue where those who enjoy fine food would necessarily congregate. Cool River Café in Las Colinas, which I guess is the template for this emporium, at least had the shrewd sense to segregate the bar and gaming indulgences from the dining forays, both structurally and in feel. Carson's hits like an adult entertainment gymnasium with leopard-print carpet in the dining room and bar seating everywhere save for a few booths. The feel of the place is upscale bowling alley, which demands, I would think, a tightly focused menu: fries, sandwiches, pizza, and maybe baked ravioli. Carson's has many of these items, but it doesn't do them as well as it should; its focus is too scattered.

The smoked pork sandwich, an element that should have been flawless, was merely adequate. The meat was lumped and pressed together like a loaf, pasted together with barbecue sauce as glue. Still, the flesh was dry and mealy, with just a modest spark of flavor. The steak fries, like little rough-cut potato shields, were delicate, light, and piping hot.

And, of course, Carson's has pizzas freshly baked in an oven behind a 15-seat pizza bar. The Excalibur is a cavalcade of flesh: pepperoni, bacon, hamburger, and sausage gooed together with cheese and piled upon a thin, crisp crust with black and brown singe marks along the edges. While the pizza had a good crust, it was shy on tomato sauce. Yet it didn't want for moisture. The whole thing was drenched in a yellowish grease, which helped it slide down easy, but made it hard to keep your fingers respectable, even after several wipings on the polyester napkins.

Pizza--food fit for a pool hall. Some of Carson's finer offerings aren't.
Stephen P. Karlisch
Pizza--food fit for a pool hall. Some of Carson's finer offerings aren't.

Location Info


Carsons Live

17727 Dallas Parkway
Dallas, TX 75287-7316

Category: Music Venues

Region: Carrollton/ Farmers Branch


(972) 931-9111. Open 3 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Friday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday-Sunday. $$-$$$

Game plate: $14
Scallop pasta: $12
Carson's round table: $9
Banana cream pie: $4
Black bean soup: $3
Spinach salad: $7
Smoked pork sandwich: $8
Excalibur pizza: $10

Closed Location

Perhaps like all game palaces, Carson's finishes with a smash. Served between two swirls of cream crowned by blueberries, the chocolate banana cream pie with maple caramel sauce was desperately delicious. The pie was light with smooth layers of banana flavor girded by a hearty, gritty graham-cracker crust.

But this banana was just one shining light in this jack-of-all-trades mainstream entertainment tirade. If Carson's is to truly be a palace, perhaps it should pair its tubes, cues, and bright clean felts with the simplicity of imaginative, robust sandwiches, bar nibbles, and pizzas. Those who care about fine cuisine would rather be caught dead than enjoying food in a pool hall, no matter how upscale its ambitions. And those who relish bank shots generally don't care a lamb's ass about fine cuisine (at least not when they're taking aim) even if it is served with good Chianti. The most culinarily adventurous thing I've done while watching ESPN is add fake bacon bits to my nuked Velveeta.

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