Want oysters? Town Hearth serves them. Want spaghetti? They’ve got that too. Town Hearth sells a burger, a whole fish, French onion soup, baby back ribs, burrata, Brussels sprouts, whole lobster, salads, Japanese-style crudos and “tots du jour.” Also, it’s a steakhouse with a rib-eye called The Battle Axe.
Try playing Trendy Menu Bingo at Town Hearth. Duck egg, hamachi, dry-aged beef, elotes, Dom Pérignon – bingo. House-made pasta, chili cheese fries, salsa verde, an exclusive barrel of Eagle Rare, poutine – bingo. Vegan-friendly options – oh, wait, nope.
Town Hearth’s decor has everything, too. Not content with 64 chandeliers? How about vintage Ducatis and a 1961 MG? What about a perplexingly huge thicket of old sports trophies on every available surface? Oh, and the giant fish tank contains a real minesweeping submersible.
Another simply gorgeous pile of meat: the Lenox ($95), a bone-in prime rib big enough to serve four people with a few sides, and available only on Friday and Saturday nights. The medium rare request was again honored perfectly and the steak’s tender fat was beautiful to behold, but the stars were the charred end bits, which tasted richly of smoke and open flame.
A friend who grew up on a farm especially enjoyed the Lenox. “This reminds me of home,” he told me. “This is corn-fed beef, not grass. You can taste it.” In case that intense grilled meatiness isn’t enough, the dish comes with jus and a horseradish cream sauce that’s sadly got much more cream than horseradish.
The best appetizer for steak is, of course, beef carpaccio ($18), and Town Hearth’s has already earned a reputation around town for its excellence. That’s in no small part thanks to the well-considered sprinkling of balsamic reduction and crunchy gremolata on each thin slice of meat. The crispy fried oysters are addicting too ($18), served on an escargot dish. The tiny cups are filled not with snails but a mix of kale and aioli, tasting like the adult version of spinach artichoke dip.
Town Hearth is a ridiculous love letter to a ridiculous city, a monument to Dallas-sized ambitions, cars, hair and egos.
There may be no more Dallas menu item in Dallas than “tots du jour,” a rotating tater tot feature that’s usually hilariously over-the-top. Think tots with beef bourguignon or, as on my first visit, “tots Oscar” ($21), which is, yes, tater tots with béarnaise sauce and entire claws of fresh crab meat. The taters are crisp, salty and childhood-nostalgia-inducing, while the crab, equally perfectly cooked, is a reminder that we’re all grown-ups now, and that some of us have way too much disposable income.
A more mature side dish choice, maybe, would be asparagus ($12), grilled and topped with gremolata for crunch, or, even better, the mushrooms ($12), cooked till perfect and served in an herbaceous and meaty veal jus gravy. The “mixed tomatoes and burrata” ($18) is a noteworthy salad combining good heirloom tomatoes of nearly every size and color with somewhat salty cheese, greens and paper-thin slices of shallot. The white cheddar macaroni ($12) is plenty good too, but it’s far from the tastiest or gooiest in town.
On my second visit, we finally tried one: a slab of devil’s food cake the size of a loaf pan ($9). Even shared by the whole table, it was so moist, so indulgent and so deliriously rich that I felt queasy later.
A bigger flaw is the wine list. While the cocktail program is full and festive, wine is tougher; there’s not one cheap bottle of bubbly, for instance, and there are just two varieties of malbec, the perfect wine to pair with steak. Most of the offerings concentrate on a small handful of pricey, prestigious regions and styles.
Town Hearth deserves credit for many things, including superb food, but the main virtue is this: It’s fun as hell. High-end Dallas restaurants have a bad case of pretentiousness, and across downtown and Uptown, waiters are delivering little lectures along with the food, explaining dinner in art-museum-plaque detail. That’s not the style of this new restaurant, or of chef Nick Badovinus’ other joints, Off-Site Kitchen, Montlake Cut and Neighborhood Services.
After devouring an aged bone-in steak, I retired to the men’s room, where country-accented bros in gingham shirts were giving each other a hard time about their pissing skills: “You need Flomax over there?”
And, in that moment, I thought: Truly, it doesn’t get any more Dallas than Town Hearth.
Town Hearth, 1617 Market Center Blvd. 214-761-1617. Open 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 5 to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; closed Sunday.