A New Gastropub Opens North Of Dallas

I have just come from a media event at Public School 972, which recently opened in Addison. At the end of the event I insisted on paying the full retail price for my food and drink so that I could report, with a clear conscience, on the painful experience.

I was worried as soon as I entered and gave my name to the hostess at the maitre d' stand (in this case a maitre d' tablet). She didn't appear to have a record of the reservation, but managed to get me to a place. An order of a starter of tuna poke led to a long wait. After more than 10 minutes (during which I wondered if they were out catching the fish), I managed to flag down my waitress (no easy feat by the way) and order a main course of fish and chips. Ten minutes later, the fish and chips arrived, but no poke. The waitress nor her manager knew why, but five minutes later it showed up. I suspected it had been warming on the counter in the kitchen, but I was assured that that was not the case and that it as fresh.

Overlooking the shambolic service, you might judge 972 by the food. If you want to cheer up, that would be a mistake. The poke was just cubes of bland tuna, an oppressively sweet yellow substance that may have been mango purée from a can, and slivers of jalapeño. No sauce to enhance the flavor, no citrus juice to lift the gelatinous monotony of all that tuna. I thought back wanly to the tuna poke bowl I had rustled up at Poké Bop just a week earlier. 972 founders, John Sola and Phil Kastel, could do worse than pay a visit if they are wondering how to improve their offering.

The fish and chips were worse. The fries were tasteless, likely shipped in frozen and deep fried with a prayer that they would pick up at least a taint of flavor from the cooking oil. It reinforced the impression, created by the poke bowl, of a pervasive cheapness about 972. The fried cod was better, saved by the inherent grunt of cod flesh rather than a talented chef's rendition of a batter.

Despite the 972 web site babbling on about local ingredients, there was not a single local producer listed on the menu and nothing local indicated in any of the ingredients. For example, there is a cheese and smoked meat plate, but does it have any local cheeses? What about local charcuterie?

The wine list is short and appeared to be just a jumble of whatever the California head office could get at the biggest discount. Most wines are West Coast with a preponderance of third-tier California names. (Ever heard of 'Day Owl' or 'Old Soul'?) The California masters at 972 are oblivious of Texas wine. On the bright side, the wine list is actually so destitute that it is an ideal rescue opportunity for an energetic and knowledgeable sommelier.

972's one bright spot is actually beer. There are more than two dozen craft beers, most from Texas and many from Dallas.

The place was busy enough for a midweek night so 972 does cater to a section of the market. Just not a discerning section.

I asked to pay before enduring whatever passed for dessert. Figuring the service problems stemmed from the top, I tipped the waitress the perfunctory 15 pecent and made my escape. The cheerful valet turned out to be local and we swapped stories about cars.