The Common Table: Good Beer, Uncommonly Poor Food.

As bartenders working in the exhausted vodka idiom have discovered, it's hard to mix together a few flavored liquors and fruit juices and not end up with a sugary riff on Hawaiian Punch. To distract the sweet-tooth crowd from the syrupy sameness of their concoctions, some mixologists have begun leaning on wacky glasses, pretty garnishes and an inventive nomenclature in which classic slings and cobblers are bestowed with flim-flam names meant to evoke newness and urbanity.

That's the ploy at The Common Table, a modest Uptown hangout that's taken over the spot vacated by Lola. Each of the restaurant's cocktails is named for something great that happened on June 2, the day The Common Table opened. Thirsty for a vodka cranberry with lychee fruit liqueur? That's a First Lady, commemorating birthday girl Martha Washington. P.T. Barnum and the Marquise de Sade have their own drinks too, although the connection between honoree and recipe is often tenuous: I still can't figure out what Chicago's elevated train has to do with apple cider and lemon vodka.

As a rookie historian, I was initially charmed by The Common Table's dredging up forgotten fun facts to sell spirits. It's not often I see the words "Wally Pipp" on a menu. But the longer I spent at the restaurant, the more I thought about other, less-glorious events that transpired on June 2.

The Common Table: good beer, uncommonly bad food
Sara Kerens
The Common Table: good beer, uncommonly bad food

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The Common Table

2917 Fairmount St.
Dallas, TX 75201-1455

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Uptown & Oak Lawn

Details

The Common Table Pulled-pork spring rolls $7 Veal parmigiana sliders $9 Mixed bruschetta $7 Cornmeal-crusted calamari $8 Buffalo meatballs $7 Common Caesar $8 The Common Burger $10 Chef’s Rib-Eye Philly $13 Chicken-fried rib-eye $15

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I'm not saying The Common Table is a disaster on par with the deadly cyclone that struck Bombay on June 2, 1965. Or that its missteps are as egregious as the British parliament's decision on June 2, 1774, to force American colonists to house Redcoats. But I feel pretty comfortable adding the restaurant to the roll of unexceptional June 2 happenings we'd all have been better off without, along with Kraft's release of Velveeta cheese (1928) and Wilson Phillips' second album (1992).

To be fair, The Common Table is a great place to drink beer. The well-curated selection includes a few hard-to-find oddities that I didn't realize anyone was actively seeking—such as a bottle-conditioned Maudite priced at $89—and a good mix of domestic and international ales. Among the drafts are a few prize-winning brews that are well known in beer circles but still aren't swimming in the mainstream, including Dogfish Head's 90-Minute IPA and Dale's Pale Ale.

Whoever assembled the beer list at The Common Table clearly loves beer enough to have fun with it—beer figures into five mixed drinks, including a refreshing pils and lemonade blend—and configure its offerings for sampling and sharing. Drafts are served in two sizes, and customers can order a $10 flight featuring four beers of their choosing. That's a better option than a $10 Iron Horse cocktail, a fancified Pimm's Cup that's far too sweet. And it makes more sense in the boxy, pub-like setting: Light that dim and wood that dark provoke a Pavlovian craving for hops.

Happily, the beer's just as appealing outside, on the restaurant's low-key, spacious patio. Relaxing there with a pint of Saison Dupont would be a terrific finish to a summer work day.

Except that a server's likely to show up with a menu. Not in any sort of timely manner, to be sure, but eventually there will be talk of food. That's because The Common Table won't leave the restaurant thing alone. Rather than content themselves with providing a fine neighborhood watering hole, the folks behind The Common Table have announced their edible ambitions. They've assembled a highfalutin menu with a $22 filet, and made "food" the second noun in their online mission statement, which calls for "friendly people serving honest food." It's The Common Table, not The Common Stein.

So it's impossible to ignore the food, which ranges from unpleasant to horrific. I ate and ate and ate at The Common Table, valiantly trying to find a dish worthy of praise. I concocted various theories I hoped would serve as helpful guideposts for future customers—perhaps the restaurant excels only at sandwiches, or aces anything with tomatoes or nails entrées whose names start with the letter "a"—but the food I sampled crushed them all. By the end of my second visit, I felt like I was rubbernecking rather than eating, strangely fixated by the kitchen's unrelenting failures.

Since The Common Table's a good-times destination, I suspect the menu's small plates section gets the most traffic. While any of the six listed items could function as an appetizer, the restaurant also offers a $19 "share any three" deal. What complicates the plating is only three of the available plates are natural cohorts—calamari, bruschetta and veal parmesan sliders—so guests are stuck pondering whether they really want peppery Buffalo meatballs alongside spring rolls coated with a gooey yuzu sauce.

My advice is not to sweat it, since few of the dishes have sufficient taste to make clashing flavors a concern. The dry veal sliders, featuring meat slabs as thick as a deck of cards, were so unremittingly bland that I could easily have been persuaded I was eating pork or chicken or mastodon. The bruschetta, crowned with frosted pink tomato dices and a drift of thinly grated low-quality parmesan, was similarly flavorless.

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