Ty Gale mops two slices of sourdough with butter and slides them on the flat grill. The bread hisses as he brushes the face-up side. Once there’s an even bronze toast, he flips them and lays on slices of American cheese. Then come the caramelized onions, simmered down for an hour with butter, salt and pepper; the smashing of the beef patty into the griddle; and the salt and pepper. Gale is cooking one of the most flawless patty melts in Dallas.
The Parlor’s sandwich is as simple as it sounds, executed with a thoughtfulness that extends far beyond the years of trendy bar food. Forget “artisan” for a moment: This is the kind of patty melt — the traditional rye subbed with Village Bakery sourdough and Swiss swapped for golden American cheese — that you should find, the one that you imagine you’ll have, at your neighborhood bar. There are no overwrought sauces or french fries (they’re frozen sidewinder fries from Ben E. Keith), and it’ll help you soak up all the cold beer. You won't find homemade ranch, and it’s less than 10 bucks.
“We didn’t want people to look at it and overthink. Food’s here if you want it ... that kind of thing,” says Parlor owner Seth Byars.
They ask if you'd like “pink or no pink.” (You want pink.) Gale, a former sauté chef at Eatzi’s, smashes the beef a little to get a good sear, checks the temperature and slides it on the butter-toasted bread. Why does the sandwich work so damn well? You may be thinking that with American cheese and butter and beef, it's an easy win. Untrue. Some of the simplest bar foods are the easiest to botch.
There are a few harmonious reasons why Parlor's patty melt sings.
Take one look at the cross section, and you can see the specks of black pepper. Everything’s given the attention of good seasoning. The American cheese fuses into the toasted bread, like a grilled-cheese sandwich, while the beef (80 percent beef, 20 percent fat) is salted, peppered and seared on the smoking-hot side of the griddle.
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Gale's melt execution allows the beautiful greases and juices of the beef to stand on their own and, at the last second, mingle with the buttery onions, melted cheese and toast. The onions, simmered down to a near-jam, smooth out the heavier flavors, and the whole thing tastes like a good, pre-internet bar sandwich. It’s a patty melt that tastes like the first-ever patty melt.
“We just thought, who doesn’t like a patty melt?” Byars says.
Based on this sandwich, I’d prefer to imagine that no such person exists. Recently, the sandwich has seen a bit of buzz on Facebook, particularly from Deep Ellum service industry folk, some of whom order it with slices of ghost pepper cheese. Gale and Byars are open to sandwich tweaks: You can order it with jalapeños, bacon or any damn condiment you want. I’d stick to what's on the menu (for your first one, at least; you'll be coming back for round two), the one that tastes like the recipe that dates to World War II, plus a cold beer and a corner at the bar. Because sometimes good bar food doesn't need much more.
The Parlor on Commerce, 2651 Commerce St.