The on-off again relationship Dallasites have with Deep Ellum is reminiscent to the turbulent Bobby Brown/Whitney Houston train wreck where they couldn't break up because in the end, they really needed each other. Or something like that.
Crowds give false hope by having a great time, then bail when bored. They leave a path of tears and heartbreak, destroying all hopes of Deep Ellum's rise from obscurity which ultimately goes back to emptiness and dilapidation. The relationship with Deep Ellum is on -- for the time being.
Restaurants, bars and other tenants are finding new homes in a neighborhood that has no reason to ever be vacant. The difference with this kick start to Deep Ellum's heart, that may keep the pulse strong, is the emergence of respectable restaurants -- not an oversaturation of seedy bars or dance clubs, which have become destination trips for their customer base.
One such new restaurant, Work Bar and Grill, opened it's doors in April 2013. The restaurant can be viewed as a novelty sports bar with scantily dressed waitresses, which unfortunately are everywhere, but also has an upscale industrial theme.
Owner/Pitmaster Doug Pickering has brought not necessarily a new concept to life, but one which can thrive if it catches the right crowd. He also may have unknowingly made one of the brightest business moves in Dallas for a barbecue restaurant. With the recent news of Pecan Lodge's relocation to Deep Ellum, those meat travelers who arrive at Pecan Lodge then choose not to wait in line will find Work within walking distance.
Without labeling themselves as solely a barbecue restaurant, they do rely heavily on smoked meat. The menu itself is very diverse, catering to other palates with offerings such as buffalo fried oysters, mussels, and bacon wrapped prawns. There are plenty of green options for those who dig that sort of thing.
I planned my visit around their Thursday-night-only rib offering. Due to my reconnaissance, I discovered the ribs were to be ready by 7 pm. Upon my arrival to a steady, but not overly busy crowd, the disappointing news from the waitress was around 8 pm: They were already out of ribs. I would imagine for a one night per week special, there would be a higher quantity smoked if they sell out in an hour. Early bird gets the pork, I suppose.
The Sugar Cookie brisket was ordered with the sides of choosing being the Potato Salad and Purple Haze Ginger Coleslaw. After the discovery the sausage was that of commercial variety (boggles my mind when there are a handful of local meat markets nearby) and for $4 extra, I opted to add protein by ordering the pulled pork.
With a hearty amount of brisket displayed, no time was wasted digging in. The bark was distinctively good and there were several brilliant bites of meat, more often there were bites which caused my jaw to do a bit more work than I would've preferred. On these slices, the thick fat had more of a congealed effect due to incomplete rendering. This could be remedied by a bit more trimming prior to applying the rub. The smoky flavor was exactly what one would expect and with a bit longer in the pit, every slice of meat could've been consistent deliciousness.
What was commendable was the fact theses slices of brisket were served with fat -- not lean and trimmed of all the flavoring that the average Dickey's enthusiast believes to be real Texas barbecue. While the sauce was served on the side with the brisket, the pulled pork was served with just enough on top to complement the meat.
The sides were above average without particularly standing out. Luckily, there are enough options for the next go-around.
Work Bar and Grill is worth a visit. For a restaurant with an identity crisis such as them (video arcades in the corner next to the posh lounge seating and is it a barbecue joint or not?), this is an option for the lover of smoked meat who would like to hang out for while, watch a game on one of their many flatscreen TVs and enjoy the wide selection of booze located at their saloon-style bar.
The only change I would unselfishly like to see made are the Thursday night ribs becoming a menu staple. It's normal to crave ribs during the day while regressing to your youthful days at the local Pocket Change arcade, right!?