It was not long ago that eating at the mall meant co-opting the least sticky table at the food court for a slice of Sbarro. But not anymore. Malls are increasingly catering to consumers who want more from their eating experience than paper bags full of chicken nuggets. Nothing works up an appetite for a cocktail and charcuterie like a few solid hours of ardent consumerism. For some, mall restaurants have become an attraction in and of themselves for diners willing to brave parking lot traffic patterns designed by Hell’s architect — and the hordes of zealous discount hunters — just for the sake of a meal. NorthPark Center has become one such dining destination. Over the years, a small army of sit-down restaurants have set up shop here: La Duni, Seasons 52, NM Café and The Theodore, to name a few.
The latter comes to us courtesy of the restaurateurs behind numerous local hot spots, including Bolsa, Bar Belmont, Chicken Scratch, The Foundry and Smoke. Attention to detail is the pervading theme across all of these restaurants, and The Theodore is no exception. Technically, this restaurant's theme is Teddy Roosevelt. One might think this would translate to mint juleps, waiters speaking softly and a desserts menu comprised solely of hasty pudding, but instead The Theodore goes for a quirky, updated American classics both in its design and in its menu, thanks to chef and owner Tim Byers.
The Theodore’s brunch menu feels less conscripted to the general theme. While American influences are apparent in options like the cured ham and horseradish egg salad ($10), brunch burger ($10), turkey club ($13) — along with crab Louie ($16) and roasted pheasant ($14) salads — an Italian influence is also evident in offerings like the breakfast calzone.
The calzone is shaped to form a crescent around a dish of marinara. It is not a thing of beauty, but the exterior baked up nicely — thin and crisp. The belly of the calzone, though, had become a bit sodden under the weight of the filling, which was comprised of scrambled eggs, sausage and ricotta. The preceding elements combined forces to create something akin to a Hot Pocket, albeit a far nicer rendition than those found in the frozen aisle of your local grocery store. The Hot Pocket comparison is not meant to degrade the dish, which was enjoyable enough — especially when big hunks of calzone were dipped in that acidic, oregano-flaked marina – but failed to stir any sense of brunch calzone-based awakening. And at $15, the price tag did not bolster the dish’s appeal.
Diners should instead opt for the eggs plate. In addition to two eggs cooked to order, the plate includes cakes of fried hashbrowns which have a pleasantly sour twang, along with toast or an English muffin, fruit preserves, choice of breakfast meat and beans. Yes, that’s right, beans. English breakfast fans are accustomed to the presence of legumes at the breakfast table. For those less inured to the idea, The Theodore’s rendition, which serves large white beans in a savory broth, is as good an introduction as any.
When it comes to the choice options, opt for the toast and the salmon pastrami. The bread is baked onsite and makes for the perfect delivery mechanism for generous amounts of blueberry preserves and fresh butter. The latter is cured in a house combination of herbs and whole spices, with fennel one of the predominate flavors.
While diners could easily overlook the two eggs plate in lieu of a more glamorous-sounding dish, this lapse in menu judgment would be a loss for brunchers everywhere. Where else but The Theodore can one have beans, homemade bread and salmon pastrami on one plate within a stone’s throw of Nordstrom? That's not just good brunching, that's good old fashioned American ingenuity — something even old Teddy Roosevelt could get behind.