If you have a mediocre meal with fantastic service, there’s a good chance you’ll walk away feeling generally well about the experience.
But when you have a subpar meal with service that seemed to have a goal of making you wait, and you'll walk out wanting your money back.
At Elm Street Cask and Kitchen, there’s little that redeems the brunch experience. One of those is the decor: This downtown spot is quite beautiful, with a clean, classic design. Two dining spaces, one dominated by a bar area, provide plenty of room to spend the morning.
The restaurant is on Elm Street in the Central Business District of downtown, so a Sunday morning isn’t quite bustling. Seated quickly, we waited for eight minutes before anyone came by the table. We even had someone coughing up a storm, desperate for water, while staff meandered back and forth nearby. The wait for coffee, tea and juice was even longer — it was as if someone was running to Royal Blue Grocery down the street every time we ordered something.
The decent-sized menu offers plenty in the way of breakfast or lunch. We didn’t want to delay in ordering food, already knowing it would take an impressively long time, so we jumped for the Texas pecan cinnamon roll ($8). After having multiple conversations about Dallas politics, downtown parking and past relationships, the pastry arrived, cold and basic. But we were famished, so we consumed most of it, which is easily enough for five people.
We were handed two different menu versions. The one that seemed older (it had items for $1 less than the other menus) had a short rib sandwich ($13) on sourdough. It came out looking simple enough. We made the mistake of lifting the top bread piece off, which was a dreadful mishap when we saw the pale yellow cheese slice smashed against the bread. The meat tasted more like a dry pot roast than short rib.
The chicken and waffle ($15) is the safest bet on the menu. Though the Belgian waffle came out cold (again, maybe they are running to Royal Blue?) and unimpressive, the fried chicken was perfect — juicy with a light, crispy batter. If we didn’t have to wait so long to receive it, it could even be worth a repeat visit.
The best item on the table came on the side: maple gravy. The gently sweet gravy was what all chicken and waffles should have.
We were unable to order the biscuits and gravy ($13) listed on the menu and opted instead for the crab cake eggs benny ($16). It’s an interesting plate: the English muffin was as it should be, the jalapeno-hollandaise, while having a bizarre color, tasted fine, and the eggs were poached appropriately. The crab cake was well-executed, full of actual meat instead of flavor. The crab cake alone was good. Individually, the other items were good. Mixing all that with crab produced a flavor that was less than ideal.
A millennial at the table ordered avocado toast. The sliced avocado, sunny egg and Fresno chili came on top of hippie bread. You don’t need to try it to know what that tastes like. But it did make some of us think how much better the avocado toast is just a couple of doors down at Ascension Coffee.
On to the French toast: No one can mess that up, right? The monkey bread French toast ($12) harms the integrity of what this classic breakfast sweet should be. The bread came out so hard, it was hard to cut with a knife. The peanut butter-whipped cream (which tasted like regular whipped cream) and "Nutella pebbles” couldn’t save it.
It took us two hours to have this meal. One could have six courses in that time. One could see a short film in that time. Even though we had ridiculously engaging conversation full of wit and humor, we sat hungry for too long. And no one working in the restaurant seemed to care about that, or when we mentioned food being cold or not tasting right.
If you're coming here for brunch, make sure you're in good company. And try the fried chicken.
Elm Street Cask and Kitchen, 1525 Elm St. (downtown). Brunch served 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.