Restaurant Reviews

Scotch & Sausage: Good Sausages, Bad Name

For a long time, naming a restaurant with a single word lent a sort of coolness to a place. Just in Dallas, Local, Suze and Oak grabbed the spotlight with names that could seemingly mean anything. But like all trends, the one-word restaurant name is becoming outdated — replaced, of course, by the two-word name, for restaurants want to offer something more. (In fact: twice as more!) Many glue their dual descriptions together with a chest-puffing ampersand or some other character previously reserved for computer code: Stock & Barrel, Proof + Pantry, that sort of thing.

Among them is Scotch & Sausage, which opened in Oak Lawn this summer. It comes at the hands of Trevor Ball, who proudly touts his heritage as a 19th-generation sausage maker descended from Kuby's stock, and Dylan Elchami, who is new to the restaurant business and takes credit for the S&S brand. The idea of scotch and sausage side by side in harmony is certainly novel, but Scotch & Sausage just isn't the best way to describe what you'll encounter here. There are both whiskeys (more than 100 bottles) and sausages served in the newly renovated space on Oak Lawn Avenue. But the restaurant would be better described as the comely new beer garden in the gayborhood, or maybe Hipster Berlin Meets the Hot Dog Zoo.

In the early evening, you'll see customers throughout multiple dining rooms with massive one-liter tankards of beer testing the strength of their wrists. The dimpled steins are filled from a moderate run of taps offering brews ranging from Maredsous to Franconia to a Belgian IPA from Lakewood Brewing Co. and more. You'll see distant reflections of Oktoberfest in the long communal tables that fill the main dining room and the outdoor seating areas, including one with a bar table built in a long, angular oval around a tree. It's a swank space for such pedestrian fare, with its black metal furniture, dim lighting and eccentric art displays, but let's stay focused on the name.

The sausage component is understandable — forcemeat practically flows through chef Ball's fat-hampered arteries — but scotch is as likely a pairing as limoncello with steaks. For sure, offering a well-curated set of spirits is commendable in any sort of a restaurant, but to make it part of the identity alongside sausage seems shortsighted, like they married themselves to the name and its alliterative qualities even when the menu divorced itself. Names are important; they give a place a personality and hint at what to expect.

Why not point to all the great beer available for swilling? Suds and Sausage may not be any more mellifluous, but at least it makes sense.

Or how about Spuds and Sausage? By far the best reason for coming here are the french fries that you could make into a meal on their own. Cut a little thicker than your standard fried potato, they're wrapped in a thick, crisp crust that envelopes potato flesh that has been reduced to some sort of magical purée. Get an order of these, some plain mayonnaise for dipping and one of those tankards of beer and repeat until you slide off your stool in a potato-provoked stupor.

The fries get their unique texture from a triple-frying process. Between each bubbling oil bath the fries are frozen before they're fried one last time and dumped on your tray. You can get an order of the fries alone, or you can order whatever sausage you choose "currywurst style" and get a smaller portion, alongside a plastic tub of choose-your-own dip. Pick the weisswurst and the curry ketchup and soon a sheet pan will land on your table. Its contents beat the hell out of the currywurst you might find in the street stalls of Berlin.

The most traditional sausages are the strongest: the bratwursts, the bangers, the hot dogs wrapped in bacon. Order them in a bun with some sauerkraut and peppers or onions and then hit them hard with one of the massive squirt bottles of mustard.

The new-age sausages are more hit or miss. On one visit a meat grinder outfitted with a stuffing tube was extruding coarsely ground pork flecked with bits of fresh chile. "It's called the fantasma," the cashier said as he recalled a list of ingredients including pork, tequila and ghost chiles. A quick search on YouTube will reveal hundreds of bravado-driven idiots reduced to red-faced puddles of snot just seconds after nibbling one of the tiny peppers, but the fantasma doesn't even elicit a single tear. Instead, you'll get a healthy warm glow that's almost fruity. If the sausage had a bit more fat it would be perfect, but mine arrived from the kitchen dry and a little crumbly — traits I found in a few sausages across the board.

Other sausages include antelope, wild boar paired with a bulgogi marinade, venison, duck and quail — a whole forest's worth of animals stuffed in hog casings to choose from. If the theme were a little more pervasive, you could almost envision Safari and Sausage. (Complete with hats from Panama Jack!) There are also a few vegetarian options, including a chipotle sausage that was surprisingly juicier than many of its meaty counterparts.

Skip the oversized Scotch egg whose cornflake crust is tough and unyielding, even though the yolk is golden and viscous inside. Eat more of those fries instead.

If a name helps frame and identity, and Scotch & Sausage seems a little clunky to you, it won't be surprising that it trickles down into quirky service and sloppy execution in the kitchen. Dry, overcooked sausages are not the exception here and the occasional link has been served on a stale bun. One evening I encountered a hot dog that had been reduced to a Slim Jim. And while two lettuce leaves dovetailed to mimic a bun made of roughage appeal to the low-carb set, they turn into a train wreck within just a few bites. With hands covered in grease and toppings you'll be left with an even better idea: Savages and Sausage.

Still, when you're sitting with a beer that's taller than a Coke bottle in front of you, while you bathe in the scent of near-perfect, thrice-fried potatoes, it's hard to miss the utility in the place — especially if you've brought some friends along to join in the party with you, and even if you've not. Remember those long communal tables that fill the dining room, and the outdoor seating that turns a circle? Come here solo without fear of boredom. It's likely you won't be lonely for long. And did I mention the place stays open until 4 a.m. on the weekends? If Elchami and Ball can iron out some wrinkles, you can envision a line out the door into the wee hours.