It’s been a tumultuous couple of months at the Deep Ellum Hostel. First, its bar, Izkina, was visited by a writer from the national magazine Bon Appétit, and the publication’s photographers came by to shoot Izkina’s food. Then the bar suddenly closed and announced that it would be remodeled and rebranded as Booty’s.
When Booty’s reopened, some things were different. Dylan Huddle, formerly of FT33, had simplified the bar program around a small group of cocktails with local ingredients, many of them fruit-forward for summer. The front door was walled off; guests now enter via the hostel lobby. And the menu flipped from Spanish tapas to “international street food.”
But other things stayed the same. Joel Orsini remains as chef, and he’s still tending to a growing garden and apiary on the rooftop. The bar is still slightly intimidating to newcomers who don’t know where to grab a menu or where to seat themselves. And the food is still a parade of highly local small plates.
The shift to Booty’s had two big, unfortunate side effects. First, Bon Appétit cut the bar from its Dallas feature, leaving Orsini with something to prove. He’d fully deserved that recognition, and now he needs to fight for it again.
Second, the name is freaking Booty’s.
Just to be clear, Booty’s is named after a defunct bar in New Orleans. It is not pirate-themed. It is also not a strip club. And, of course, it is not at all a good name. Personally, I refer to it as The Bar Formerly Known as Izkina.
When I stopped by the newly rebranded place for a first look, only five or six other customers were there. The menu is as international as promised, almost preposterously so: We ordered Japanese okonomiyaki, an Indian dosa, Hungarian meatballs and a Luscher’s Chicago-style hot dog.
Orsini didn’t seem to be around, but his tiny kitchen was still delivering the goods. I loved the enormous, rustic meatballs in a rich tomato sauce, although I’ll concede that they are quite salty ($10). Ditto for the Luscher’s red hot, a loving tribute to the ones Brian Luscher himself used to serve a few blocks away. Deep Ellum badly needed the snap of those pickled peppers and the crunch of those raw onions ($7).
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The dosa, made with rice and lentil flour, is filled with potatoes and seasonal veggies. It’s Indian in form but not really at all in flavor, which evokes the Spanish stylings of Izkina ($8). A petite okonomiyaki is more pancake-y than any other I’ve had, with less cabbage in its thin height ($10). But there’s still plenty of thickly cut ham, bonito flakes and Japanese barbecue sauce.
Huddle is a calming, authoritative presence at the bar. Not a big fan of the seven signature cocktails, which are all based around a different primary liquor? He can whip up just about anything. I miss the Paper Planes that Izkina’s bar used to crank out, but there’s otherwise not much reason to pine for the old drinks program.
It’ll be interesting to see how The Bar Formerly Known as Izkina evolves in the coming months. Reportedly, Orsini’s kitchen is turning out a big brunch game, too. Still, for those of us who are sad about Izkina’s demise, there’s a consolation prize. Remember the amazing patatas bravas, which I described in January as “the perfect bar food, an addicting pile of oily, spicy, garlicky potato greatness”? They’re still here, unaltered. Thank goodness.