Down to the Chuck Wagon, for Some Fancy, Sloppy Cowboy Chow

Cowboy Chow 2801 Commerce St. 214-742-2469

Dude Factor: 7, or "The Cowboy," Mulholland Drive, on a scale of 1 ("The Cowboy," Innerspace) to 10 ("The Stranger," The Big Lebowski)

Cowboy Chow's slick 'n' quirky take on upscale trail grub -- what they call "Texas comfort food" -- has been written up plenty since it opened in Deep Ellum in mid-2008. From the cowboy cocktails to the immense cowboy nachos, it's all a lot of ol' Western fun, a whole load of cute with spurs. The fan-favorite tater parfait, a glass jar filled with a KFC Famous Bowl, is one worth calling out by name.

The buffalo heads, the Western gear, the decorative rope -- the dining room is one big rhinestone cowboy, like a Wild West Applebee's. Which isn't to complain, just to note that it's a far cry from a burger shack in the parking lot with the grease trap spilling over out back. This is a place you can take your grandma; she'll be telling stories about the mason jars and twin-handled camping bowls for years.

Over lunch a few days ago, three of us sidled in to find the dining room empty but for one booth of power-lunchers passing documents across the table. Between that and the sort-of unisex bathroom, it was all pretty L.A. Their tacos are California-style numbers too, with whole wheat tortillas and fat avocado slices, but under all that Hollywood put-on there are some fine possibilities if what you're after is a big, sloppy pile of meat.

Take the sloppy joe, for one. The mac 'n' cheese, for another. Sticking with old cafeteria favorites made it easy to forget about those fancified surroundings, and the bastard love child of my high school lunch lady and a chuck wagon driver named Cookie couldn't have done up a better western Joe.

You can call it a sandwich -- and this is no slight to the fine jalapeño butter bun -- but Cowboy Chow's sloppy joe is one truly impressive mountain of shredded brisket goop, cheese-topped and plenty hot. The sandwich filling wasn't too saucy, and a deft hand at sandwich maintenance might conceivably make it through the ordeal without spilling a shred of beef out the back of the bun. I'm not saying it's easy, but it may well be possible.

We split the side of mac 'n' cheese among the table -- rich and thick yellow cheese, and one in a run of notable fancy macaronis I've encountered lately. (Two other fancy macs worth a mention: The Libertine, Park)

My lunch compadres went for the aforementioned fancy tacos, with buffalo meat and -- watch yourself -- a salad on the side, and the buffalo sloppy joe sliders. The mini-joes were supposed to be leaner with the buffalo subbed for beef, but after sneaking a surreptitious sample off an uneaten slider, the filling tasted as hearty as the brisket, and nearly as flavorful.

I imagine the chicken-fried steak could make a run for the title, but for the volume of meat and the potential to make an enormous mess at the dinner table, it'd be tough to take down the sloppy joe.

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Patrick Michels
Contact: Patrick Michels

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