Deluxe Bar & Grille has somewhat of an uphill climb. The new venture is located in a seemingly cursed spot in Montgomery Plaza –– this corner space previously housed two equally ambitious eateries, Mac’s on Seventh and, more recently, Monty’s Corner. And Deluxe, a partnership between Sushi Axiom (a local chain with a location next door) and Houston’s frighteningly named Innovative Restaurants, couldn’t have come at a worse time. Competition among West 7th-area restaurants is stiff. The economy is recovering, yes, but if Deluxe wants to stick around — at least a bit longer than its predecessors — the food had better be really good.
Based on a recent visit, things are definitely moving in the right direction. Though executive chef Aaron Nelson’s menu is diverse, with American, Italian, and Creole represented, it’s safe to say that Deluxe specializes in gourmet pub food. Is Deluxe a pub? Technically, yes. In actuality? No. True, there are 24 craft brews on tap, but the bar counter itself is small, seating only about a dozen, and last call on weekends is at midnight.
Someone should tell the owners their place isn’t a pub that serves food but a bona fide restaurant with a small pub area: Though the majority of the space is occupied by booths and tables, nearly every inch of every wall is covered with flat-screen TVs. The only kind of person who might enjoy a sit-down meal beneath the glow of multiple games is a sports fanatic who doesn’t particularly care for his or her date.
In Deluxe’s defense, however, there’s not much else to look at inside. Or outside. Out one wall of windows is a Super Target across a sea of concrete beneath tons of gleaming chrome, metal, and steel; out the other is … the other side of Montgomery Plaza, a row of businesses that includes BoomerJack’s Grill & Bar, one of the plaza’s first tenants and one of the most successful sports bars in town.
To summon a sports metaphor, BoomerJack’s best be bringing their A game, because Deluxe has got the goods.
The chicken-fried steak was a marvel of culinary chutzpah. The thing was about as big as a catcher’s mitt. Tender, lightly breaded, and neither oily nor greasy, it was well worth the rather steep ($12.50) price tag. (By comparison, probably Fort Worth’s best CFS, Cat City Grill’s, is only $12 and is served in a place with loads more ambience.) The accompanying cream gravy had a taste-bud-tingling peppery kick, and the baby carrots melted in the mouth.
The fish tacos were another hit. And another meal big enough for two. Packed with flavorfully sautéed white fish, a zesty slaw, and lime cilantro crema and topped with two thick slices of fresh avocado, the tacos demanded –– and rewarded –– two hands and large, greedy bites. Yum.
Deluxe is branding itself as everything to everyone, including our vegetarian friends. Chef Nelson must know a couple himself, because he’s offering more than just salads. One particular vege item is worth veering away from Spiral Diner for: Avegilina is a personal flatbread pizza loaded with sautéed julienned veggies (bell peppers and mushrooms), roasted garlic, and creamy smoked fontina cheese, topped with a subtle yet fragrant pesto. Great for a carbo load, a doughy, chewy, orgasmic one.
Meanwhile, we meat lovers can dig into Deluxe’s world-class cheeseburger. The meat is ground on-site and tastes like it. Juicy and savory, it arrived in the form of two patties blanketed by melted cheddar beneath fresh lettuce and tomato. Are there better burgers in town? Sure, but if you’re near Deluxe and have a hankering for some red meat, you won’t be disappointed.
Along with maybe reducing the astronomical number of TVs on the walls, Deluxe could also stand to let someone with decent taste pick the music blasting through the dining areas. No need to trot out Radiohead or Coltrane, but that horrible, dreadful mix of contemporary pop, R&B, and country has got to go.
Deluxe Bar & Grille
Montgomery Plaza, 2600 W 7th St, FW. 817-877-0087. 7am-10pm Sun, 10:30am-10pm Mon-Thu, 10:30am-12am Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Avegilina …………………. $9.00
Chicken-fried steak …. $12.50
Deluxe cheeseburger .. $8.50