Here at the Observer, brunch is de rigueur. Every week, we bring you tales from the à la carte front line of Dallas' bustling brunch scene. Brunch buffets, on the other hand, might as well be located on Mars, for we have spent the same amount of time exploring the iron oxide-covered planet as we have places that serve all-you-can-eat chicken and waffles. But we're fixing that, one weekend and parade of chafing dishes at a time. Enter the Ivy Tavern, which debuted its "dive brunch" in September. Billed as a form of Sunday rehab, this all-you-can-eat brunch is easy on the wallet at $15 per person with $10 mimosa carafes.
Walking into the Tavern feels like stepping onto the set of Cheers. While everyone may not know your name, the bar feels comfortable and relaxed — one part neighborhood hangout and one part old-world hunting lodge. Chandeliers made of antlers hang overhead, and the walls are decked out with taxidermy deer heads and ornate gold frames cradling wistful, muted nature scenes. As we took in our rustic surroundings, five silver chafing dishes caught our eye. Would this be the meet-cute that sparked a lasting love affair with brunch buffets?
No, not quite. Lifting the lids from the chaffing dishes disabused us of any buffet-based fantasies. This buffet, like so many that have gone before it, lives and breathes on the basis of quantity. The eggs are poured from boxes instead of cracked from shells, and the biscuits taste as if they have never known the feel of kneading hands. The bacon was good — thick, peppery and with enough salt to attract deer — but the sausage that rested on sweaty toast had a dubious, rubbery texture.
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Even an ambitious application of the anonymous white sauce passing for gravy could not disguise what this was. This was the kind of buffet one would expect at hotels that advertise free continental breakfasts on billboards. For what it's worth, it did include a passable version of chicken and waffles. The chicken strips tasted of the ubiquitous fast food variety but proved to be a crowd favorite, with diners stalking the empty chafing dish until it was refilled.
But one fine dish does not a successful buffet make. The price, which seemed low at the outset, was revealed to be not such a bargain after all. While some sense of pleasure and satisfaction can be derived from consuming a large amount of food, brunch was not intended to be an endurance sport.
The Ivy Tavern, 5334 Lemmon Ave. Dive brunch is served every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.