Deep Ellum Blues

Friday night was a deliciously cool evening, perfect for a stroll around the neighborhood before heading out to the American Airlines Center to watch the Stars give the Blackhawks a swift kick in the third-period balls. The Man of the Hour and I had an hour or two to kill before the game, so he suggested we check out the little cafe we'd passed last week on a similar outing.

Last time, it was a Thursday around 8 p.m. Prime dining time, and the newly reopened Deep Ellum Cafe was barren, looking much like the empty shell of Tarantino's had looked for the past several weeks: tables, chairs and not much else. A girl with a mohawk stood in the doorway and handed me a take-out menu when I walked up to give the posted fare the once-over. We'd already eaten at Deep Sushi, but vowed to return another day.

Sadly, Friday was no busier for the DEC, despite the fact that Frank Campagna's Horror Show opening at his Kettle Art Gallery next door was filled with patrons ogling art made of preserved animals, depicting dead and rotting corpses and featuring photos of generally terrified folks (honestly, it's a must-see). In its original form (and location, right where it is today) the DEC opened in 1987 with the same kind of New American cuisine we enjoyed Friday night.

As the only diners in the place, we had our pick of tables, so it was off to the back patio. Entertainment was provided by two alley cats (creatively named "Alley" and "Cat" by a staffer) scampering up and down a fence post, which immediately sold me on the place before they'd even brought out the food.

In the interest of time, we opted for sandwiches. I devoured the Cafe Chicken Club, and my date did damage to a "Dagwood" made with Black Forest ham and portobello mushrooms. The giant waffle fries were seasoned with spicy goodness, and the service was great--a small feat, you might think, since we were the only couple I the joint. But I've found that situation tends to breed over-attentiveness in waitstaff, and these guys did everything just right.

I hope business will pick up in the coming weeks. Lowest Greenville is hardly worth the effort anymore when it comes to tasty dining in a semi-urban entertainment district, so it's nice to have an old classic back in the Deep Ellum 'hood. Even if I was just 4 years old when the cafe opened originally. I'm sure I would have liked the Mediterranean calamari. --Andrea Grimes

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