First Look

First Look: Hurdy Gurdy's Offers a Spacious Patio and a Reliable Menu

The BLT with candied bacon, served with Parmesan fries at Hurdy Gurdys
The BLT with candied bacon, served with Parmesan fries at Hurdy Gurdys Steven Monacelli
Hurdy Gurdy, the latest addition to the Dallas Farmers Market neighborhood, serves food, but it isn’t quite a restaurant. It serves coffee and alcohol, but it isn’t quite a cafe or bar, either. The owners frame Hurdy Gurdy as a parlor — “a room used primarily for conversation or the reception of guests,” the website reads.

The concept of a parlor (also known as parlour) was originally a room used for formal receptions or sometimes as places of business by members of the working class — hence, a beauty parlour. It eventually fell out of fashion in domestic architecture with the rise of the telephone and the automobile in the 20th century. Today, the equivalent in North America could be considered a living room — a spacious, comforting place at home where one might entertain guests.

Spacious and comforting are the first words that come to mind to describe Hurdy Gurdy. Inside and out, it feels like a home away from home, something that is still oddly comforting during a time when many of us spend so much time at home.

click to enlarge A sight we appreciate even more these days: plenty of space on a patio - STEVEN MONACELLI
A sight we appreciate even more these days: plenty of space on a patio
Steven Monacelli
Four distinct spaces — two indoor, two outdoor — offer a range of ambiance. Outside, two large patio spaces provide plenty of breathing room in a time when outdoor interactions are deemed most safe. Inside, couches and coffee tables are spread amidst four-tops and long high-top tables across two high-ceilinged parlor rooms. The walls are adorned with an eclectic mix of decor geared for a homey, welcoming feel.

The overall atmosphere is casual. What ties the spaces together is their shared purpose: communal gathering.

“We want this to feel like an extension of your home,” co-owner Charles Nelson says.

Indeed, much of the furniture inside would not be out of place in a home living room or backyard patio.

The food is hearty and consistent, the drinks refreshing and unpretentious. With WI-FI, board games and stellar views of the downtown skyline, the environment is an ideal location for remote working, casual get-togethers or a weekend brunch.

Hurdy Gurdy is a place you will feel is easy to stay for long stretches of time. Think of it as a sort of Southern twist on a Parisian Left Bank cafe. Whether you need caffeine in the morning, alcohol at night or a bite to eat any time of the day, it is less a place to have a meal than a place to be. You won’t find anything fussy or particularly French on the menu, but the food hits the spot. Plus, they will put a shot of liquor in your coffee if you want (this author did).

The general menu isn’t structured along the lines of breakfast, lunch and dinner — rather, shareable appetizers and flatbreads are juxtaposed by more individually oriented salads and sandwiches. Save for the weekend brunch menu — which has decadent options such as chicken and waffles ($14) and breakfast poutine ($11) — there are no set time frames for menu items.

click to enlarge Buffalo wings (and more Parm fries) - STEVEN MONACELLI
Buffalo wings (and more Parm fries)
Steven Monacelli
For an afternoon meal, the candied bacon BLT ($12.50) was incredibly flavorful and paired well with the Parmesan-garlic fries. A spiked latte ($4.25) helped cut through the post-meal haze. For an evening meal, go for Buffalo chicken wings ($8 for 6) and a deliciously smokey peppered paloma ($11) alongside the good-enough-for-seconds Parmesan fries ($2.50).

Of course, it’s difficult to imagine Hurdy Gurdy achieving their goal of being a communal gathering space for the time being, for that’s no fault of the food or environment.

With Coronavirus cases reaching a new peak, local government officials have begun urging Dallasites to restrict indoor gatherings with those outside of their household. It’s hard for this author to disagree. If you’d like to check it out, consider socially distancing on the outdoor patio with your family, or get takeout.

Hurdy Gurdy, 900 S. Harwood St. (Dallas Farmers Market). Open for dine-in and takeout 10 a.m. to 10 p.m daily.
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Steven Monacelli has been contributing to the Dallas Observer since 2020. He regularly covers local social movements and occasionally writes about food.
Contact: Steven Monacelli