While some might argue the cuisine that gave us grits and chicken-fried steak needs no interference, one of Deep Ellum's trendiest dining additions suggests that even the tried-and-true ways of Southern food can benefit from a fresh pair of eyes. In this case, executive chef Matt McCallister of the much-extolled FT33 brings his interpretation of familiar Southern fair to his newest restaurant, Filament.
Filament occupies a rehabbed space that combines industrial, modern and vintage elements. Marble-top tables, exposed ceilings, toile-blue details on the napkins and plates — it feels at once old and new, setting the stage for what diners can expect from the menu.
The brunch menu offers some exciting diversions from those omnipresent midday dishes with options like smoked trout ($16), a cauliflower steak ($13) and fried catfish ($14). But there are also bids to those wanting to keep on the well-brunched path. Yes, you will find eggs Benedict ($16) and a two-eggs plate ($14), but remember this is reinvention country, where the Benedict is topped with pulled pork and creole-style hollandaise.
Start with an order of Appalachian fried chicken thigh ($8) from the small plates menu. Perfect for two people to share, the delicate, buttery biscuit flecked with bits of cheddar and chive conjures images of blue ribbons at the fair. Sandwiched between the split biscuit are two pieces of chicken, fried until caramel-colored. A drizzle of the accompanying chili-spiked honey, a slice of bread and butter pickle and a shake or two of Filament's vinegar-forward hot sauce encapsulates some of the best flavors of the South.
Trekking through the fried provenance of Appalachia awakens a terrible hunger — so terrible that it can only be sated by what is arguably one of the least Southern of the available choices: the Filament burger ($12). Here a weighty, loosely ground patty is seared until softly pink. The patty is enveloped by a silky sheath of American cheese and a tangle of onions so intensely caramelized, they threaten to dissolve. This burger is lush, fatty and a surefire cure for hangovers. And the rosemary fries aren't bad, either.
And then there was the waffle ($12) — but not just any waffle. This copper-tinted waffle takes its color from an heirloom grain batter. The use of these ancient grains lends not only a beautiful hue but a satisfying chew to the waffle, which tastes pleasantly sweet. Preserved cherries lend little punches of sour and sweet in equal measure, while a thin drizzle of sour cream and laps of moonshine syrup see-saw their way between tart and ambrosial. It is the waffle of lazy Saturday morning dreams; the thing that should appear, somehow magically, beside all cups of coffee.
As good as the food is, the ambiance is equally worthy. The tables in front open onto sunlit views of the neighborhood, providing ample opportunity to people-watch, especially with Braindead Brewing across the street. But then again, you might find yourself hard pressed to take your eyes off your plate.
Filament, 2626 Main St. Brunch served 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sunday