During Hidden Gems Week, the Observer food and drink writers are celebrating an abundance of diverse, delicious restaurants and bars around Dallas, places that don’t often (or ever) get mentioned by big-name food media, trendsetters, bloggers or chefs. We’re taking you outside of the ordinary to help you discover something new.
You'll find it inside a small wooden box.
You may have seen it a hundred times: Just beneath a row of beer bottles is the mural-sized menu, scrawling with comic book art. To the menu-mural's lower right, as you enter the Dallas sandwich shop, is the stained wood box with the tiny black knob. If you’re waiting in line, you may have the urge to slide up the box’s front door, like a little car garage, and inside you’ll find Uncle Uber’s secret menu.
The box is what Uncle Uber’s Sammich Shop has been in Deep Ellum for the past six years: cheerful, playful and filled with delicious things. The secret menu that's placed inside the box, which is not-so-secretly placed under the actual menu, is 2 years old. Roll up the door, and it'll reveal four sandwiches, two burgers and one damn good Philly cheesesteak.
Kathy and Bryan Crelly met at Snuffer’s Restaurant — he was a bartender and she was a server — and have been working their way up the restaurant chain of command ever since. As Uber's co-owners, they were looking to bring casual, whimsical lunch — which meant sandwiches — to Deep Ellum in 2011.
“We’re not trendy,” says Kathy Crelly. “We pretty much just do what we love.”
Uncle Uber’s is a deep breath amid swirling changes. It’s a sandwich joint to rely on. It's no more award winning than your favorite dive bar, and its food is no less delicious than some of Dallas’ best sandwiches. It's not looking to do much more than serve some good things in between bread, with some Zapp’s chips on the side. The fries, which come in a huge pile like the coins Scrooge McDuck dives into, are some of the best in the city limits. They're always crispy and salty. Uber's cheeseburgers are inexpensive and griddled, simple beauty. Get the double.
But the secret menu is cheesy, high-octane sandwich fun.
There’s the Cuban burger, a quarter-pound beef patty stacked with Boar’s Head ham, melted Swiss cheese, pickles, and enough roasted-garlic mayo and yellow mustard to dilate your pupils. Just after lunch, I stroll in and roll up the secret menu door. I’m going with the Jabba the Hut today.
Jabba is strips of roasted beef resting on a bed of melted cheddar cheese, with three full slices of bacon as undulating and crispy looking as clip art of bacon. Underneath everything is homemade slaw and a mayo sauce. It’s a sandwich that means to fire an arrow right into the part of the brain that controls the speed in which you eat. Most of the sandwich disappeared in a speed that might need to be studied by science. The sandwich was a little like the namesake character from Return of the Jedi: There wasn't much depth, but I sure enjoyed watching it demolished.
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There’s a Flaming Lips Cheesesteak with habanero pepper-infused ranch dressing, shaved Angus rib-eye, pepper jack cheese and grilled onions. There’s a chicken cordon bleu sandwich, a playful thing that’s made a great sandwich out of one of the most tired dishes in human history.
Only a poisoned soul wouldn't adore Uncle Uber’s secret menu. The secret menu is, essentially, a microcosm of the spirit that's inside Uncle Uber's. There are no prices listed (everything's under 10 bucks) and there's no pretension in name or presentation.
On the birth of the restaurant’s name, the Crelly team says it originated from some whimsical word association. They were looking for a good adjective to describe the food, and they improv'd something fun in a city that’s got plenty of sincerity.
Uncle Uber's, 2713 Commerce St.