Marquee Grill's Seasonal Affective Disorder

Tomatoes in winter dull the spotlight in Highland Park.

On a brisk December evening, Highland Park Village is awash in light. Tiny white bulbs blanket every branch and every twig of every tree along the sidewalks, illuminating the high-end shops and storefronts in their golden glow. The scene's almost akin to the Griswolds' family Christmas, there are so many bulbs ablaze — if only Rusty's camper replaced the shiny black sedan parked out front of Marquee Grill.

Inside the posh restaurant, helmed by Top Chef All-Star Tre Wilcox, the scene is less Christmas dinner, more Highland Park holiday party, as a polished crowd that looks older but feels younger gathers to welcome another weekend at the upstairs bar. Men swoop in like hawks, landing on tables where single ladies mingle. The women flirt but with eyes scanning the room, searching for better suitors.

It's an impressive space, built of dark wood, drapery and lush black carpet that mimics a hotel bar, but the cocktails are why you'll linger here. They're Dallas' best when they're mixed consistently, and still fine when the hurried staff gets uneven, as it sometimes does. Order three Autumn Sonatas and you'll get three different drinks, one heavy with spiced wine, the next a little sweet with pear purée, a third somewhere in between. Bartenders taste drinks with the tip of a cocktail straw but don't adjust them much after. It's an empty gesture.

Request a seat near the kitchen to watch (Top Chef All-Star) Tre Wilcox work.
Sara Kerens
Request a seat near the kitchen to watch (Top Chef All-Star) Tre Wilcox work.

Location Info


Village Marquee - Texas Grill & Bar

33 Highland Park Village
Dallas, TX 75205

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Park Cities


Marquee Grill
Shrimp and Grits $14
Oysters $16
Lobster Stuffed Scallops $18
Oxtail Tamale $10
Seared Monkfish $29
New York Strip $3

The drinks still impress, though, and the crowd will garner lingering eyes, but the bar isn't the place to eat if you're hungry. While some guests give dining a chance at cocktail tables and the bar (perhaps for the people watching, or perhaps because of an hour-plus wait for a table downstairs), it's far too crowded on a weekend to enjoyably dine here. It's a space pushed to the brink of its capacity. Waitresses jockey and people collide and, on one recent visit, a cocktail glass shattered, though the staff swooped in and the mess disappeared in a flash.

The downstairs dining room is the bar's polar opposite. White and beige replace dark, comparatively sinister tones, and sound treatments and soft brown leather in the booths keeps the collective din to a murmur. No singles cruising tables here — no clanking glassware or boisterous laughter, either. Just a quiet, relaxed space built for mindful eating, with a kitchen set like a stage at the end of the room.

It's worth it to request a seat close to the action. Here, you can watch the orange flames of a Jade range lap the sides of blue steel pans, blackened with the patina of hundreds of dinner services. Squeeze bottles swirl sauces, ladles spoon stocks and glazes, and an open grill belches smoke from a pair of searing steaks. A large marble altar anchors the space where plates receive finishing touches — a lip wiped clean, a scallop positioned just so — before runners whisk them away to linen-clad tables, each marked with a single yellow tulip.

Just like the drinks upstairs, plates downstairs impress — some of the time. Oysters served on the half-shell elate, embellished with a small disk of citrus gelée and a powder of lemony butter. The garnishes hide in the background at first bite, then slowly present to highlight the finish of the clean and briny bivalves.

An oxtail tamale, a beautiful plate, is painted with spicy habanero tomato sauce and drizzled with an artful zigzag of crème frîache. The masa is light, the braised and shredded meat is rich — it's a mystery this plate isn't more popular here. (A waitress claimed tuna tartare, shrimp and grits and a lamb lollipop — less adventurous dishes — are the fan favorites.)

Those shrimp and grits, while not the byproduct of cooking dangerously, do successfully spin low-country comfort. Flavorful crustaceans packed in an herbal marinade take a solid sear but aren't overcooked, and the cornmeal porridge is sharpened with chipotle and rich.

Scallops work too, sliced to open on a hinge like a tiny Chinese steamed bun, stuffed with lobster and vegetables, cut in a diminutive and near perfect dice.

But like the drinks upstairs, there are flaws and inconsistencies down here, too. Not enough to trash your evening as the food is mostly great, but enough to give you pause when the menu asks $27 for an over-seasoned pork chop. And while the grits that anchor the bone-in chop satisfy, the collards that share the plate lack brightness. Add a little lemon or vinegar to the pot and those greens would make any country momma proud.

A pork belly appetizer served with a sweet potato purée should melt in the mouth. Instead a dry and tough crust requires deliberate disassembly with a fork and knife.

Speaking of crusts, avoid the blue cheese number the menu offers for their steaks. The kitchen cooks grilled meats carefully, but "crust" brings a savory seared exterior to mind. Instead, a wet blanket of liquefied Point Reyes smothers a New York strip steak. Sparing breadcrumbs, toasted under a salamander, cap the cut, but not in anything that resembles a crust, and the blue cheese completely overpowers the dish. Unless you're a penicillium fetishist, pass on this extra — it wears like a tacky Christmas sweater. Although at least sweaters are in season this time of year.

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David Silver
David Silver

This is a chef not paying attention, nor does he want to hear any feedback. He recently posted an extravagant "Boulud-style" burger on Facebook as a coming menu item. Thick with the foie-gras/truffle/gold gaudiness, I mentioned that this dish just does not make sense in our economic times. My comment was erased and I was "de-friended"on Facebook. That is not the work of an intelligent chef looking for feedback for a dish not yet on the menu. This could either be some marketing lackey not wanting anything on the column that could be considered "negative," or a chef who will never be great.


I quit reading after the fourth paragraph. Anyone got the Cliff Notes version?


You are overly arrogant and pompous - not to mention wordy and inaccurate. Although I have never eaten at this restaurant, after reading your review I would like to experience it. If you disliked it, it can't be all bad. Also, check your facts. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation had an RV, but it certainly did not belong to their son, Rusty. It belonged to Cousin Eddie. That alone shows your reliability as a journalist.


Are you kidding? It's either good or it isn't... But, I guess that wouldn't make your editor happy to use so few words.