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Chef David Hollister has opened three restaurants over the last few months. Photo by Lee Chastain.

If you’ve made it out to Ridgmar to visit Dagwood’s Grinders and Growlers, you already know Chef David Hollister can build a pretty good sandwich and tell you how to wash it down.

Now with Dagwood’s Fire Grill Tap bringing Hollister’s vision to the Foch Street warehouses near the West 7th development, his fans will be able to get their fix without trudging all the way out to I-30 and 820. Indeed, several of his popular items show up at the Fire Grill Tap almost verbatim, including the beef belly bacon sandwich and his transcendent BLT with burrata cheese and a fried egg. However, there are some significant differences between the establishments in terms of both the menu and the atmosphere.

For starters, Fire Grill Tap has a full bar. In fact, Fire Grill Tap is a full bar. From the indoor/outdoor seating at the front to the smoky kitchen at the back, serious diners and drinkers sit cheek to jowl in the long, narrow single room. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but with the kind of open-flame cuisine Hollister is championing, it would have been a coup to have the kitchen at the center of the space and let the bar play second-fiddle. Though there are decorative nods to Texas roadhouse vernacular, four large flat-screen TVs dominate the dining room — a TV for every elk head hanging on the wall. It’s another missed opportunity for foodies who might prefer the drama of an open kitchen to even more college football.

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On a recent Friday happy-hour visit, the place was nearly empty but smelled delicious. The menu features smoked barbecue and burgers, as well as plenty of starters and snacks. The olfactory assault echoed the Godsmack playing on the stereo. Fire Grill Tap has the makings of a great after-work spot or the first stop for a night on the town, but if you wander in alone for a drink and a bite, well, it’s good for that too.

The chicken lollipops appetizer came five to an order and left a mess. The kitchen pushed the meat of a drumstick down the bone, leaving a fleshy ball at one end and a macabre handle at the other. They were glazed in cane syrup and tossed on the grill, producing a beautiful sweet char on the juicy meat. The ’pops arrived with an accompanying “firecracker sauce,” a bright red chili-garlic puree that tasted as hot as it looked. The morsels replicated some of the flavors of traditional chicken wings but took the concept to another, more satisfying level.

The sourdough onion rings were juicy and sweet –– and much more than one person needs. The Sichuan peppercorn ranch dressing served alongside was better than it looked on the menu, but the rings were best when they were hot enough to burn fingers and eaten ungarnished.

There are three salads on the menu if you count the “Meat Salad” (a bowl of bacon strips served with chimichurri sauce), but for something plant-based you will have to choose between the bibb wedge and the “Needs a Name” salad. The wedge, topped with plum tomatoes, avocado, and blue cheese sounded delicious, but how could anyone pass up a nameless salad? Mixed greens with red bell pepper, chile-toasted pecans, gorgonzola, and maple balsamic dressing could have been a winning combination; unfortunately the only name I could give it was “Overdressed.” The acidity of the balsamic overwhelmed any hint of maple or chiles, and I ended up with a mouthful of wet lettuce that tasted of nothing but vinegar and cheese.

The next day I popped back in for an Akaushi beef burger. The meat is showing up everywhere these days –– and for good reason: The Japanese varietal is a tender, delicately flavored beef that is now being raised in Texas, and local chefs are keen to feature its qualities in their dishes. I had never tried Akaushi in anything as pedestrian as a hamburger, however, and I was curious to see what Hollister could do with it. Cooked medium-well and served on a toasted brioche bun, this 8-ounce burger was one of the beefiest and juiciest I have ever had. Eat it dry with lettuce, tomato, and sweated onions — food that starts out that simple and delicious doesn’t need onion jam or a quail egg to make it right, though they’re available if that’s what you want.

 

[box_info]Dagwood’s Fire Grill Tap
843 Foch St, FW. 682-841-0472. 11am-10pm Sun-Tue, 11am-11pm Wed-Thu, 11am-Midnight Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.[/box_info]

[box_info]Dagwood’s Fire Grill Tap
Chicken lollipops     $8
Needs a Name Salad     $7
Sourdough onion rings     $6
House burger     $9
House fries     $4[/box_info]

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