I’ve become accustomed to innocent hyperbole from restaurant servers, even someone as polished as the one at Redrock Canyon Grill who, when speaking of the portion sizes at the new Southlake restaurant, billed them as “huge” — minus any Trumpian inflection.
She should be commended for 100 percent accuracy, as it seemed each of the seven dishes sampled at the 2-month old restaurant was trying to one-up the previous platter when it came to sheer girth.
But my server displayed welcome modesty in not bragging about how uniformly high-quality all the dishes were — a distinction all the more remarkable considering that Redrock Canyon Grill is but a regional cog in the Herculean restaurant machine known as Oklahoma-based Hal Smith Restaurants.
With 14 different, mostly Midwestern eateries under its corporate umbrella, it might predictably follow that everything from Redrock’s decor and service to the food itself, would risk carrying a numbing, corporate roteness.
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But none of that by-the-numbers approach surfaces at Redrock — a Texas-based follow-up to Hal Smith’s only other Tarrant County outpost, Fort Worth’s Charleston’s, opened in 1998. Rather, most everything about the Redrock experience clicked.
In a 5,000-square-foot space that seats 300, the design touches created a soothing feeling where rustically bricked walls, some covered in Winslow Homer-esque landscapes, were all bathed in the soft glow of carefully recessed lighting. It’s the moody illumination Francis Ford Coppola might borrow for a “Godfather” reboot.
The interior wood is butterscotch-toned mahogany, the banquettes are often placed in curvaceous booths, and each table seems to be guarded by an ornamental cactus. The most iridescent-dining room glow came from the corner-wine-room, stocking more than 1,000 bottles, mostly American vintages. The bar proudly only sells 12 local craft brews, among them Rahr & Sons and Deep Ellum.
The menu contains a very navigable seven starters, five salads and nine entrees.
Over the years, I’ve lost track of the hundreds of “baby Caesar” salad starters I’ve tried, but Redrock’s ($6) got my attention with its tasteful restraint: It subtly napped, not doused, the romaine leaves in a tart, non-creamy vinaigrette, and the small scattering of Parmesan cheese actually highlighted an unexpected guest to this salad’s party: red bell pepper that actually delivered some taste, not just color.
A marvelous throwback to ’70s-era cocktail parties is Redrock’s deviled-egg platter ($6). The five eggs were filled till they wobbled with whipped yolks specked with chives and paprika. Bursting through the eggy richness was a bed of tangy corn, black bean and jalapeño salsa.
The stuffed poblano starter ($11) featured a double-wide-large stuffed pepper, offering my first encounter with the restaurant’s signature rotisserie cooked chicken. With one knife slice, the cornmeal-encrusted poblano spilled an interior of flame-licked chicken along with smoked cheddar cheese. The entire mixture was cooled down by a cross-hatch of chipotle-flavored sour cream.
The mustard-crusted pork chops ($19) were two hulking bone-in shanks of meat, tattooed with perfect grill marks. With an enticing balance of outer char and interior juiciness, the pork chops’ sweet-savoriness’ volume went “one louder,” thanks to tassels of apple-onion compote draped over each chop.
The pork chops were prelude to Redrock’s Cluck-n-Oink ($21), a carnivore’s dream-team of the rotisserie chicken, paired with a mini-portion of St. Louis barbecue ribs. The restaurant’s lone rotisserie famously rotates 48 birds for 2 1/2 hours over a doubtlessly seething flame.
The result is a trio of breast, thigh and a mini-drumstick, all carrying a bronzed, dry-rubbed exterior (a blend of garlic, cayenne and thyme, among other ingredients) that easily yields to deeply flavorful, moist white and dark meat, with juices all but spurting out.
Meanwhile, the back-up singers were the ribs, proving, at least for me, the virtues of the smaller St. Louis pork variety versus their bulkier, beef rivals. These ribs were fully lacquered with a wet, honeyed sauce, and one fork-poke easily pried them from the bone.
One of the few missteps Redrock made was the unrelentingly sweet banana pudding ($8). A much better option was the key lime pie ($8), a 6-inch-across wedge hidden under a floating island of whipped cream studded with graham-cracker-crust crumbs. Eventually burrowing down to the pie, I found a bracingly tart lime filling.
Be advised: Redrock does not have a formal reservation policy, which means that there can be waits of more than an hour for a table on hectic Thursday-through-Saturday evenings.
But with a 22-seat, underlit bar and its two angled, 60-inch-flat screen televisions as a welcoming waiting area, any downtime can pass very quickly, especially if you stare long enough at what potentially is your future bird, rotating away on Redrock’s famously effective spit.