BOWLED OVER: The food at Deep Ellum is excellent in many cases, and not too expensive in every case.
Deep Ellum is a one-room pub with 22 draught taps and a great collection of bottled microbrews, specialty mixed drinks, and wine (if you ask for it, because it isn’t listed on the menu). Oh yes, and food, which is rather excellent in many cases and not too expensive in every case. There’s even a credited chef, Josh Velazquez, who has labeled his fare “international comfort food.”
Surprisingly, the name of this establishment refers to a SoHo-like district in Dallas: a factory district, black ghetto, and urban-revival area. (So there isn’t enough bohemia in Boston; we have to do Dallas?) Also, the owners see this little bar as the start of a chain. I can’t really imagine that, but I wouldn’t have imagined Starbucks, either.
In any case, this review column is in the present tense, so let’s start with the fact that Deep Ellum is a small bar where they hand you a menu that seems to be about 75 percent devoted to beer. I started with Berkshire Brewing Company cask ale ($5.50). Though the menu described this as a “dry hopped” beer, it was clean, sweet, and malty; very full bodied; and — brewed fresh out of Deerfield, Massachusetts — delicious. I followed it up with a Gritty McDuff’s Black Fly stout ($5) because it touted only 4.1 percent alcohol. Deep Ellum lists the alcohol by volume for every draught and doesn’t serve Guinness. No Guinness? Nope, the better to get you into Maine’s Black Fly stout, which is lighter and more bitter than Guinness, less sweet and rather more drinkable. It’s like a black-and-tan but with a fuller flavor. On another visit, I had a bottle of Original Sin hard cider ($6) — New York City’s answer to the dry British version.
As for the food, the Dallas idea pays off with the chili ($3/cup; $6/bowl), which has no tomatoes and real Texas flavor with a mild burn. It’s gussied up with black beans and kidney beans (no pintos), and topped with fresh tomato and scallions. The core, however, is beef, chili peppers, and cumin.
The popular bar snack seems to be “hot damn wings” ($7). We had eight, fried with a little more crust than is typical, and served with a drippy hot sauce. The wings were good, if a little under-trimmed — ours came with mere yogurt instead of the usual fire-extinguishing blue-cheese dressing. The odd traditional fillers, carrot sticks and celery, were few in number as well.
While the wings may have been a little off, you can’t go wrong with the fried offerings. The French fries on the Black Angus burger ($8) are the crispiest in town. And the burger itself is seasoned like a meatloaf; ours came well-done when ordered medium-rare, but the flavor, with sautéed onions and a soft roll, was excellent. An item called Grubbins ($7) is whitefish sandwiched between two potato disks and deep-fried to look like a fried sandwich. This would be really cool if the potato were fully cooked, although it might not hold its shape. Instead, the underdone potato is like a new vegetable. I wonder how this might work with slices of turnip, say, which are edible raw or cooked. In any case, the plate comes with French fries and cole slaw, so it’s fine.