Last Saturday, USC and Alabama fans transformed Deep Ellum — if only for a few hours — into a sea of crimson and red. The streets were closed for a car show and with that came more people — women in pin-up outfits and rockabilly chic, men in biker gear. It was a great time to be there; it felt like Deep Ellum, distilled. And what better way to mark the occasion than with a stop into Anvil Pub for brunch? Or, as the Pub so eloquently calls it: Fuck Brunch.
Fuck Brunch could derive its bawdy name from its signature 32-ounce adult beverages, sure to leave even the most acclimated of day-drinkers feeling a bit knackered. Maybe it's a tongue-in-cheek lash at Dallas' overzealous brunch culture. But most likely it is a name meant to shock and amuse, which it does if you're in the right spirit.
Anvil’s brunch is somewhat notorious in Dallas. It's a form of notoriety driven not by its food but by those Big Gulp-sized cocktails served one-and-one style with a small glass of PBR. You’ve likely seen some version of these drinks grace your social media feed, wherein a bucket of alcohol is garnished with as much food as gravity will permit. Anvil Pub’s menu has four of these bad boys to choose from: a bloody mary, screwdriver, mimosa or sangria whose accoutrements include the likes a cheeseburger slider, tater tots and cinnamon rolls. It’s theatrical in its excess, or at least that’s the idea.
Anvil’s website touts photos of the drinks in all their glory, with a veritable entrée’s worth of food brimming from the mouth of each glass. What we received for our $20 per-drink expenditure was a version of the photo, analogous to how McDonalds hamburgers are a parody of their TV-spot selves. That is to say that the drink appeared somewhat lackluster, its over-the-top garnishes seeming more perfunctory and depleted in real life. The grilled shrimps were a nice touch, but the taquitos were emaciated and dry – the stuff of frozen food sections. We kept eyeing the table next door, who opted for screwdrivers and were happily munching away on their breakfast sandwich garnishes. The sangria was good, though – fruity, winey and seemingly endless in its quantity. Was it worth $20? The idea of it was, but the underwhelming execution made it hard to justify.
If the cocktails were Donald Trump, the food was Bernie Sanders: respectable and honest. The biscuits and gravy – dubbed the “Hot Mess” ($5.95) — were exactly what you’d want them to be. Biscuits baked high as the sky, light and fluffy to boot, ladled with sausage-studded gravy and sprinkled with chipotle powder. This is the kind of food that seems immune to the law of diminished returns: bite after bite, it manages to satisfy and comfort anew. Or then again, that could be the gravy crossing the blood-brain barrier and affixing itself to my hippocampus – who knows?
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An order of the “El Keno,” a migas-stuffed poblano served alongside hashbrowns, was also good. The hashbrowns had been deep-fried, rendering crisp threads of potato that added some nice textural variation to the plate. The poblano, meanwhile, had been lightly charred, its smoky and slightly floral notes playing nicely against the migas.
So here’s the game plan next time: Skip the bathtub o’ alcohol with all its wily charms and order a regular drink – the Anvil is a bar, after all. Then set your sights on the portion of the menu that does not put food on sticks, and you’ll be all set.
Anvil Pub, 2638 Elm St. Brunch served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday