Tipsy Oak Ice House
301 E Front St, Arlington. 817-962-0304. 10am-2am Mon-Sat & 10am-10pm Sun. All major credit cards accepted.
The recent swarm of chain restaurants and glitzy entertainment venues near Arlington’s two stadiums received some splashy PR over the past month. In reality, the revitalization of the area northeast of UTA has been going on for half a decade as adventurous restaurateurs have mixed bars and restaurants with housing that’s on the brink of being renovated. Tipsy Oak Ice House, the newest entry into Arlington’s improving food scene, is the brainchild of Chef Kevin von Ehrenfried and wife Julia von Ehrenfried, formerly of Fort Worth’s Pouring Glory. The little gastropub with the Hill Country-esque patio opened relatively quietly in late July, and by the time my dining companion and I visited this month, what passes for fall in the NTX had begun. It was pleasant to hang out on the patio, shaded by three large live oak trees and plenty of umbrellas.
The four-page beer menu (strikingly similar to the one at Pouring Glory) covers every brewery within 30 miles, along with a couple of macrobrew and cider options. Inexpensive 5-ounce samples make it easy (and fairly cheap) to try something new, like the surprisingly tart Bishop Cider Company’s pineapple-apple cider, which was a delight. The eclectic food menu offers up bar staples like wings and fries prepared several ways but also forays into salads, burgers, and sandwiches.
In Canada and the upper Midwest, poutine is somewhat of a religion, but in the South, the dish of fries covered in brown gravy with mounds of salty cheese curds is mostly a curiosity. Local restaurants cover fries with cream gravy and shredded cheese and pretend it’s the Canadian delicacy, but Tipsy Oak’s version is as close to the real thing as we’re likely to get this far south. Homestyle fries, deliciously beefy gravy, and fairly soft cheese curds melded into a decadent, gooey mess. Yes, the recipe here also included cheddar cheese and a shock of chives to cut the almost overwhelming richness, but those were unexpectedly welcome additions to the appetizer.
A sampler of the three available varieties of sauce in one nine-piece wing order seemed too good to pass up. The traditional Buffalo sauce was standard and sturdy, with the bite of vinegar tamping down the spice. The Korean BBQ was a sweet, almost traditional ’cue sauce with a bit of umami and a shockingly latent heat on the back end. The Thai pepper was the mildest –– I was expecting a punch of Thai chiles and a sriracha after-burn, but instead, the sauce was super-sweet and a little disappointing. The wings themselves were blanched until the skin was crispy (not breaded and fried) and then coated liberally in the sauces, and the accompanying blue cheese and ranch dressing were both tasty.
The Division Defibrillator, the featured burger on the night that we dined, proved to be a sampling of everything that the kitchen does well. House-made brisket, barbecue sauce, pico de gallo, jalapeños, and fries were all stuffed into the latent-coronary-on-a-plate. The result was a hot, beautiful mess: The patty (delivered a perfect medium as ordered) had a caramel-like crust from the grill, and the brisket was as good as anything you’d find in a barbecue-only joint. The honey-sweet barbecue sauce came on the side, which was a blessing: A little went a very long way. A slightly spicy crema sauce offset the attention-grabbing peppers.
We strayed from the pub grub options and ordered a Caesar salad to counter all the fries. The salad wasn’t bad and contained plenty of grilled chicken, but the meat wasn’t seasoned particularly well and the salad dressing was average. Stick with the ranch dressing or maybe skip the salad.
A pocket-sized stage and several large-screen televisions provide all the entertainment you’ll need on the surprisingly family-friendly patio. Tipsy Oak is in the area that planners dubbed Urban Union, about a mile from the stadium noise and traffic. The area also includes Legal Draft and Sugar Bee Sweets, and Urban Alchemy coffeehouse isn’t too far away. It may be premature to say that this part of Arlington is blooming like Magnolia Avenue, but we can hope.
Caesar salad w/chicken $11.98
Division Burger $14.50
Bishop apple-pineapple cider (5-oz.) $2.50