Food & Drink

Dot’s Hop House more than just a pretty place

Shrimp and grits at Dot’s Hop House in Deep Ellum in Dallas
Shrimp and grits at Dot’s Hop House in Deep Ellum in Dallas

When you have a sprawling outdoor space as patio-perfect as Dot’s Hop House and Cocktail Courtyard — 10,000 square feet of benches, tables, heat lamps, Texas-centric artwork and, yes, a chandelier — you could serve three-day-old roadkill with a side order of deep-fried human hair and still draw a crowd.

Fortunately, the faces behind Dot’s —the guys who gave us the Denton hangouts Lucky Lou’s, East Side Denton and Oak Street Draft House & Cocktail Parlor — weren’t just thinking about the al fresco, beer-garden attributes of the former Dallas Comedy House space when they came up with this comfy concept in a resurgent Deep Ellum.

The twists on millennial bar food, not to mention the encyclopedic drinks menu that includes just about every form of fermented beverage (beer, wine, cocktails, kombucha, mead) known to man, are generally worth digging into even if you’re dining in the quirkily decorated interior.

Unlike the beer menu with its nearly 100 choices, the food selection isn’t gargantuan but covers the comfort-food basics. Start out with either the Bottle Rockets (three fried skewers of pulled chicken in a Buffalo sauce with smoked bacon, and fontina cheese in a flaky wrapper, served with an avocado tomatillo salsa and a peppery “Black Cat” sauce, $9) or the duck-fat cheese fries (house-cut, skin-on fries under a blanket of queso blanco, smoked cheddar, candied bacon and jalapeños, $9).

You can’t go wrong with either one, though the Bottle Rockets are more memorable. Next time, we’ll have to try the pricier “Hog Wings” (fried pork shanks in a chipotle barbecue sauce and served on top of a sweet corn puree, $15).

The Dot’s powers-that-be make a big deal out of the fact that their grill is the same one that was used for decades at Club Schmitz, a now closed but legendary burger joint near Love Field that opened in the ’40s. They devote a loving three paragraphs to the place on their menu.

Whether it’s the grill or some other factor, their exceedingly old-school Club Schmitz burger (two quarter-pound patties, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard, pickles), $10, is a satisfying bite of burger traditionalism.

Even better is the wonderfully new-school, cross-cultural collision that is the Mexican grilled cheese (pepperjack, provolone, habanero cheddar, cotija cheese and smashed avocado on grilled sourdough bread and served with a tomato dipping sauce, $8).

Less successful is the uninspired Chicken Schmitz sandwich (grilled or fried chicken breast, provolone, lettuce, tomato, red onion, $10). The grilled chicken was rather dry and ordinary, proving to be the dull-witted cousin to its smart burger counterpart.

More noteworthy are the Love Me Tenders (chicken tenders in a homemade peanut butter and jelly barbecue sauce and served on a bed of honey corn mash, $10) and especially the shrimp and grits (grilled shrimp in a bowl of smooth stoneground grits, Andouille sausage, broccolini and purple kale in a tomato ham broth, $15).

The tenders are a fun, teasingly sweet riff on Elvis Presley’s peanut-butter sandwich obsession while the shrimp and grits were the best thing we tried. Served in a bowl piled with sausage, shrimp and vegetables, this meal stands high and proud above just about everything else on the menu.

If you haven’t lapsed into a deep food coma at this point, finish everything off with a slice of Val’s rich and silky Lakewood Temptress Cheesecake ($9) while savoring the surroundings.

There’s the mosaic of blues legends with Dallas ties; the stained-glass renderings of local sports heroes; the repurposed Ford Model-T headlights used to illuminate the bar; the chandelier with its 65,000 glass beads, and the Dallas pride on the wall declaring “We are the only major city in America not founded on a port or navigable river. What others needed the ocean to accomplish — we did with sweat.” (Though residents of Indianapolis and some other inland cities might challenge the accuracy of this statement, the Lone Star braggadocio is still pretty convincing.)

Speaking of sweat, when summer rolls around, there’s no doubt that Dot’s patio is going to be much in demand. It’s not a stretch to think that it will be Deep Ellum’s Katy Trail Ice House.

But, remember, come for the patio and the beer, stay for the shrimp and grits.

Cary Darling: 817-390-7571, @carydar

Dot’s Hop House and Cocktail Courtyard