First Look

First Look: ArtPark at Trinity Groves Brings Art, Food, Drinks and Fun Outdoors

The walls at ArtPark were painted by West Dallas street artists.
The walls at ArtPark were painted by West Dallas street artists. Kristina Rowe
Although the Trinity Groves restaurant complex already had ample patio areas, its owners have found a way to further capitalize on increased demand for outdoor dining with ArtPark, its newest concept, which opened Tuesday. When Phil Romano and his team envisioned ArtPark, they must have asked themselves, “How can we put everything anyone could need for a day or night of food, drinks and fun outdoors in one place?”

Brightly colored picnic tables? There are dozens of them, along with umbrella-covered tables and lawn chairs and occasional seating in Adirondack and retro lawn chairs. TV screens? They’re everywhere. Lawn games? There are cornhole boards and more in case you somehow find yourself lacking something to do.

Fun food, cold beer, frozen drinks? Check, check, check. What about graffiti art murals reflecting the vibe of the West Dallas neighborhood? The artificial turf-covered former parking lot is surrounded by murals painted by local artists with some intriguing sculptures installed as well.

All of it comes together in more than a beer garden, and way more than you can capture in a single glance. With a grown-up playground vibe that’s still family-friendly (and dog-friendly too), ArtPark truly feels like a wonderland.

At a recent media event, I wandered the grounds and sampled the food and drinks just trying to take it all in. The only thing I found lacking from ArtPark’s outdoor experience at this point is (more) misters and of course, cooler weather, both of which are hopefully coming someday.
click to enlarge Inside EATS, which was formerly Off-Site Kitchen. - KRISTINA ROWE
Inside EATS, which was formerly Off-Site Kitchen.
Kristina Rowe

EATS

While you can bring food from any of the Trinity Groves restaurants into the park, the primary food and beverage provider is EATS, an indoor restaurant in the space where the now-shuttered Off-Site Kitchen (affectionately known as OSK) once was. If you ate countless burgers there, you’ll recognize the bones of the place underneath its newly designed bright yellow and red interior.


The counter where you order will be familiar to OSK fans, and the first stop is the bar. EATS offers a full bar, and frozen drink machines pour a selection of icy liquid refreshments. A boozy coconut punch, frozen Cuba Libres and frosé were on offer the night I visited.

Move down to the counter to order food and pay. The EATS menu includes burgers, hot dogs, a shaker salad and more for entrees with classic sides (fries and onion rings), playful appetizers and a few desserts to round out your meal.

"Booze"

In addition to the eye-catching space brimming with color, ArtPark differentiates itself from other outdoor dining venues with a setup that means you never have to set foot inside the restaurant to get your choice of food and beverages.


A brightly painted shipping container has been converted into a bar with a thoughtful sign that reads “Booze” in giant lighted letters, in case you have trouble finding it. Frozen drinks will flow from this outdoor outlet.

Two outdoor beer bars with their inner workings tucked away in refrigerated containers offer 10 taps each. There’s beer for every taste with taps for Miller Lite and Texas favorites Shiner Bock, Modelo and Dos Equis as well as local brews from 3 Nations Brewing, Pegasus City Brewing and Steam Theory Brewing, the craft brewpub with its own location just up the street.
click to enlarge The spacious courtyard has all the necessary amenities like TVs, fire pits, laid-back chairs and The Rock. - KRISTINA ROWE
The spacious courtyard has all the necessary amenities like TVs, fire pits, laid-back chairs and The Rock.
Kristina Rowe

More Wagons!

If you don’t want to get up from your table, watch for an ice-filled wagon to come your way. A playful take on bottle service, friendly servers stroll the park with wagons full of iced canned sodas, water and beers. A spokesperson for ArtPark says the future might bring wagons laden with hot dogs and other food, too.

QR codes on the outdoor tables pull up online menus, giving you multiple options in one place. In the future, select menu items from various Trinity Groves restaurants will be available, but for now, the full menu at EATS is on offer.

The Menu

The appetizer section of the menu is where the fun starts. ArtPark Bombs ($7) are fried, bacon-wrapped chicken bites with jalapeños for an extra flavor burst. The almost-state-fair-like Spaghetti-O Fritters ($5) were tasty, almost like fried macaroni and cheese with a dipping sauce that conjures up the cherished childhood dish.


The cheeseburger ($13) consists of a flat-top-grilled thin patty with tasty charred edges and standard toppings. It’s a solid burger on a bun that’s light yet sturdy enough to withstand the burger’s juiciness. The sliced prime rib sandwich ($15) looked amazing, and there’s a shaker salad ($10) if you’re looking for a lighter choice.

click to enlarge Hofmann Hot's snappy hot dog - KRISTINA ROWE
Hofmann Hot's snappy hot dog
Kristina Rowe
The standout items on the menu are the Hofmann hot dogs ($5.50), kielbasa ($7) and “snappy” ($5.50). For those not familiar with Hofmann, the hot dog and sausage company in New York has been making those meats for over 140 years. For a brief time, there was a Hofmann Hots restaurant in the Trinity Groves complex. The brand is available in some grocery stores, but now, you can get the goods at EATS.

The “snappy” was undoubtedly the best thing we tried, and John Fantauzzi, assistant general manager at EATS says it’s one of his favorite things on the menu too. “It’s so delicious. It’s made from veal, and it starts out white until you grill it,” Fantauzzi said. Despite its pale color around the grill marks, the meat was drool-worthy, and it’s served on a buttered and grilled split top bun. (Put just about anything in those magical buns, and I’ll eat it.)

On Hiring Well

Later in the evening, I conveniently discovered a group of employees eating in a nook near the kitchen and asked what they were eating. (I always like to know what the employees like best from the menu.) To a person, they said the crispy chicken sandwich ($11), so that’s on my list to try next time.


French fries, sweet potato fries and onion rings ($4 each) are sold separately as sides. Desserts include a rustic apple tart with cheddar cheese sprinkled on top, frozen custard and a salted caramel chocolate chip cookie ($5 each.)

Whatever you order and whether you order it indoors or out, servers run the food to your table and bring accompaniments like spicy mustard and ketchup. The wait for food was reasonable and the runners worked like a well-oiled machine, even on this trial run night.
click to enlarge A drink wagon pulled by a happy employee. - KRISTINA ROWE
A drink wagon pulled by a happy employee.
Kristina Rowe
The servers all seemed extraordinarily happy to be there, with smiles to spare despite the heat. Perhaps because of (and not in spite of) the newness of the place, the cohesiveness from counter service to table runners and bussers was remarkable at a time when many restaurants can’t keep up the pace because they lack a full roster of employees.

“We work as a team, and everyone does everything,” Ryan Olmos, multi-unit executive chef and general manager explained. Whether pulling a wagon of iced drinks or tossing empty takeout containers in the trash, every employee there seems to have been hand-selected for their vivacity.

The good food, impressive service and stunning scenery all add up to an extraordinary beer garden experience at ArtPark, even in the heat of summer. There’s more to come, too, and we can expect outdoor entertainment, special events and an expanded and rotating menu in the future.

ArtPark at Trinity Groves, 331 Singleton Blvd #100 (Trinity Groves). Open 4 to 10 p.m. Monday - Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
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By day, Kristina Rowe writes documentation that helps users navigate software, and as a contributor to the Dallas Observer she helps people find their way to food and fun. A long-time list-maker, small-business fan and happiness aficionado, she's also been an Observer reader for almost 40 years.
Contact: Kristina Rowe