I realize I’ve gotten behind in the restaurant review queue. Of course I have plenty of other things I want to write about, but clearly, it’s time to get after it a little. I won’t torture regular readers of the Road More Traveled with nothing but restaurant reviews for the next month and a half, but I will try and sneak in an off-schedule post here and there to get caught up. You have been forewarned…
Anyway, with my time-consuming post about historic buildings in downtown Dallas out of the way, this seemed like an appropriate time to post a review of a restaurant in one of the buildings I featured, the Hotel Adolphus on Commerce Street. The elegant French Room gets more press, but there is another casual option in the hotel, the Rodeo Bar & Grill. My boss loves this place, and it’s only a couple of blocks from the office. As a result, we head down there quite a bit for team lunches.
- 1321 Commerce Street, Dallas, TX
- Hours: 11 A.M.-Midnight Monday-Friday; Noon-Midnight Saturday & Sunday; bar service only after 10 P.M.
- Price: $15-25 per person (lunch), no alcohol
Directions: in the Hotel Adolphus. From US 75 (Central Expressway) southbound, exit Good-Latimer (left-hand exit), and proceed to Elm Street. Turn right at Elm, left at Field, and left again on Commerce. Hotel is on the left. From IH-30, exit US 75 north, then exit at Main St./Elm St. (left-hand exit) before merging onto the freeway. Follow the signs for Elm, and follow the same directions above. The closest cheap surface lots/garages are about 6 blocks east on Commerce or Elm. Or you can pay big bucks and park at the Adolphus. Or take the DART rail to Akard Station, walk south on Akard, and you’ll see the restaurant at the northwest corner of Commerce & Akard.
Those of you who are Dallas Cowboys fans will immediately recognize the name Walt Garrison; for non-football fans, he was the Cowboys’ fullback from 1966-1974, and is something of a local hero as part of the team’s three-headed rushing attack that made them Super Bowl champs in 1972. Anyway, I have to admit, the first impression I get from the Rodeo Bar & Grill is of a restaurant trying just a little too hard to scream “Texas” to tourists. In other words, it’s a bit over the top.
Yee-haw. The Texas theme is also very apparent on the menu, though unlike restaurants like CBD Provisions, this is very much a place for no-nonsense comfort food. In other words, no arugula or ‘nduja on the menu here, though you will find plenty of southern fried goodness. Walt Garrison’s also offers other Texas-style comfort favorites like burgers, chili, and stuffed baked potatoes. They do offer some sandwiches and lighter meals if you prefer to avoid the grease coma after lunch. I alternate between the burger and chicken fried steak when I come here; today, I went with the chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and country gravy (the dinner rolls are complimentary and served before the meal)
I’ll start off with the bad. The rolls, while alright, pretty obviously come out of a bag. Cole slaw and chicken fried steak don’t mix. And though I love the chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes combo, I hate putting the chicken ON the potatoes. It makes the breading soggy.
But other than these niggles, it made for a good, hearty meal. The steak is a good steak, if not a great one. I found it nicely breaded and well-seasoned, though a bit overcooked. The mashed potatoes and country gravy, though, were delicious, with a hearty, thick sausage base to gravy, and a good helping of milk and cream in the potatoes (slightly lumpy, but personally I like a few potato chunks). The gravy also had a nice peppery kick, though it wasn’t excessively hot; while I’m a self-appointed heat seeker, too much black pepper kills country gravy.
As mentioned earlier, I have had the burgers several times. The burgers here are good, thick rather than thin, and I usually get them with American cheese and bacon. Walt Garrison’s provides well-seasoned meat, and more importantly, doesn’t miscook their burgers; it always comes out the way I order it. The main issue, oddly, is the bacon. It’s usually been fine, in other words crisp and peppery, but once in awhile, it does seem as though the bacon’s been under a heat lamp for a little bit.
Service at Walt Garrison’s is OK. The servers are friendly, but can be inattentive, especially if it’s busy. On the other hand, since the Rodeo Bar & Grill isn’t one of the “hip” places to see and be seen in the New Downtown, you can usually get a seat here without too much trouble. CAUTION – the bar is littered with peanut shells, especially in the afternoon/evening, as they hand out free peanuts and you’re allowed to drop the shells on the floor. If you’re allergic to peanuts, stay away from the bar.
Rating: I kind of go back and forth between 3 and 4 stars, so I’ll do the cop out and go with 3 1/2 stars. The food’s fine, but not really worth coming out of your way for. I prefer Babe’s or Bubba’s if I want comfort food, and the Angry Dog in Deep Ellum if you want a burger. But the prices are incredibly reasonable, especially for being in the middle of downtown and in the Adolphus (a party of four can be in and out for $75, as long as you take it easy on the beer), and the decor is certainly, ahem, different, if you want to do the touristy Texas thing.