The concept at Dagwood’s Grinders and Growlers is straightforward: a chef-driven sandwich menu with craft beer to wash it down. The friendly servers will also be glad to bottle your grog to go. Sexy brown-glass “growlers” are available in 32 and 64 ounces, and the staff swears it’s fine to put them in your car.
Chef David Hollister, a former sous chef of Grady Spears’ and executive chef of Gas Monkey Bar N’ Grill, has launched a hipster’s dream of a grub shop in one of Fort Worth’s least hip locales — a shopping strip nestled neatly between Ridgmar Mall and the naval air station. The menu is generously peppered with fashionable gastronomic bromides. There’s house-cured Akaushi corned beef, smoked salt, toasted coconut lime aioli, and candied bacon. Kimchi makes what has begun to feel like an obligatory appearance, and “hen eggs” are touted on the menu at least twice. But even if Dagwood’s has the slick feel of a place trying a little too hard to ride the current culinary zeitgeist, Hollister’s kitchen didn’t disappoint.
On a recent Tuesday afternoon visit, the place was lively but not crowded. My guest and I were able to order at the counter without much of a wait, and we settled down in an oppressive wash of light from the south-facing storefront windows. As we waited, we took note of the numerous clues strewn about the dining space that this was no ordinary dive. From the gourmet condiment baskets to the self-serve Maine Root soda fountain, Dagwood’s writes a pretty tall check. We waited expectantly to see if the food could cash it.
We didn’t have to wait long. My guest’s BLT arrived in about five minutes. A $9 BLT might not raise many eyebrows in, say, Sonoma or Marin counties. But in Fort Worth, that’s a pretty hefty price tag, and we wanted to see how anybody could have the nerve.
I’m glad to report that this was no ordinary BLT. From the still-smoking grill marks on the sourdough bread, to the generous pile of crispy cherry wood bacon and the slab of burrata mozzarella cheese that melted in our mouths, it was a BLT in name only. A queen amongst sandwiches, it was crowned with a perfectly fried “hen” egg, beautifully enough to stop our sniggering dead in its tracks and thank the hen. We didn’t even complain that nary a leaf of the advertised romaine lettuce was to be found, since the arugula served in its place was a subtle and elegant touch.
Our meals didn’t arrive at the same time, and my beef belly sandwich didn’t make such a glamorous entrance when it slunk into the party a few minutes late. A bit flat and greasy, the newcomer wasn’t much to look at, but I was excited to see how the kitchen would handle the star of the show. Basically cow bacon with a sweetness reminiscent of brisket, beef belly is an ingredient on the rise but still difficult to find, even in Fort Worth. Under a slab of melted Beemster gouda, the squiggly pile of meat was doused with a balsamic onion jam as sweet as congealed maple syrup and smooshed between two slices of marbled rye. Fortunately, the side of jalapeño and cabbage slaw the cashier had recommended was crisp, spicy, and light and did a fine job cutting through the over-the-top decadence of the sandwich.
One of Dagwood’s charms is the fresh-baked cookie-of-the-day. On our visit, the kitchen’s cookie was packed with smoked almonds and chocolate chunks. For $1 each, the sweet, gooey confection may be the best deal on the menu.
Being the middle of a workday, we had to pass on the beer and “growlers,” but there seems to be a solid selection for folks who are into that sort of thing. Try Cedar Creek Dankosauraus West Coast IPA, Lakewood Mole Temptress Stout, or any of the 22 other craft beers on tap with cute names and improbable flavor combinations. If you are thirsting for anything as pedestrian as Shiner Bock, you won’t find it here. Like everything else at Dagwood’s, there is no room for the ordinary. The beer menu goes as far as you want it to go — and then just a tad further.
[box_info]Dagwood’s Grinders and Growlers
Beef belly on rye $8
TX slaw $3
Smoked almond chocolate chunk cookie $1[/box_info]
Dagwood’s Grinders and Growlers
1736 Mall Cir, FW. 817-570-7924. 11am-4pm Sun, 10:30am-9pm Mon-Thu, 10:30am-10pm Fri, 11am-10pm Sat. All major credit cards accepted.