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Sunday, September 15, 2013
Tillman's Roadhouse (Dallas, TX)
My wife and I don't get to eat or play in the Bishop Arts district of Dallas nearly as often as we'd like. There are several restaurants I've wanted to try for quite some time, and Tillman's Roadhouse is one of them. We were having a surprise birthday party for a friend, and it just so happened that Tillman's was the venue of choice. This was a great opportunity to celebrate with friends and to entertain my taste buds at the same time.
The crowds and parking were much easier to manage than usual, suggesting that Sunday night is an ideal time to eat in this neighborhood. The decor at Tillman's was an interesting mix of woodsy and hipster. Interestingly, the blank plaster taxidermy mounts and wooden plank walls were the most "roadhouse" things about this place. The fake crystal chandeliers and tall floral curtains, not so roadhouse. Overall, it was fairly posh and on par with the rest of Bishop Arts.
Rather than serve something as mundane as chips and salsa, customers are treated to bowls of seasoned popcorn for the table.
I guess it's less messy than having roadhouse peanuts all over the floor. The popcorn had an unusual and unpleasant taste, like burnt pepper. It wasn't really the best thing to warm up my palate with.
One of our ambitious tablemates ordered the Trio of Fries as a shared appetizer, which included parmesan kennebec fries, chili-dusted purple potato fries, and smoked salt sweet potato fries. It also came with housemade ketchup and horseradish pickle mayo for dipping.
Each variation was fantastic in its own way, though the purple potato fries were a clear frontrunner. They had a slight sweetness to them, but not as much as the sweet potato fries. I found a good amount of salt, which I was craving for some reason. Of the dipping spreads, I only tried the horseradish pickle mayo. It had a phenomenal array of flavors, and I ended up eating it by the spoonful.
Someone also ended up getting a few orders of the Truffle Goat Cheese Tater Tots, and I'm really glad they did. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to snag a picture of the tots before everyone dug in. These tots come with a confit garlic aioli and chive sticks. They were absolutely delicious! The goat cheese made the tots really creamy, almost like a croquette. The garlic aioli also paired perfectly with the mild cheese.
I wasn't sure if I'd even have room for an actual entree, but I threw caution to the wind and ordered another appetizer: Crispy Pork Belly with a Dr. Pepper glaze, Appaloosa bean spread, and pickled okra.
What I received was basically an inch of solid bacon fat. The top and bottom edges were nice and crisp, while the middle stayed moist and tender. It may have been better to serve smaller cubes of pork belly that they can crisp on all sides. The Dr. Pepper glaze gave it an amazing sweetness. Unlike other soda-based glazes and sauces I've had over the years, I could actually taste the Dr. Pepper here. I probably gained 10 pounds from eating it.
Even as full as I was, I couldn't resist the call of barbecue. For my entree, I ordered their Post Oak Smoked Baby Back Ribs, which are accompanied by a citrus-chipotle barbecue sauce and bacon-cheddar mac & cheese.
The mac was really tasty, though there wasn't as much gooey cheese as I'd hoped for. The flavors were great, but it lacked that homeyness that a good mac and cheese should have. Bacon was just what this dish needed. Instead of chives, I think diced jalapeños would have added the spice this side needed to balance perfectly.
My baby back ribs came stacked up like meaty Jenga pieces. The flavors here were incredible. I found plenty of smoke and a decent amount of heat. Texture-wise, the first rib I tried wasn't so good: the meat was really mushy and it had no crust at all. Luckily, the second and consecutive ribs were much better. The ribs were bordering on overcooked, but had just enough meat retention to stay put while I ate. The barbecue sauce had a nice acidity from the citrus. It also had a natural sweetness that wasn't as overpowering as other sugar-heavy sauces.
I left Tillman's Roadhouse both incredibly full and incredibly happy. With only a few minor hiccups, the food was terrific. The ribs were really good, but with a little improvement they could be exceptional. The flavors are definitely there, it's the execution that could be better. Maybe Tillman's chefs should take a few pointers from Will Fleischman at Lockhart Smokehouse down the street.
324 W. 7th Street
Dallas, TX 75208