White Rock Center, at the corner of Buckner Boulevard and Northcliff Drive, is becoming quite the all-day strip mall. Hungry Lake Highlands residents hardly ever need to leave: Corner convenience store Green Spot serves killer breakfast tacos, El Vecino is quickly becoming a favorite Tex-Mex lunch and dinner hangout and now, in the evenings, a new German-style growler bar serves up tempting lagers, brown ales, pretzels and bratwurst.
District 9 Draught Haus opened in December. Let's get this out of the way right now: It's not named after the science fiction movie. Aliens have not parked a spaceship overhead. Instead, District 9 is named for the Dallas City Council seat that represents it, an interesting way of communicating the bar's commitment to its neighborhood. (One wonders if soon-to-be-former council member Mark Clayton will become a regular.)
District 9 is an easygoing, no-pretense bar that doesn't much care about chasing the latest revolution in beer nerdery or tapping the bitterest double IPA on the block. That approachability is the appeal: This is a bar where just about any beer drinker can find something fun to drink. Several (currently two) of the 27 beer taps are dedicated to German brews. Otherwise, District 9 serves up a healthy mixture of American regions and styles, including pints from California, Louisiana, Michigan and, predominantly, Texas. Tap No. 28 is reserved for cider, and eight more pour wine from kegs.
As we sipped old favorites like Small Brewpub's Black Pepper Pils and new friends like the Collective Brewing Project's brilliantly balanced rye porter, we sampled some of District 9's all-German food menu.
Take the pork schnitzel sandwich ($10), which stars pounded, battered and fried meat bathed in brown mushroom gravy and topped with dollops of ultra-fatty butter cheese. Served with potato chips and a big bowl of mustard, it's a direct telegram to the stomach, a hefty two-hander so serious that even looking at it is a little bit filling. Butter cheese — which hasn't caught on in the United States outside of Wisconsin, despite a name that sells itself — is an inspired, gooey choice here. And there's no mistaking the excellence of real German-style stone-ground mustard.
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Alongside the classic bratwurst, District 9 is serving up Weisswurst ($8), a pale white link traditional to Bavaria. It's mild in flavor — don't be shy with the mustard and sauerkraut — but the meat conceals flecks of chives, too, and it all comes on a pretzel bun that is the gold standard by which all other pretzel buns should be judged. With a firm and flaky crust, a dash of salt and little trace of heavy sweetness, District 9's pretzel buns actually taste like fresh, fluffy German pretzels. In an age when the pretzel bun has become a lowbrow sandwich gimmick, this wurst is some kind of sign from the heavens.
For the good citizens of District 9, District 9 represents one-stop shopping. Fill your growler with a brew from Prairie, Peticolas or Paulaner, then sit for a while and enjoy a chubby link of sausage on a pretzel bun that does Germany proud.
District 9 Draught Haus, 718 N. Buckner Blvd. (Lake Highlands)