Back in October, The Food Network’s restaurant rehab/rebranding show On the Rocks visited ailing TCU bar and grill XII (originally Whiskey XII, later XII Whiskey), making it over from a cavernous, purple-painted sports bar into a cavernous, wood-paneled bar and grill themed around a fake periodic table. Now called The Science Lab Bar & Grille, the joint has a lot of things going for it. Unfortunately, the food isn’t one.
OK, that’s not entirely fair, because the Science Lab’s menu has some good to great ideas, and the atmosphere, while not entirely perfect, is a dramatic improvement upon its predecessor. Where XII’s wall-to-wall purple-and-televisions aesthetic left a lot to be desired, the Science Lab is now a lot cozier; the wood finish on the walls is a good counterpoint to the picnic tables that serve as primary seating. The walls not covered in wood display a booze-centric periodic table, its hand-painted letters signifying elements like “margarita” and “martini,” both of which are apparently symbolized by “M.” I would’ve liked to have seen beeron or tequilium on the chart, but as the song goes, you can’t always get what you want. This was especially applicable if what you want is a lettuce wrap. Our waiter had to bear the bad news that they were down to the last piece of lettuce –– it had been allocated for the cheeseburger we’d ordered.
Lettuce shortage notwithstanding, the service at the Lab was great, though the dinner was marred by a somewhat lengthy cook time. After splitting an appetizer combo called The Supercollider (the fried corn nuggets were gooey and heavenly, the fried jalapeños were not, and the less said about the wings the better), my guest and I waited almost 30 minutes for our entrées. Thankfully, our server was diligent in keeping us up to speed and amending the kitchen’s woes as best she could.
Maybe “woes” is too strong a word, but on top of the long wait, the stuff I ordered came out pretty much lukewarm, a bummer, since Bunsen’s Baked Brisket Mac sounded so promising. Served with a perfectly thick and crunchy slice of Texas toast, the Lab’s version of mac ’n’ cheese came topped with pile of shredded pork brisket. The dish was certainly cheesy, and the brisket would’ve been an excellent component if its execution had been any good –– as it was, the pork was pretty dry. This is the kind of simple dish that in its heartiness should be amazing. The Science Lab needs to check its formula and do some more testing.
The Marie Curie Sautéed Veggies amounted to another good idea on paper only. The roasted Brussels sprouts disappointed, lacking the delicate, caramelized sweetness that makes them so delicious when roasted. Instead, they shared the same weird tang of the asparagus (and never mind the cauliflower), and both were ultimately pretty bland. The same could be said about the Einstein with cheese –– for a half-pound burger, the patty looked pretty small, but perhaps that’s because it came out well done. At least the accompanying fries were good.
In lieu of the lettuce wraps, our server suggested the Skewers Von Braun, six lemon-marinated chicken skewers served on a bed of sweet potato strips. When the skewers arrived bedded on nothing but a bare plate, the server explained that in the wake of the show, the menu had gone through a bunch of revisions, with many items still in progress. However, she later returned with a plate of crunchy, freshly fried sweet potatoes.
The Science Lab Bar & Grille has a lot of promise. Its various science-y specialty drinks are sure to captivate cocktail fans, but the food leaves a lot to be desired. Overall, the Science Lab’s edibles need more trials.
The Science Lab Bar & Grille
Bunsen’s Baked Brisket Mac ……. $6
Marie Curie Sautéed Veggies …… $6
Einstein w/cheese ………………….. $7