Chef Taylor McCreary never made it to Deep Ellum to devour one of the city’s best sandwiches, and, technically, he never will. He’s been piloting the kitchen at the Braindead Brewing for a month since the departure of former chef David Pena to Goodfriend, around the same time Commerce Street lost a perfect piece of bar food.
The patty melt at Parlor on Commerce street was a quiet icon: sourdough mopped with butter and bronzed, several slices of American cheese, salt and pepper, seasoned beef—medium rare—and onions simmered in butter. It was the kind of sandwich that reached back in time before the term “food trends” existed. And then, the Parlor on Commerce closed.
When Braindead owner Sam Wynne asked McCreary, former sous chef at Whiskey Cake, to resurrect the beloved sandwich, some magic needed to be conjured. McCreary sat with former Parlor owner Seth Byars, who blessed the reincarnation of the sandwich and talked him through how the sandwich was made.
“Everyone that works at Braindead, except me, had definitely had the Parlor patty melt,” McCreary says. “So I just started making them.”
To nail the look, he searched old photos of the Parlor’s patty melt on Yelp. Braindead's brewers were the first guinea pigs. They arrive early in the morning to get the beer churning, so they are starving by lunchtime. As the brewers ate, McCreary would ask if the sandwiches were as good as the original.
So like Gandalf or, say, Superman, the Parlor on Commerce patty melt is back at the turn of the tide. The original melt wasn’t around long, but you can already feel the nostalgia bubbling up when Braindead’s Parlor Patty Melt, as it’s named, shows up on halved, toasted sourdough with molten American cheese and butter-softened onions flowing out of the crust.
In these tumultuous times, we need our neighborhood bars to have cold beer and iron-hot patty melts. There’s mercy in a sandwich with few ingredients that you can feel deep in your bones. When few ingredients are executed well at a neighborhood bar, you'll find a sense of comfort that grabs ahold of your shoulders and doesn’t let go.
“The conversations were good, and the patty melt was better,” Wynne says of the much-missed Parlor bar. “It became a part of this neighborhood, and we wanted to make sure it stays that way. It’s a tribute that’s pretty damn close.”
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Is there any difference between the original and the reboot? Yes: There’s in-house bacon ground right into the patty. Braindead's sandwich arrives capped with bright yellow, like a snowy mountain in a painting, a thick char underneath. The beef's crust crunches, giving way to a rich, smoky center. Onions are scattered in there, too, soft as the melted cheese. Like the Parlor’s sandwich, pepper speckles the cheese and the meat. Braindead's is a Rembrandt homage to the original, as delicious as it was.
“We stopped trying to class it up,” says McCreary, echoing why the original was so damn good. “Get some good ingredients, and don’t fuck them up.”
Braindead’s patty melt reboot is on the menu at lunch for $9 with some thin sweet potato chips. It's an elemental thing. After lunch, you won’t find it on the menu. Still, no matter the time, as it goes with the best neighborhood bars, all you have to do is ask. You shall receive it.
Braindead Brewing Pub, 2625 Main St.