From the outside, Armoury D.E. is a little foreboding. The space normally carved out for windows is instead occupied by panels the color of old pennies. There is no traditional signage to inform passersby what lies within, only a single, neon letter “A” which hangs above the plank door. The vibe is one part medieval dungeon, one part hipster club – as if those who enter are equally likely to find an oubliette as they are a wide selection of craft beer.
But that’s the outside. Like your mother always says, don’t think that a business is a BDSM pirate record store just because of its storefront. Inside it’s dark and cool; a seductive, moody hideaway from the outside world. And while there is no oubliette (or at least none we could find), there is in fact a well-curated selection of craft beer both on tap and by the bottle. Armoury also has a cocktail list that ranges from the distinctive (paprika, cardamom and gin) to the customary (Sazeracs, French 75s).
The brunch menu, meanwhile, is a culinary amalgam. There are breakfast tacos, French toast a la Cocoa Krispies, crepes, omelettes and sandwiches. Tying it all together, albeit somewhat haphazardly, is an Eastern European thread. Armoury calls itself a “bar with a Hungarian accent,” and this much is evident from the prominent use of paprika and gyulai sausage across its dishes. Gyulai is a favorite Hungarian sausage, drawing its flavor from beechwood smoke, bacon fat, caraway seeds and – you guessed it – paprika.
We tried out the gyulai in an order of rakott krumpli ($10), a dish that proved, while not elegant, soul-satiating. Layers of thickly sliced potatoes are combined with sliced, boiled eggs, sausage and sour cream before being topped with sweet, salty, nutty Swiss cheese.
Before committing the order to paper, our server assessed our Hungarian comfort food tolerance by asking “Would you say you are a fan of sour cream?” Needless to say, the order was written down and whisked away to the kitchen. A short while later there appeared a steaming bowl whose contents were so aggressively alabaster, save for a round or two of gyulai, that it could have doubled for vanilla ice cream. And in a way, it was vanilla. The dish combined common ingredients with a simple preparation, but the results proved comforting to the core.
One thing you might notice about Armoury D.E.’s brunch menu is the pricing — namely that it’s reasonable. The two eggs plate costs $7, French toast is $8 and omelets are $9.50, prices which undercut much of the Dallas brunch competition. An order of Damn Tacos at $7.50 has to be one of Deep Ellum’s best options for the semi-thrifty bruncher who has an appetite for top-shelf protein with options like pork belly, smoked pork loin and Csabi paprika salami.
Whatever you do though, get the duck taco. Succulent shreds of duck meat are folded into a loose scramble before being piled high onto a toasty flour tortilla. Topped with some of Armoury’s tastebud-searing salsa nalga e diablo, this is a decadent a.m. treat. The beef cheek taco proved less impressive but still toothsome, with big chunks of fatty beef that delivered rich, meaty flavor in much the same way that lengua does.
Every so often during our meal, the plank door would open just enough for the sunlight to streak in, bringing with it the thirsty and hungry peoples of Deep Ellum. Staring at our empty plates, we wanted to order more – at least another drink — just to sit a little while longer and enjoy the dark.
Armoury D.E., 2714 Elm St. Brunch is served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday