And the kitchen doesn’t just serve a cheesesteak sandwich — it has a cheesesteak program.
“Cheesesteak program” is a magical phrase. When I texted friends, “Are you interested in checking out a cheesesteak program?” the answers were euphoric. Of course everybody wants to see what happens when chefs decide to produce a bombardment of weaponized beef and onions.
Here’s a look inside the mind of chef Josh Farrell. To make a $5 side he calls “pickle fries,” he first takes a flaky salt and freezes it — frozen salt, when mixed with water, takes on what he calls a “slushie texture” rather than dissolving. He infuses the salt with pickle juice, which gives the flakes just the tiniest whisper of tartness. Then he shakes salt and dill over his fries.
Oh, but he messes with the potatoes, too. They’re twice-cooked, of course, and between the blanching and frying steps, they spend some quality time in a pickle brine. On some nights, the difference is barely detectable; on others there’s a definite pucker.
The added step also makes the potatoes difficult to fry. All the more miraculous, then, that they come out with such a flawless crispy texture.
Alongside, Farrell serves Kool-Aid ketchup, a concoction that tastes so strongly of SweeTARTS and off-brand jelly that the only possible reactions are love and loathing. I thought the sweet-pickle combo was appealingly daffy, but the reactions of my three tablemates ranged from revulsion to near-rioting.
Or take another ingredient at Will Call: a dry rub Farrell’s team uses on chicken wings. It’s called Recycle Rub, because it’s made by taking all the vegetables left over at the end of the night, dehydrating them and grinding them into dust.
Sorry, I buried the lede there. All that work is for an off-menu secret item.
The consensus favorite on my visits was the Tejas, which is topped with pickled jalapeños and crushed tortilla chips ($10). Squeeze a bit of lime over the top of the sandwich to produce a meaty bite of Texas, in which the grilled onions and hot peppers pull in both sweet and spicy directions.
I could also easily demolish the “cheesesteak and eggs,” a platter on which each half-sandwich comes topped by a runny egg cooked sous vide at 65 degrees ($13). At this temperature, neither the yolk nor the white are fully set, and they ooze through the whole sandwich like a spectacular sauce.
Those differences can be explained by Farrell’s background. He grew up in Boston, which has a cheesesteak culture independent of Philadelphia’s. His mother, Cyndi Delgado, is Puerto Rican (she makes the bar’s gorgeous flan, $5), and that heritage gave him the idea to braise strip loin in sofrito rather than slicing, searing and calling it a day.
“From what I’ve seen, no one’s cooking their steak meat in braise or stock or sauce,” Farrell says.
We forgot to choose a dressing, and wound up with possibly the lightest blue cheese dressing ever made ($7). It’s technically a vinaigrette, and it hangs on the leaves as lightly as a good linen shirt. Buried under the Profound Microfarms greens are a couple of nuggets of blue cheese, and scattered on top are candied and coffee-coated nuts.
The salad bowl also comes along with two breadsticks. On one visit, we also ordered the breadstick starter separately ($7), which yielded us a total of eight. No problem. They’re baked until they have actual texture — hear that, Olive Garden? — and doused in garlic parsley butter.
None. It is, in the chef’s words, “dogshit Parmesan in a tub.
“I just wanted this nostalgic, shitty thing,” he explains. “I wanted that nostalgia.”
One time, his team ran out of Parmesan, so they ran to a nearby pizza joint and borrowed some of the little paper packets.
God, those breadsticks are good.
If brunch is as intriguing as it sounds, it will become yet another way that one of Deep Ellum’s most comfortable bars is pushing food well outside its comfort zone.
Will Call, 2712 Main St. (Deep Ellum). 972-755-3490. Open 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday; noon to 2 a.m. Friday through Sunday.