Food News

You Can Go Home Again: Chef Graham Dodds Is Back in Deep Ellum

Graham Dodds of Elm & Good
Graham Dodds of Elm & Good Alison McLean
The first time chef Graham Dodds worked in Deep Ellum, it was an entirely different set of circumstances. He was cooking in the tiny, hot kitchen at one of the few chef-driven, not-in-a-fancy hotel restaurants in the city: The Green Room. Alongside chef Marc Cassel they offered what was at the time considered a brazen culinary venture: The Feed Me, Wine Me.

“Marc would change the menu every day and would, on the fly, come up with a menu for a table that wanted to be fed,” Dodds recalls. “We were expediting that dinner, in addition to the normal covers at a really busy pace in a tiny kitchen that was, honestly, one of the hottest kitchens I’ve ever worked in — the plastic containers on the shelves would give a little."

After the dinner crowd was fed and wined, they’d make pizzas for the late-night crowd. “I think that would go until 2 in the morning,” Dodds says. All the while, next door at Trees, bands were lighting up the place. Everyone has at least one memory of seeing a band they loved bring down the house back in those days.

“It was just a whole scene,” Dodds recalls. “Bands that were playing at Trees would come over and eat so you’d get to see the band and some celebrities. It was super fun. We’d get off of work, and we’d go next door, trying to catch the band but only made it for the encore. We’d get tacos from the trailer across the street late at night. It was a big family, everyone worked together and played together. Being part of Deep Ellum was great back then.”

Another venue they’d try to hit late at night with The Gypsy Tea Room, the royalty of Deep Ellum live music then.
click to enlarge A charcuterie board from Elm and Good with a sunchoke pâté topped with a Lambrusco gelèe. - LAUREN DREWES DANIELS
A charcuterie board from Elm and Good with a sunchoke pâté topped with a Lambrusco gelèe.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
With a bit of nostalgia, Dodds looks up from his new polished dining room located at the intersection of North Good Latimer Expressway and Elm Street, hence Elm and Good, and says, “Yeah, it’s kind of bittersweet to look over there now.”

He’s looking across the street at a brown blob of a building that used to be home to the Gypsy Tea Room. A dozen or so sun-bleached pieces of plywood cover the windows. Bright orange and white construction barriers are set out to keep people away from what used to be a sidewalk.

Beyond the eyesore across the street, when he thinks about the Deep Ellum dining scene then versus now, he sees some similarities with this new restaurant, which opened in August 2020. “We were doing really cutting edge food at The Green Room back then. ... We were drawing people down to an area they typically didn't come to for a fine dining experience, albeit a casual one. It was edgy, and we were pushing the boundaries back then. [We're] still hoping to draw people down to a neighborhood they aren’t normally coming to for upscale dining, and of course, always focused on breaking the mold of a hotel restaurant.”
click to enlarge 44 Farms Bavette Steak "Diane" at Elm and Good - ALISON MCLEAN
44 Farms Bavette Steak "Diane" at Elm and Good
Alison McLean

Carrots and Dirt

Over several decades Dodds has cooked at many Dallas institutions: Star Canyon, The Grape, Bolsa, Central 214 and, more recently, The Statler. He's traveled and cooked in kitchens around the world and during the pandemic spent some time living on a farm. Last summer he took the job as the chef at Elm and Good inside the historic Pittman Hotel, not far from The Green Room.

“Deep Ellum has changed a lot. There’s a lot more food here now than there was. I did some consulting for The Green Room a few years back, and it’s funny, it’s still the same. But, then COVID hit and it was a tough time,” Dodds says.

Some things about Dodds will never change though, namely his penchant for cooking with local vegetables.
click to enlarge Gulf shrimp and grits. - ALISON MCLEAN
Gulf shrimp and grits.
Alison McLean
“I just like a carrot out of the dirt,” he says without a hint of schtick. “I think it’s really good to have this connection with where your food comes from. People think it comes out of a plastic bag or something, so it’s important to me to show it’s not. There’s a story behind each vegetable. There’s a relationship with people who grow them that they’re excited about.”

At Elm and Good, after soaking in a drink at their polished bar, start with the sunchoke pâté ($12) to get a taste of what Dodds means when he talks about vegetables from and the earth (you can see it in the photo of the charcuterie board above). It’s a silky smooth vegetarian rendition of a pâté, topped with a Lambrusco gelèe, served with pickled kohlrabi and thin paisano toast.

The lion's mane mushroom cake ($16) is similar in size and texture to a crab cake, seasoned with Old Bay and served over a lemon beurre blanc. Our server swooned over an eggplant dish (grown locally), drizzled with local honey and served with an also-local goat cheese. The menu has the standard proteins and mains — steak, fish, shrimp, chicken, pasta — but his passion for vegetables sings. 
click to enlarge Elm and Good dining room and bar - LAUREN DREWES DANIELS
Elm and Good dining room and bar
Lauren Drewes Daniels
Both nights we visited a jazz band played at one end of the room, a fitting amenity to a beautiful dining room. And even just two tables away from the "stage," if you will, the sound level was easy enough to continue a conversation across the table.

Elm & Good, 2551 Elm St. (inside the Pittman Hotel), 7-10 a.m. daily for breakfast, 5-10 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday and 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Sunday for brunch.
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.