Dallas' Cedar Grove Offers Modern Comfort Food for the Masses
Dallasites will recall Dish, the edgy New American restaurant in the heart of Oak Lawn. It made up one end of a fine dining dumbbell that had The Landmark Restaurant at The Melrose Hotel at the opposing side. Management at NL Group decided that it was too much of a destination restaurant in an area that cried out for a neighborhood place. Down came prices. Out went experimental cooking, and in came what I would describe as ‘modern comfort food’. Things like crab cakes, mac and cheese, upscale burgers, salmon, and chicken.
To put a visible stamp of ‘new’ on all this they hired architect Jonathan Bailey to develop the cedar grove theme as carved cedar outlines at the end of each four top that makes up the communal tables in the center of the floor. It is more striking than any other restaurant interior I have seen in Dallas in the last year. Just maybe they should have added the whimsy of a mock bird’s nest hanging in one of the trees with a mock egg toppling out and plummeting towards the heads of the oblivious diners below.
The menu at Cedar Grove aims to hold no surprises. Just well executed crowd pleasers that don’t need or ask for explanation. We were offered a cavalcade of them at a recent media event. The fried calamari with Meyer lemon aioli and delicate rings of multi-colored pickled peppers was the perfect start. The crispy batter, light and airy, melded perfectly with a glass of Cuvaison Chardonnay.
Crab cakes were succulent and crispy and cleverly paired with contrasting sweet corn salsa and red pepper aioli. Tempura soft shell crabs with earthy black beans, sweet disks of seasonal peach and chili hit the spot as one of the best appetizers. However, my most favored dish has to be the coal-roasted corn soup. A deeply smoky thick, almost chowdery cream of corn soup expression heightened with a dollop of crème fraîche.
The drinks menu is led by cocktails, as is the vogue nowadays, and the bar is as emphasized as the restaurant area. Wines are well chosen as well (although no Texas wines yet, despite the ‘local’ protestations in the press releases) with a focus on North America. Several local brews anchor the beers list on which the as-seen-on-TV beers are almost invisible (yippee!).
Service is helmed by a strong front-of-house led by Jerry McInerney and Robert Turbeville. Top-level management is still Tim McEnerny, CEO, who inherits from the Dish days. Chef Taylor Kearney came over from NL Group’s other location, The Front Room Tavern at The Lumen, to put together the menu.
On a Wednesday night Cedar Grove was doing a lively trade. That raised the noise level in the buzzy place but suggested that the change is being welcomed by the Oak Lawn Community.
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