By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
What's fancy? As the brand new sequel to The Official Preppy Handbook reminds us, fancy isn't surface glitz and remarked-upon glamour; real wealth is more likely to be conveyed by threadbare blazers and decades-old recipes for mild Bloody Marys than diamonds and Cristal. Fancy entails an insistence upon quality and an unspoken assumption that someone's always around to do your work for you.
A Bentley is fancy. A Hummer limousine is fake fancy.
And, for that matter, so's Eddie V's, the bespoke steak and seafood place that opened earlier this year near the boundary line between Uptown and Park Cities. Eddie V's badly wants its well-dressed patrons to believe it's a fancy place to dine, but it's fake fancy to its core. It has the visuals and price list of a high-end restaurant, but its mediocre food and eye-wideningly bad service are befitting of an eatery way farther down the "nice" spectrum.
4023 Oak Lawn Ave.
Dallas, TX 75219
Region: Uptown & Oak Lawn
3100 W. 7th St.
Fort Worth, TX 76107
Region: Fort Worth
Fake fancy isn't always an unworkable proposition. Proms and homecoming dances, held in spruced-up gyms with columns of sparkly balloons obscuring the bleachers, are fake fancy. Cruises, with their mandated formal nights and servile crew of tropical drink slingers, are typically fake fancy.
Eddie V's feels very much like a cruise, right down to its strange mash-up of hospitality and capitalism: On the first night I visited, a server stationed in the bar was pouring a couple of middling wines for diners on their ways to their tables, presumably trying to up alcohol sales. (Olive Garden employs the very same strategy.) The massive restaurant even has a long-haired bandleader, who's prone to cheesy taglines like, "Thank you all for coming out to Eddie V's." And, just like on a cruise, the menu name drops all the opulent ingredients favored by eaters on expense accounts. There are oysters and lobster bisque and veal chops and a flaming dessert. If only escargot were added to the menu, guests might have to pop a Dramamine before showing up.
But, unlike a cruise, Eddie V's isn't much fun. Maybe the price tag's the problem: Surely nobody's entertained by paying $50 for a meal that takes nearly 50 minutes to arrive.
Eddie V's handsome team of white-jacketed servers is the epitome of fake fancy. They certainly look the part of a professional wait staff, but every manager, bartender, server and busser who approached my table was comically inept. On one visit, our server skipped half the bullet points on the standard server "to do" list: She twice rushed away from our table before we could place drink orders. She didn't tell us about specials until after we ordered. She did deliver a basket of yeasty bread and an accompanying pat of butter in a relatively timely fashion, but forgot the plates and knives. She never returned to correct the error, but reappeared almost an hour later to check on our entrées: "I trust everything is delicious," she decreed before running off again. Thank goodness we didn't want dessert.
On another visit, service was much quicker but far more perplexing. When I asked our server for recommendations, he confided that he didn't like fish. Since Eddie V's ostensibly specializes in seafood—despite the preponderance of potatoes amongst the 14 à la carte sides offered, which suggests the restaurant is selling a fair number of entrées from the "steak and chops" box on its menu—I asked why he'd taken the job. Having waited tables for years, I can't imagine wanting to work somewhere where I knew I'd always hate staff meals. "Oh, I used to like fish," he assured me.
He was assisted by an equally honest manager who identified himself as a corporate trainer with two years of experience. When one of my guests inquired why the chocolate lava cake bore an official "risk associated with raw animal protein" warning, the trainer was stumped. I'd assume the cake's made with eggs, not raw oysters or undercooked poultry, but the trainer couldn't contain his confusion: "Why would you want animal proteins in a cake?" he wondered aloud in perfect Seinfeld-ian inflections before steering us to a banana butter cake he swore was the best thing he'd ever tasted.
The extraordinarily sweet cake, nestled between matching hills of whipped cream and ice cream, was flambéed upon serving.
"It's legit, right?" the trainer said, recounting his travails trying to recreate the recipe at home. It shouldn't be hard, he explained, because the cake is "literally made with Pillsbury yellow cake mix."
Pillsbury yellow cake mix retails for $2.33. My single slice of cake cost $8.
I don't expect to pay wholesale prices in restaurants. If I read a restaurant's ledger, I'd probably find a few mark-ups even more galling. But it's the kitchen's job to make guests feel like they're getting their money's worth, and whip their skepticism into submission with a cavalcade of astounding flavors. When food tastes flat and uninspired, as it does at Eddie V's, it's impossible not to think about how many loads of laundry you could have done for the $28 you just sunk into a wedge of bland, butter-soaked, fake-fancy halibut.
None of the food I sampled at Eddie V's was outright offensive. I liked a simple heirloom tomato salad featuring two thick slices of purplish tomatoes, layered with an unbroken cutlet of red onion and a heap of creamy burrata approximately the size of an air hockey disc. Dressed with a clean-tasting olive oil, the salad was a rare triumph of ingredient integrity.