Thank Goodness It's Del Frisco's Grille

More easy bar food for the Uptown crowd.

On a recent Friday, one of the cold ones, Del Frisco's Grille had a nice little buzz going. Out front, women in ultra-short skirts bounced in place to keep warm, clinging tightly to the arms of starched-and-buttoned-down dudes as they waited on a lengthy valet line. Stacked orange box lanterns illuminated the streetscape from above, and an AMG Gullwing pulled up and basked in the dusky glow. A $185,000 car and no one even noticed.

Inside, the host's stand was surrounded with diners trying to score precious real estate. I wasn't one of them. I'd made no reservation, and was hoping instead to snag a solo seat at the bar. Those hopes dashed like that Gullwing, though; by 7 p.m. the bar was a sea of occupied stools, sharp-dressed drinkers and fancy stemware.

It was nearly an hour before I snagged a spot, packed in tight between a middle-aged brunette and a younger couple on a date. We were surrounded by a crowd that ran two deep at times, all leaning in to order drinks and, occasionally and cheerily, shots.

Sara Kerens

Location Info

Map

Del Frisco's Grille

3232 McKinney Ave.
Dallas, TX 75204

Category: Restaurant > Breakfast

Region: East Dallas & Lakewood

Details

Del Frisco's Grille
Deviled eggs $7
Steak egg roll $10
14 oz New York strip $38
Shaved Prime steak $16
Burger $14
Beef stroganoff $30

I ordered a New York strip, medium rare, and pulled on a Budweiser (live with it, beer snobs) while I watched the crowd work. But my steak didn't come medium rare — a fact my server made sure we all knew, blinding the poor thing with a flashlight and forcing me to cut the steak in half to examine her "doneness." (This, by the way, is an odd and unnerving practice that seems especially common in Dallas. Might I suggest a meat thermometer?)

I speared the steak with my fork, held it up and asked him what he thought. He guessed: "Medium?" I agreed, and told him I'd ordered medium rare. After an uncomfortable pause, the steak was whisked away.

A second steak took more than an hour to come, a shame considering how perfect it was. A well-charred and blackened exterior, seasoned quite simply and beautifully, gave way to a sultry, scarlet center. It was a fine piece of meat. But it would have been finer if it had come more quickly, or had the service that surrounded the error been smoother. A bartender apologized and made two trips back to the kitchen to check on my meal. "We'll take the steak off your bill," he said, and then didn't.

The service wasn't terrible — just clunky. On two visits, empty beer bottles sat idle far too long while I sat at the bar. At a table, my waiter knocked over a salt shaker to move a glass, then knocked over a pepper shaker to upright the salt shaker. And my brunette bar companion that night had to bargain at length to get a ponzu dipper for her dumplings replaced with plain ol' soy sauce.

Here's the thing, though: She didn't seem bothered at all.

"Del Frisco's is a name people recognize," she told me. She seemed willing to deal with shoddy service to be a part of the brand, and no one around her appeared to disagree. Lit up in sunset tones, the Grille is as much a Place to Be as it is a Place to Eat.

Most evenings, the massive two-level dining room's tables and bar area are packed. Those who drink (that would be everyone) favor wine and cocktails over beer, and the Grille makes sure to deliver that booze efficiently. A number of mixed drinks are served on tap quickly poured over a shaker full of ice to chill, and sometimes right into a martini glass. Have the Skinny Sauza Margarita, made with agave nectar, if you're watching your figure. It clocks in at 160 calories, according to the menu.

Thankfully the rest of the menu neglects nutritional measures. I wonder how many people would order the pimento cheese fritters if they knew their caloric cost. Served in a small cast-iron dish, the crunchy pingpong balls crack open to release a runny goo of pimento-studded Velveeta. They remind me of a savory Cadbury creme egg, and they taste just as bad. Steak and cheese egg rolls use a similar queso and are better (because they have meat, duh). So are the chicken wings, which are served as little lollipops.

If you're getting a sort of upscale-Sam's-Club-freezer-section vibe, you're not far off.

Deviled eggs are loaded with mustard (in a good way) and drizzled with a sweet truffle-oil vinaigrette (in a very bad way). Order yours without the dressing and you'll save the snack.

Only the kitchen can save the ahi tuna tacos. The shells are pleasingly crisp, but the raw tuna and flat guacamole inside are a snooze. If they used ceviche or something else acidic to dress up these bites I'd eat them eight at a time.

A shaved prime-beef sandwich (read: French dip) needs less help. The kitchen wraps the finished sandwich in a paper cocoon that steams and softens the bread. A thick au jus and some horseradish cream make for decent dipping, and the shoe-string fries are perfectly crisp.

The same fries come with the burger, which is satisfying enough but strange. Why the kitchen uses two super-slim patties instead of one escapes me, unless they're really going for the whole elevated-bad-food thing. If they can sex up wings by turning them into lollipops, they can sex up a Big Mac, too?

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9 comments
ObserverFan
ObserverFan

Overpriced Sam's Club plates? Velveeta stuffed pimento? This shit sounds disgusting. How'd that Budweiser pair with your $38 steak?

Chromeclone
Chromeclone

Sounds like every other restaurant that has more than a few locations (corporate). Designed for two things, consistency of food through non-scratch made items and to make money. If the love is not in the food or service, all they are after is your money. A lot of these chain restaurants don't have chefs, they have kitchen (production) managers.

JB
JB

In my admittedly limited experience, franchise casual dining restaurants are consistently mediocre, at best. Their menu is designed and the food is flavored to appeal to the broadest cross section of tastes. Although there are a couple of franchise restaurants I like, I most often go to locally owned establishments that serve food much more to my liking. It would appear that Del Frisco is indeed just another franchise chain with 'acceptable' food...

Bob orange
Bob orange

Check out the photo for your piece before writing "...bar was a sea of occupied stools, sharp-dressed drinkers..." Huh? I see at least ten guys dressed grocery-store casual, including jeans, t-shirt. Maybe the two females in the background were dressed cooler. Actually... was it a stag bar?

Jon Daniel
Jon Daniel

You just described 75% of the restaurants in Uptown

Bob
Bob

The best way to check done-ness of meat without cutting? Check the firmness with a utensil. Every chef worth a damn should do this before it goes on your plate. Firm = medium or well done. Soft = medium rare. Gooey = rare

Steve
Steve

Upscale Applebee's, Scott? Really? That dig completely deflates your assessment.

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

Writing came first. Photo came second. This is a shot of the upstairs bar, which is much less busy when this photo was taken than the downstairs bar likely was. Point taken, though.

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

It's not really a dig. Applebee's designs their menu in a certain way. They want to cater to EVERYONE. They want to make sure as many people as possible will come in and find something they like.

Del Frisco's Grille takes the same tack. They've designed a menu that casts a wide net. And they're getting ready to stamp it out in cities all over the country. Seems similar to me.

 
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