"We're trying a new place for dinner tonight, honey." "Oh really? What's it called?" "Uhhh, Front Door. Or maybe Back Room. Lake House? I can't remember. Anyway it's near SMU." -- excerpt from a scene from Forgettable Monologues from Inside Households All Over Highland Park
Though it first sounds nondescript, The Front Room, a Park Cities Diner is actually, quite literally, a long, diner-shaped room at the front of Hotel Lumen. Its diner cues are subtle, thankfully, as the layout and a few menu items quietly whisper "diner" while the rest proudly say "modern American eatery." It's a diner dressed up in white and wood. The palette at Front Room is made up of dark gray, muted turquoise, marble, wood tones and lots of white. A single protea flower adorns each table, above which glossy white glass orbs float.
Unlike an actual diner, The Front Room boasts a decent-sized list of wines by the glass and a promising list of classic cocktails, as well as Front Room twists on those classics, most of which are around $10. I went for the Jalapeño Gingersnap Caipirinha, which was made with cachaça, rum, lime, jalapeño and ginger. It had just the right amount of sweetness and spice, shaken well by a spunky bartender who was multitasking as our server last night.
Also unlike an actual diner, at The Front Room executive chef Scott Townend uses locally sourced and organic ingredients to create his dishes. Chef Townend's appetizers include soups, small salads, a few usual suspects like hummus plus a few surprising creations like Deviled Tomatoes, which is made up of a light salad featuring three skinless upside down tomatoes stuffed with a simple guacamole and drizzled with balsamic. I may never go back to an actual diner again.
From there, diners at The Front Room will find a good number of options from pastas, sandwiches and burgers to salads, entrees and "HP baskets" filled with fried classics. Prices range from $10 for a sandwich to $30 for a filet, with most choices averaging $15 or so. We enjoyed a fried chicken sandwich ($12) and an order of fish tacos ($16). The chicken sandwich was more of a chicken finger sandwich with strips of white meat dusted with cornmeal and served on a sliced baguette with tomato, lettuce and a ranch-style dressing. The fries were strong to quite strong, as were the horseradish pickles that came alongside. The fish tacos were truly sizable, featuring hunks of seared redfish beneath a slightly sweet jicama slaw. A shot of spicy, smoky salsa, limes and a side of brown rice salad rounded out the plate.
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The dessert menu was a bit shorter, but that didn't make the decision process much easier. We finally landed on the Lumen Banana Split ($7), which was my least favorite part of the meal. It came out a little like a six-year-old might have designed it; with bananas, coconut, ice cream, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, meringue, nuts and a kitchen sink. And white and milk chocolate shavings. And not one, but three maraschino cherries. We couldn't even come close to finishing it if we had wanted to.
Last night was the first "official" dinner service at The Front Room, though they admit they've been serving hotel guests for a few weeks. I personally find it refreshing to discover a casual, reasonably-priced but delicious restaurant attached to a hotel like the Lumen. It reminds me a lot of the Belmont Hotel's Cliff Café (may she rest in peace in restaurant heaven): a place with an unremarkable name that was casual and charming with clean, modern décor and food you could count on to be memorable.
The Front Room, a Park Cities Diner is located inside the Hotel Lumen at 6101 Hillcrest Avenue.