At 3700 Ross Ave. sits a sad version of what was once the Dallas ISD Administration building. Cross the street from there, though, and you’ll find a small parking lot, then a large space filled with color.
Toller Patio Bar + Kitchen opened last week, giving Dallas — especially Bryan Place residents — a new place to sip outside.
The gravel-covered ground is spacious, filled with picnic and smaller tables boasting vibrant tops, games to keep guests engaged with each other and TVs every few feet along the perimeter.
“We hope we become everyone's backyard, the extension of their home,” says Lauren Corr, co-owner of Toller. “The neighborhood just seemed really underserved. We know that there are a lot of people living over there, a lot of apartments going in. And we wanted to give the neighborhood another good space.”
It is somewhat like a huge backyard, if your backyard has a wall instead of a fence separating you from neighboring construction. Of course, it’s dog-friendly, making a decent spot to dine with your leashed pet.
They decided to open in August, which might be OK, as it’s about to that point where we all get used to the heat, and the shade feels “comfortable.” Thankfully, tall trees do provide plenty of shade in this space, which is halfway out of the sun come 3 p.m. and mostly sun-free by 5 p.m.
“We sort of were inspired by a Palm Springs vibe,” Corr says. “In general, we’re trying to do what we think is a good balance between a super-Texas environment, being outside, updating it and making it a little more chic, a little more vibrant and a little more comfortable.”
The vibrant colors unfortunately also apply to the straws, which are in every cup that comes along. And those cups are plastic, as are the forks, knives and spoons, all of which are individually wrapped in plastic and stuffed into plastic cups on the tables. It’s hard to look around and not feel like you’re harming the environment, but Corr says part of that is due to being brand new.
The plateware is compostable, and she hopes to have a recycling program for the cups. She does say they’re “using plastic only for what needs to be plastic.” While we think that could be fewer things than what’s all over tables here, maybe they’ll improve as they move along.
Food-wise, it’s almost not what you expect for the environment, which is perfect for, say, food trucks. Instead, there’s a small building where Nick Backlund and Scott Jenkins of Hide in Deep Ellum run the cocktail and food program and are co-owners with Corr.
The drinks are light and drinkable for the hot space. Food is fine — a homemade pimento cheese doesn’t seem all that special but snacks well, despite the over-salted chips ($7.99).
It was a little shocking to see sandwiches around $14 a pop here. The crispy tender sandwich was in this category. While the relish-and-mustard slaw provided a welcomed tanginess to the fried chicken, the meat itself was dry with a flavorless batter. The fries, however, were wonderfully crispy, making the waffle version superior to others' attempts to make them.
Next time, we’ll try the beyond burger, which Corr likes, their take on a meatless burger ($13.99).
Snacks such as the nachos ($9.99) or wings (seven for $10.99) also seem worth trying on the next visit.
What is a bit comical is that Toller’s Instagram page notes a “fantastic beer and wine selection” and has a somewhat simple list of eight wines (two of which are bottle-only, a brut and a sparkling rose).
Finally, the music selection could improve a bit. A friend noted it sounded like the playlist was designed by someone who was fired as an intern from KISS-FM, with pop music that was unrecognizable. (It later included songs most know, keeping with the same peppy tone.)
This might be a super-backyard for Dallasites to flock to. It has a fun space, it offers a chance to share a drink with a friend and a dog, and it brings a little bit of life that isn’t too crazy for the area around Ross Avenue. At least, that’s what Corr is hoping for.
“I think it’s going to be a really fun, comfortable place people enjoy multiple times a week, hopefully,” Corr says.
Toller Patio Bar + Kitchen, 3675 Ross Ave. (Bryan Place/Old East Dallas). Open 11 a.m.-midnight daily.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.