With a European comfort food concept, Independent Bar & Kitchen is a monumental addition to the Deep Ellum restaurant scene. The union of partners behind the Homegrown Festival and the recent Old 97's County Fair is really something special. Also in their roster: City Tavern, a downtown bar, restaurant and venue, along with Club Dada, Deep Ellum’s seminal club venue. Next door to Dada they own Off the Record, a popular bar where you can buy vinyl records and listen to some of the best local DJs. And just one block over at 2712 Main St., they opened the Independent over the weekend.
The 5,000-square-foot space was last known as Pepe’s Ranch, but it has been thoroughly renovated into a modern rustic setting by 44 Build, the company known for its work with Blind Butcher and Mudsmith on Lower Greenville. The restaurant has a gorgeous front patio for diners and windows that open wide. The dining room has a to-die-for antique mirror and a stunning ceiling of engraved black tiles.
There are 20 brass beer taps and 100 bottles of beer to choose from, with local, national and European options. Off the Record has some divine cocktails, but the bar is raised here. You can get a great old fashioned or Tom Collins, but there are several new concoctions that are deliciously deceptive. With peach and almond, Lost At Sea is one smooth cocktail, but with Don Q Anejo and Rhum Agricole in the mix, it has a punch you won’t see coming.
The Independent’s chef: Andrew Dilda, a Meat Fight winner formerly of Barter here in Dallas, as well as the Reata and Woodshed in Fort Worth. This is European rustic comfort food, stunning variations of comfort foods you would find in pubs overseas.
Appetizers include meatballs in Bavarian gravy with tempura mushrooms, a root beer pretzel with Welsh rarebit sauce, fried leek rings with chili ailoi and pimento cheese with shaved spam. There are salads, most notably the O.E., which includes an over easy egg and slices of bacon. There are meat boards and cheese boards and — coming from a chef who used to be at Woodshed — they are obviously good options. The Wurst Board even includes lamb sausage with mint. But the real must-try here is the scotch eggs.
A baked scotch egg is fabulous, but this is a different beast. There's no breading, just a bit of seasoning on sausage cased in-house, wrapped around an egg and fried. The egg is closer to over medium than over-hard, and that’s a nice touch. The brown mustard is terrific, but the curry picadilly is nothing short of genius.
For the main course, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash and shrimp and grits are all great choices. There are also shared plate options (for two or four) like steak and potatoes, roast chicken and pork roast.
But the pork knuckle is an effortless home run, a rich man’s version of something you would find in a German beer hall. Brined in IPA, this wit-braised pork shank sits on herb spatzle (German egg noodles) with a distinctive brown butter gravy. Savory does not even begin to describe this meal, and you can push the tender meat right off the bone with a fork.
Save room for dessert. Cookies and milk? Great idea. Hazelnut and dark chocolate pot crème with candied peanuts? An interesting take on French custard. Both are great options, but only if the Independent is out of sticky pudding — in which case, there may be a riot. This English toffee pudding comes with a scoop of ice cream and will make your eyes roll back in your head.
Independent Bar & Kitchen is open for dinner seven days a week from 4 to 10 p.m., and lunch and brunch plans are forthcoming. Behind a sliding door, there's also a second dining room with a stage. Once opened, it will double the restaurant’s size, provide yet another platform for music in Deep Ellum and be perfect for parties.
Independent Bar & Kitchen, 2712 Main St.