Haute Bar Food Is Getting Hot

But only when the chefs in charge deliver what their menus promise.

The pork chop, flat-iron steak, pan-roasted chicken and other entrees may look good, but it's hard to order with confidence when a fillet of salmon arrives overcooked. Besides, those wings come in three sauces, and that salad you just ordered has already tempered your guilt.

While Boxwood caters to the manicured Uptown set, The Corner Bar lubricates a more casual crowd. It smells like a bar, with a fusty odor that reminds you of all the mornings you awoke down one credit card and up one mysterious bruise. The crowd gets younger, louder and drunker as the night wears on, and on the weekend sports fans berate, loudly, the job performance of men they've never met. Yet the menu board is scrawled with pedigreed local ingredients, including Tom Spicer's greens, which are dressed in a balanced vinaigrette, with julienned apples, slivers of celery and chopped pecans.

Croquettes masquerading as the flavors from the baked potato bar at a discount steakhouse are whimsical enough to elicit a smile. They're stuffed with bacon, cheese and chives, and come with requisite sour cream. The cold smoked wings are a little tough, but they're a pleasure to wrestle with.

At The Corner Bar, some of America's best corn dogs, with a white, tangy barbecue sauce.
Catherine Downes
At The Corner Bar, some of America's best corn dogs, with a white, tangy barbecue sauce.

Details

Boxwood Tap and Grill

2901 Thomas Ave., 214-220-2901, boxwoodtg.com. 4 p.m.-2 a.m. daily. $$

Wings $7, $12

Sliders $9

Burger $11

Beet salad $10

Grilled salmon $18

The Corner Bar

4830 McKinney Ave., 214-219-8002. 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-2 a.m. Sunday. $$

Mini corn dogs $5

Spicer's Greens $9

Wings $10

Burger $7

Ribs $12

The corn dogs are just one flaw away from being the best on the planet — a superlative that shouldn't be taken lightly. The words "this is the best corn dog I've ever had" were whispered, and even if they were later retracted, they illustrate the impact of that first bite. Luscher's Post Oak Red Hots, the same links peddled around town by Grape owner Brian Luscher, are cut to the length of your finger and replace what is normally a commodity dog, and they come with a white barbecue sauce that's creamy and tangy and hot. The batter they're dipped in is too thick, though, and they emerge from the fryer shaped like chubby Matryoshka dolls. But there are worse problems to have than too much bread on your corn dog.

If all the dishes that came out of The Corner Bar's kitchen worked this well, they'd have one of the best bar food menus in Dallas. Others dishes get mired in bad execution. Like the company whose bed you shared and then you wished you hadn't, they're only attractive if you've had enough to drink.

The Italian beef sandwich has potential, but the meat is sliced unevenly and it's aggressively salty, while a rack of ribs arrives tender, but bone dry. A burger evokes that same drive-in number that makes you long for the past, but without the history it's nothing more than a thin-pattied burger with a passable char. Don't skip the bacon for best results, but it's not enough to make you run back next Friday.

And that's the measure of great bar food. It compels us to return no matter what our loved ones or our doctors tell us is best. It creates a longing that yields to euphoria when we indulge our cravings again and again. Hidden within each of these bars there is potential, but neither has pulled it together yet. Until they do they are fine enough places to only cautiously graze — and drink with abandon.

Web head: Haute Bar Food Is Getting Hot

Web deck: But only when the chefs in charge deliver what their menus promise.

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2 comments
mann2c55
mann2c55

Haute bar food is merely the equivalent of the designer cocktail and craft beer movement, what I call hospitality gentrification. The quality of the fare may be better or worse, but one thing is consistent: the price will be higher. Ten or twelve bucks for a plate of chicken wings that used to go for five. Same with a burger, beef, turkey, or otherwise. Rents go up, so prices go up, but you have to give the suckers a "fair shake for their suger" , as Bing Crosby once put it to Bob Hope in a "road" picture. The image is what passes for a "fair shake" these days. A full paragraph description of an item on a menu will suffice. And of course, a nice review helps. Frankly I miss Frankie's in Uptown. They had a killer menu that wasn't pretentious or overly expensive. Drinks were reasonable too. These days that's going to be hard to replace.

scott.reitz
scott.reitz moderator editor

@mann2c55 What you see as gentrification I see as a return to quality, and a move away from processed food. A lot of what you eat at bars is artificially cheap. This isn't as much about foie gras medallion on every burger as it is getting a burger made with decent beef.

 
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