"Hello! Here we have calf-fries with a touch of Tabasco, would you like one?" asks an attractive female server wearing tighter-than-tight jeans and boots.
For the first time in this Texan's life, the answer was yes, and it's a good thing it was (spicy wild boar meatballs and juicy shards of fried cactus were also warmly welcomed by this native Texan). The way in which the seemingly crude appetizer of deep-fried balls from some farm animal wasn't only tasty, but an elevated form of hors d'oeuvre, made for the best metaphor to describe the opening night of The Rustic -- a mix of whimsical Texas charm, Dallas money and good ol' fashioned creative vision.
The venue, a new dining concept and concert venue from the minds of Texas Country torch-bearer Pat Green and the Dallas-based FreeRange Concepts (Bowl and Barrel, Mutt's Cantina) certainly held up its end of the bargain last night at the grand opening.
The entire venue, from the 40-plus beer taps under an American flag fashioned out of empty beer cans to the outdoor concert area was gorgeous, but it also had a casual feel that gives it a chance to embrace those who don't normally make Knox-Henderson Happy Hours a regular part of their week. There were plenty of rustic elements to be seen, aside from the beer-can flag, such as the varying types of wood that covered the walls which gave the interior of the restaurant the vibe of a cabin, albeit a fancy one. Portions of steel barrels functioned as light fixtures above the comfortable, curved booths.
There's considerable on-site parking and easy street-parking access -- not usually a part of Dallas' Uptown area.
And the music venue has proper ambitions, with plans to host local music up to four nights a week, along with larger national acts a couple of times a month along Central Expressway. The whole thing feels like something that wouldn't normally happen here. Green, a member of Texas Country royalty, has a simple, but profound vision for the restaurant's musical aspect.
"We'll have 30 big-ticket shows a year here," he explains as he provides a tour through the bar-area and into the outdoor concert venue as gawkers stalk about a couple of hours before he would hit the stage."But this is a restaurant first, not a music venue. People are going to come here for the food and the drinks. It has to be that way for this to work, I think."
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And yes, people were there for the drinks and were pleasantly surprised by the food, as local luminaries such as former Dallas Star goalie Marty Turco, Texas Ranger Ian Kinsler and legendary chef Dean Fearing were all on-hand. And as the perfectly weathered Dallas sky grew dark, the crowd of over one thousand gathered outside in the backyard biergarten area awaited the singer who has provided the soundtrack for innumerable college-years road-trips to christen the venue appropriately.
Even when down near the front of the crowd near the stage, it never felt jam-packed, which was nice, as it's tough to imagine a thicker crowd than one for a Pat Green show on the opening night of his own venue. As Green launched into perhaps his most beloved song, "Carry On," to start the show, the sound was clear, with stacked amps aplenty on each side of the stage (a massive wooden structure with large, lit-up letters spelling out the venue's name atop it) to appease the folks in the back of the yard. And the sight lines are excellent all the way back to the grassy area by the fence that backs up to the southbound service road for Central Expressway,
Local Country artist Deryl Dodd, who gigs more in Ft. Worth than Dallas, made a point to see the place, and he thinks The Rustic could be such a great development for the Dallas country music scene. "There's no other place like this in Dallas," he says. "The location, The sound, the lighting, it's all perfect."