The Brunch Chronicles: Cedar Grove's Playful Cocktail Menu Doesn't Save the Mediocre Food

When DISH Cedar Springs ended its seven year run in February, it was with anticipation of things to come. Tim McEneny of NL Group (Front Room Tavern, DISH Preston Hollow) planned to revamp the space, the menu and the mission, eschewing DISH's more formal approach in lieu of a lively and casual concept. That concept became known as Cedar Grove, a nature-inspired restaurant and bar. 

The nature theme is evident from the start. Great white sculptures of trees tower over tables, imbuing the dining space with a surreal but stunning atmosphere. To dine underneath and around these 12-foot figures is to feel as if one has entered the spliced dreamscape of John Muir and David Bowie, a slightly disconcerting land wherein naturalism meets modernism. 

Things really start to feel discordant, though, once you're seated. On one side of the restaurant an expanse of mirror swirls the room into full view. The chatter of your dining comrades is swirled with it, as the acoustics are as loud and echoing as a middle school cafeteria. Were Cedar Grove to attract a different clientele this might not be a problem, but one can only listen to so many SMU ex-pats expound upon the merits of eye serum for dark circles. 

What attracts this clientele? Maybe it's the adult lemonade stand, a $75 foray into the depths of communal day drinking, that serves five to eight people a mixture of Deep Eddy vodka and cucumber-infused lemonade and rosemary-infused sweet tea. The lemonade stand is but one shareable option across a menu that encourages togetherness. Punches and pitchers abound, including a watermelon bourbon punch that sounds like an end-of-summer delight. Other playful nods to summer come in the form of a lemon drop snow cone ($6) and liquor-laden root beer float ($7), while the frozen rosé offers a more sophisticated take on the adult slushy with a tannic, slightly bitter kick. 
The dining menu also encourages sharing with a bevvy of snacks, sweets and other plates. Theoretically this gives cooperative diners the opportunity to have more tasting experiences than they would alone. More, yes, but is it good?

The brunch torta ($10) was one of the more divergent options on a menu that showed an affinity for the familiar: omelets, pancakes, a burger. The end sandwich, sadly, proved hum-drum. A split round of bolillo bread housed a crispy pork cutlet and a few trimmings. The side of bright, acid-happy salsa saved the torta from being the proverbial Toby Flenderson of the sandwich world: not bad, just, you know ... boring. 
The breakfast flatbread ($13), meanwhile, successfully avoided boring. In doing so, it veered all the way into Do These Flavors Go Together? territory. The bread base was awash with a coating of onion jam, a smoky, sweet sauce dotted with whole pearl onions that had been roasted until shriveled and tender. The jam had an unsettling teriyaki-like flavor, pulled back from being unappealingly saccharine by the accompanying melted white cheese, bacon and fried eggs. The dish flopped, just like its flatbread crust.

It's unclear exactly what tree Cedar Grove is barking up. Nature's inspiration, so apparent at first, seemed lost on the menu and on the plate. But maybe none of that matters when there's an adult lemonade stand and a table full of diners who seem eager to make the most of it. 

4123 Cedar Springs Road. Brunch served 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
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Kathryn DeBruler
Contact: Kathryn DeBruler