By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
The Gulf Coast looks like a fern-bar parody where the ferns are replaced with a Christmas tree dressed in Mardi Gras beads. Hanging from the ceiling from fishing line are a bronzed bicycle, an accordion, a guitar and a rifle, among other things. Animal skins are stapled to the wall, and there's a goal post protector from the New Orleans Saints. "I decorated it with everything my wife wouldn't let me keep in the house," says Wade Mundinger, who operates The Gulf Coast with Dodie's Seafood Café founder Charley McGuinness.
They opened The Gulf Coast in an old Deep Ellum building on Commerce Street that was used for storage for some 50 years. Before that, it was home to a company that manufactured badges for firemen and policemen. In its first few months of operation the restaurant was called Dodie's Gulf Coast. But Mundinger says this caused a lot of confusion among the blurry-eyed who were placing takeout orders at the Deep Ellum location and attempting to pick them up at Dodie's Seafood Café on Lower Greenville. So they took the Dodie out of the name.
Raw oyster cocktail (6): $4.95
Sautéed shrimp with artichoke: $7.95
Tomato vegetable soup (cup) $2.95
Fried crawfish tails: $7.95
Catfish po’ boy: $7.95
Spicy meatball and spaghetti: $7.95
Red beans and rice with sausage: $7.95
Blackened catfish with angel hair: $10.95
Monster bread pudding: $4.95
In addition to the assorted detritus suspended from the ceiling and stapled to the walls, there is the stuff on the floor. A pair of white, badly weathered shutters flank the kitchen area. A baby grand piano with chipped off-white paint is just to the left of the bar. "It's got that tar and nicotine color to it," Mundinger says. The table near the door is made out of a surfboard. Another table near the back of the restaurant, carved in the shape of Texas, came from the Greenville Avenue Bar and Grill.
Most of the remaining tables are even quirkier than this. Several of them are boxlike structures topped in Plexiglas that hold horizontal sculptures or paintings or whatever it is you call a work of art you can look down on while eating crawdad duffs. One depicts Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Another is a montage of circuit boards, chips and wire strung and frozen into a kind of high-tech chaos. Mundinger says he got the tables from the deceased Flip's Wine Bar and Trattoria that later became a Flying Saucer before it became the empty hull it is now. Mundinger says he used to work at Flip's, and he took possession of the tables just as Flip was doing the postmortem on his restaurant. There are eight or so tables that Mundinger will take possession of at a later time. But there is one that won't find its way into The Gulf Coast. This table contains a particularly graphic portrayal of a nude woman. "That one made Charley a little nervous," says Mundinger, referring to McGuinness.
Mundinger says he and McGuinness set out to create a menu that is half New Orleans and half Italian, similar to menus from restaurants found in New Orleans (McGuinness hails from New Orleans while Mundinger is from Baton Rouge). The bulk of the menu is based on McGuinness family recipes. Mundinger says his only contribution to the menu is a root-beer float.
But before root-beer float time come swarms of fried foods: shrimp, oysters, catfish, crawfish tails. Fried crawfish tails are simple but effective. A grouping of tails in a blondish crispy coat is sweet, well-seasoned and greaseless. A cocktail sauce and a mustard sauce were provided for dipping.
Tomato vegetable soup was very red and very thick, almost like ketchup with zits. It was filled with tomato, onion and carrot, among other things, and it was viscous with a promiscuously peppery bite.
Raw oyster cocktail is a strange thing. This is to seafood cocktails what grain alcohol is to bar drinks. There is no lettuce, scraps of tomato, bits of celery or even a sauce in this cocktail. It's simply a glass with a large bowl--the type in which you might find scoops of sherbet--holding grayish shucked oysters in a clear viscous fluid. Our server referred to the liquid as "natural oyster juices." It was a little hard to harmonize and digest this description with the thing on the table before us. Around the base of the glass were a couple of lemon wedges and little cups of cocktail sauce and horseradish. Thankfully, the oysters were clean with a nice briny edge.
Sautéed shrimp with artichokes was perhaps some rough attempt at an Italian recipe. A boat of small shrimp and artichoke heart fragments are bathed in a sauce drafted from butter, white wine and garlic. The shrimp were plump, and the tangy sauce was thickened with breadcrumbs, creating a hearty appetizer instead of a delicate one.
Entrées come with a choice of a house salad and Italian slaw. The house salad is simple, with greens and a couple of tomato slices. The slaw looks like a collection of ravaged artichoke hearts. The red and white cabbage leaves are cut large and rough. This slaw is also peppery hot, with a mixture of celery, tiny specks of green olive and oregano contributing to the Italian part of the moniker.