“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.
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.”
Carrots and DirtOver 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.
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.
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.