On a fine, warm day in June, it’s hard to imagine a more pleasant setting for a friendly business luncheon than the bright, breezy patio of Del Frisco’s Grille. Located on the east side of Sundance Square’s shiny newish plaza in the heart of downtown, the outdoor oasis, replete with giant umbrellas casting long shadows and 10-inch thick cushions for comfy booth seating, seemed a world apart from the weekday bustle of the packed dining room. Bees foraged well-appointed planters. Children splashed in the nearby jet fountain. One anticipated the sophistication of iced tea.
Del Frisco’s Grille
154 E 3rd St, FW. 817-887-9900. 11am-3pm & 4-10pm Sun, 11am-11pm Mon-Sat. Reservations, all major credit cards accepted.
The dressed-down younger sister of the upscale downtown steakhouse has everything you’d expect from such a highly regarded company: attentive and prompt service, well-executed dishes, and drinks made with care. But something about the grill seemed a little forced.
Maybe it’s over-conception. There’s a lot of fluff, beginning with the unnecessary “e” on “grill” and ending with an unexpected handshake from the server. The menu headings are ridiculous –– there’s no good reason to call appetizers “Food to Fight Over.” “Two-Fisted Sandwiches” and “Happy Endings” are unsettling if not blatantly suggestive. “Meat Up & Drink Up” is the recurring theme, plastered on the menus with all the desperation of an Applebee’s commercial. “Get social,” every menu yelps. “Do it our way, or do it yours. It’s up to you. Either way, just come in and dig in.”
The frenetic barking may be helpful for someone who hasn’t used a restaurant before, but for the rest of us, it’s distracting. The Del Frisco’s brand ought to be the only concept needed, particularly because the Grille delivers the two essentials: good food and good service.
And by “good” food, I mean really good.
The buffalo-style grit cake could serve at least three hungry diners without any violence. The three thick cakes were crisp and golden on the outside, creamy and decadent within. The accompanying tangy avocado ranch and buffalo sauce, along with generous crumbles of blue cheese, gave the unlikely candidate plenty of punch and sass.
The seared Asian tuna salad was fresh and bright, and the kitchen didn’t skimp on the perfectly seared fish. At first, the ingredients seemed a bit excessive –– peanuts and almonds; arugula and cabbage; mango, avocado, and tomato –– but they worked nicely together. In the final analysis, the only thing this dish really didn’t need was the sad pile of cold noodles at the bottom of the plate.
The green chile cheeseburger was a triumph. Two thin patties doubled the flame-broiled taste and texture of beautiful beef, and they were a refreshing change from the super-thick burgers currently in vogue at many upscale burger shops. The New Mexican Hatch chile was unmistakably fragrant and warm, the bun was a domed marvel, and the bread-and-butter pickle chips were a thoughtful complement to the signature dish. Order with a side of sweet potato frites, and you’ll forgive yet another nomenclatural pretension: They are better than most sweet potato fries and may call themselves what they like.
The service was on the chummy side of competent. Lunch took 45 minutes from the moment my guest and I walked in the door, and the food came promptly. Our check was brought with our entrées. Our server assured us he was not rushing us but understood we might need to get back to the office. It’s exactly the kind of consideration you’d expect from any restaurant flying the Del Frisco’s flag. Though there is a decent wine and cocktail list (fans of Del Frisco’s Double-Eagle Steak House will recognize old friends like the “Adult Milk Shake” with Nocello), it was refreshing that our server didn’t push alcohol on a workday at noon.
Del Frisco’s Grille isn’t inexpensive, but when you consider the prime location and the quality of the product, it’s a good value and certainly deserves to be a regular treat. Too bad the corporate office doesn’t have the confidence to let the food and service stand on their own, without the kind of cutesy bric-a-brac better suited to an off-campus dive.