Funky Quarters

Inwood Quarter Café mixes the seedy with the charming

Chef David Burdett and Cameron Morris have been around for a while, creating little catering hybrids founded on comfort food with upscale touches. At Rooster, they carved a pioneering "new Southern" patch in the Dallas landscape. Then they took over Brent Place at Old City Park, crafting food in the same vein with varying success.

But their newest venture is the most provocative yet: an irresistible fusion of the seedy with the charming. It's located in a disheveled little strip, behind a Texaco station at the corner of Cedar Springs and Inwood. The outside is splashed in drab green and windows are patched with boards, creating a kind of culinary speakeasy. Inside, it's dotted with candelabras, old lanterns, jillions of votive candles both flickering and spent, mirrors with gilded frames, frayed Oriental rugs, black-and-white-checked vinyl tablecloths and a commanding buffet at the rear of the room. All it needs is a couple of tarot decks and a floating tambourine to boost cash flow--this is a hole in the wall that whistles.

Inwood Quarter Café serves lunch and Sunday brunch, the latter with a buffet table. On the brunch front, it succeeds where most places fail: It doesn't ruin most of the food in a steam-table torture chamber.

The buffet is tucked in a secluded room with candelabras and steam tables. Privacy is a good thing when it comes to buffet tables, especially when loading your third plateful.

And load you will, because most of it is well prepared and suited to steam-table existence. The savory King Ranch chicken casserole with chicken strips that ranged from juicy to dry and mealy had a brittle crisp crust and a spice bite tucked in smooth gravy. Pork strips on a bed of creamy grits with cheese and chopped scallions were just as tasty and texturally more consistent. Apple-smoked bacon was hearty and chewy, though a little dry, while the charred smoked sausage was sharp and juicy.

But there were also some casualties. Almond custard French toast with maple syrup was soggy. Likewise, the Caesar salad aged into limp and soggy clippings. Complementary petite omelettes were tight and fluffy, yet the salami and cheese version wafted a disturbingly sour aroma.

In addition to buffet table squatters, Inwood Quarter offers an à la carte menu. Grilled corned beef hash was an exceptionally supple and well-seasoned mix, with chewy corned beef and cubed hash browns under a pair of very hot poached eggs.

Crab cake Benedict was served with a smooth, piping-hot Hollandaise with hot poached eggs perched atop pan-fried lump crab cakes. Inexplicably, a soggy and flaccid sliced English muffin was deposited on the side of the plate. Replacing the muffin with the crab cake is a crafty idea, so why not let go of the muffin completely? It's almost as if the kitchen doesn't have faith in its own ingenuity. And ingenuity is what you need to float Sunday brunch on an armada of steam tables.

 
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