At Tillman's Roadhouse, Big Crowds and Bigger Portions

After changes and a tragedy, an old Oak Cliff favorite presses on.

Both the burger and steak have much lauded house-made tater tots riding shotgun, but don't picture Ore-ida when waiting for these snacks. The crust has no snap and innards are a soft potato puree, scented with now tiresome truffle oil. The oil dominates instead of complementing goat cheese in a snack that eats like a country coquette.

From there the menu picks up steam. Scallops are sweet and perfectly seared on both sides, while a translucent center remains. And a Frito pie is kitschy but addictive. Venison chili loaded with vegetables arrives moments after being poured over half a small bag of Fritos. The mass is topped with a Texas-sized dollop of sour cream and a little cheese. Don't try to resist dumping the remaining corn chips from the half-spent bag that accompanies the plate.

The crescendo continues into dessert, where three behemoths wait to pummel the remaining hunger — which likely dissipated before your mains even reached the table — into permanent submission. The cookie tower requires a degree in civil engineering to disassemble without incident, and a massive cake slice has no shame, either. But it's the s'mores that got attention on a popular Food Network show, and the air time was deserved. Tender, delicate crackers loaded with cinnamon arrive on a large branded board with house-made marshmallows of different flavors — maple, orange and coffee — plus chocolate and, yes, a burning flame. Whether you're a slow and patient roaster or a Stay Puft pyromaniac, do yourself a favor and exercise caution. A half order is plenty, even for a table of three or four.

Sara Kerens

It's not just the menu here that boasts comfort and country. Donning Western-style shirts and comfortable jeans, each server is bequeathed an official Tillman's belt buckle, complete with a bottle opening notch for liberating beers on the fly. Cowboy shtick aside, they're a smart bunch, charming diners in a weekend dining room that often seems pushed to the brink.

The customers themselves are also at full capacity. Those who order the standard 1-2-3 play of appetizer, mains, sweet will find themselves beyond full, perhaps nearing discomfort. Tillman's boasts plates that force customers to share or pay the price, and the dining room is full of patted stomachs, loosened belts and smiling but sleepy eyes. You might find yourself tempted to rip a swatch of fabric from the curtains that run floor to ceiling, a pillow from the velvet benches, and curl up in the corner for a much-deserved nap.

In other words, you won't need lunch tomorrow, but unless you're a long-time regular, you may find yourself looking back at a dinner that's a little confusing — occasionally rudderless but salvageable. If the kitchen were to upsize its execution to match the size of that cookie tower, Tillman's might find itself rightly restored to former glory.

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5 comments
Granny
Granny

We first started going to Tillman's about 11 years ago. In the past 3 years, the place has become thoroughly gentrified: no taste. And expensive. Bye Bye.

Beda
Beda

Following after my mother, for CFS I use top round, pounded with a mallet, dipped in milk and flour and then fried. The best. The late, sorely missed Gennie's (who was the true pioneer of the Bishop Arts District) made theirs that way also.

The last time I went to Tillmans, I ordered chili, and I swear they had mushrooms and other stuff that doesn't belong in chili. It was nasty.

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

It's deer, and a whole lotta veg.

Beda
Beda

Well there you go - vegetables don't belong in chili (not even beans).

 
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