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Social House

Remember the hype around Brownstone when it opened in 2010? You would have thought Top Chef hottie Casey Thompson had ridden in on a winged horse and built the West 7th district all by herself. Lost in all of the hype (but apparently not lost on diners) was how bad and overpriced the food was, and the place closed rather unceremoniously.

A couple of months ago, Social House (840 Currie St.) slid into the Brownstone’s old location and into a much fiercer level of restaurant competition in the Mc7th. Even a few good restaurants, including Hacienda San Miguel and Patrizio, have been shuttered over the last year or so.

Social House had a few things going for it even before it opened. For one, it’s part of a successful Dallas-based mini-chain (like most other places in West 7th). Second, the menu was put together by one of Tarrant County’s own top chefs, Brian Olenjack –– formerly of Reata Restaurant and Olenjack’s Grill, the place that kept his name though he no longer works there. (Just to be clear, Olenjack doesn’t work at Social House; he just consulted on the menu.) Third, Social House’s upscale casual bar-first, restaurant-second concept seems to work well in West 7th, as Landmark Bar & Kitchen and Reservoir Bar, Patio, Kitchen have proven. But I wasn’t interested in the bar scene. Chow, Baby’s all about the chow.

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The dining room is open, spacious, and bright, and it was hopping during my mid-week lunch visit. I’ve read Dostoyevsky novels in less time than it took me to get through that menu. I’m always leery of lengthy menus because restaurants that offer a zillion things often do none of them well. But at least the food novel at Social House has a sense of identity, unlike, say, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse (4720 S. Hulen St.) that tries to be six crappy restaurants in one.

The fare ranges from dressed-up pub grub to upscale comfort food, though it veers off into Americanized versions of Mexican and Italian fare, with its tacos and pizza offerings. There are a lot of seafood options, sandwiches, salads, and no shortage of pork. Both my guest and I opted for selections from the house specialties section of the menu.

I’m a fried pickle-anado and thoroughly enjoyed the crispy, thick-cut fried pickles ($7.95) in cornmeal batter, served with a creamy buttermilk dressing. For an entrée, my guest opted for the chilly weather-appropriate tomato bisque and grilled cheese sandwich ($11.95), with cheddar, American, and Swiss cheese, Granny Smith apple slices, and prosciutto stuffed between two manhole-sized pieces of sourdough bread. The soup was delicious and well-seasoned, though it was a little chunky for my taste. The sandwich, tasty and enormous, was a little hard to eat without a knife and fork. Thanks to the slippery apples, its contents spilled onto the plate like a stack of CDs sliding sideways.

I went for the slow-roasted rosemary bourbon chicken ($15.95), which was perfectly cooked but underseasoned. The bourbon butter sauce was rich but bland, and if there was any rosemary on the bird, it escaped my picky palate. Once I doused the chicken in salt and pepper, it was a treat. And I could have eaten the accompanying roasted fingerling potatoes with bacon and greens by themselves.

There’s a lot to like about the place, and it made a good first impression. Our server was prompt and polite, and the food came out at a reasonable pace for lunch. It was without a doubt the best meal I’ve ever had in that building — though that’s a pretty low bar.

Contact Chow, Baby at chowbaby@fwweekly.com.

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