Irish brunch is criminally underrepresented in Dallas.
Most people might not even think of Ireland when it comes to mowing down a hangover meal and a few mimosas, despite the origins of brunch having their roots founded in the Catholic practice of fasting before mass.
Fortunately, the Playwright Irish Pub in One Arts Plaza of the Arts District is serving a (mostly) traditional fare in an authentic environment.
Brought from the same folks who founded The Crafty Irishman in the Central Business District of downtown, the Playwright is an Irish pub that mostly lives up to its name.
Its atmosphere is woody and dim. Its whiskey and beer selection is excellent. While it can go a bit over the top in its portrayal, it's still a fun place to be to revel in all the excessive Guinness posters and green-colored walls.
For a restaurant mostly focused on the savory flavors of lunch and dinner, brunch was surprisingly crowded when we arrived. While we didn’t have to wait for our table, guests slowly trickled in faster than service could seat them, and many spilled over to the outdoor patio area despite the heat.
The Playwright's brunch menu covers a lot of ground.
There are the usual mimosas ($5 per glass, $20 for a carafe) and a bloody mary ($9), but there's also the “manmosa” ($8) — a regular mimosa with beer added.
There's also good use of the extensive whiskey selection with the bloody molly, which has whiskey (usually Jameson) instead of vodka ($12).
We had initially wanted to order an Irish coffee but were told they were out. The full drink menu — which is also available for order during brunch — does state many drinks are subject to availability, but not having enough Irish coffees for brunch seems like an easy way to miss out on money.
I ordered a latte instead and was pleasantly surprised at its execution, which could have rivaled most true coffee shops of the area.
The food menu at Playwright’s brunch is reflective of the overall style of the restaurant.
For the most part, it's genuine, but there are certain items that don’t seem to make much sense in the context of an Irish Pub.
As my eyes scrolled down the menu, they were magnetized to the words “chicken and waffles” ($13) as well as “breakfast tacos” ($11). They both sound like the usual suspects on any brunch menu, but feel out of place here.
We decided to go with the porridge ($11), the bangers and bacon ($15) and the Irish breakfast sandwich ($12).
Porridge is an oft-forgotten item in the breakfast world. Hot cereals in general have been delegated to the background while they don’t really belong there. For a lot of folks, the last time they got excited about porridge was when their instant oatmeal was still being sold with the little sugary dinosaur eggs in it. I decided to give it a whirl. It was a mistake.
I have had oatmeal before. I’ve had grits. I’ve had cream of wheat. I’ve had congee. I’ve had amaranth. I have had a lot of porridge in my life.While most of them aren’t luxurious dishes by any means, they do have flavors of their own despite being known as generally boring dishes.
This porridge was not boring, it was bland beyond belief. Good porridge I’ve generally found is soft but not mushy, like an al-dente pasta, and is suspended in its own nutty and toasted starchy liquid. This porridge was wet, sopping and sad. It was served with raisins, walnuts, honey and brown sugar to bring it up to an edible level.
Unfortunately what I found was that this porridge was the equivalent of a culinary black hole, taking in any flavors it could find and absorbing them into nothing. Even with the addition of all of the accoutrements it still just tasted like a vaguely brown sugar scented bowl of soaked wood chippings.
The bangers and bacon immediately came in to save the day, though. Where the porridge failed, this dish excelled. Three robust Irish bacon-wrapped sausages sit atop a hearty mound of a carrot and parsnip mash and are served with a boat of whiskey-onion gravy.
The sausages were crispy on either end, succulent in the center and had a deliciously snappy skin. The carrot and parsnip mash was an interesting one, but was unforgettably buttery with hints of rosemary. The gravy as well was superb, providing a bit of needed moisture to the dish while having its own hearty aromatic flavors.
The Irish breakfast sandwich was our final dish, and it was a bit in the middle of the road. We added hash browns, black pudding and scrambled eggs, all of which were fine on their own, but fairly dry together.
Many of the dishes at the Playwright are what you want them to be. Adding malt vinegar, mustard, etc. are all fair game, and the dishes are intended to be the base unto which personal condiment preferences bring it up.
While the breakfast sandwich was fine, in hindsight going with the traditional Irish breakfast ($17) probably would have been a better choice, but the sandwich does fill a niche for those only looking for specific elements of the full breakfast.
From 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays, they do have traditional Irish music in the pub to throw in more Irish culture.
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The brunch menu at the Playwright suffers from being too indecisive about what it wants to be. It's not complex enough to warrant its presence in the first place, as it could easily just be absorbed into the regular menu without much ill effect.
At the same time, it's not simple enough to drive clients looking solely for an Irish brunch. The items that are Irish are good (just please, please work on that porridge, I'd hate to see it disappear completely), and the extras that simply fill the traditional brunch role aren't there in large enough numbers.
If the Playwright serves brunch alongside their full lunch menu during service, it might just be better to trim the fat off the brunch menu and let it become one with the lunch menu.
The Playwright Irish Pub, 1722 Routh St., Suite 102 (downtown). 214-272-7316. Brunch served 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.