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Current reports on Deep Ellum?

Allstonian May 22, 2007 07:39 AM

Anybody had food there recently? Has the menu been revised yet? We haven't been since the winter, when we had a couple of promising but extremely uneven meals, and the last reports here weren't very good. I'd love to hear that they're finally hitting their stride.

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    DoubleMan RE: Allstonian May 22, 2007 07:53 AM

    I've gone recently and thought the food has gone downhill. The new menu must be less than a month old. The new menu is far more daring (a horrible duck and ramen dish, a flavorless mexican dish, etc.) but is filled with FAIL. I thought the previous menu was much better, and a lot simpler, even though they had consistency issues.

    They should focus on properly and consistently executed mid- to higher-end pub fare with possibly a few bistro-type classics thrown in. At a place like that, what I really want is a good burger or sandwich, and maybe something like steak frites.
    I noticed a sign in the window looking for a new cook.

    Drinks are still absolutely superb, though. For me, it's worth the trip just for drinking.

    1. d
      danaf RE: Allstonian May 23, 2007 09:44 AM

      This place is just another typical neo-bohemian, yuppie bar with overpriced food and drinks lacking quality. I was there a month ago and was served a mojito that deserved to be in a plastic cup, during happy hour, at a dive bar. It's annoying enough that to get one decent mixed drink in Boston you have to spend enough money to buy an entree, but to then be served something that tastes like grain alcohol just puts me over the edge. They even serve the same beers that the Publick House serves for $3 more. I suggest that if you want to pay the same prices as Deep Ellum head to Eastern Standard. My experience there was thoroughly satisfying. Their food and drinks are worth the price and there staff is very friendly and knowledgeable.

      4 Replies
      1. re: danaf
        d
        DoubleMan RE: danaf May 23, 2007 10:25 AM

        I could not disagree more. Every time I've gone the drinks have always been superb, and about $1 less than many other spots. The beer list is also very good, and it's certainly not $3 more than the Publick House.

        Mojitos aren't really my thing, so I don't know about those, but every other drink, especially the ones with more ingredients and that require very precise execution, have all been great. It's a bar where they make their own grenadine and have cocktails with absinthe----hardly happy hour/dive bar stuff.

        And I don't know what neo-bohemian/yuppie is supposed to be.

        1. re: DoubleMan
          kittychow RE: DoubleMan May 23, 2007 10:44 AM

          "I could not disagree more. Every time I've gone the drinks have always been superb, and about $1 less than many other spots. The beer list is also very good, and it's certainly not $3 more than the Publick House." - - DITTO

          It's got some menu kinks to work out but I don't see an issue with the beer/cocktail price or quality. The beer/cocktail consistency is what brings me back. I'm really hoping they get the food issues sorted out soon.

          Mojitos are a mixed bag, best to order at a place where they are a featured cocktail. I haven't seen the most recent Deep Ellum cocktail menu but I'd be surprised to see the mojito on it. Deep Ellum is one of the few places in the city where I trust the bar tending enough to try a new cocktail, especially a pricey one.

          I prefer not to negatively tag the bar because its customer base ranges from burnouts, wannabe hipsters, professionals, and adults (like the kind over 30, GASP!). I actually think it's a compliment to the owners that they managed to create a place, in that neighborhood especially, that can appeal to so many different people.

          1. re: kittychow
            BarmyFotheringayPhipps RE: kittychow May 23, 2007 10:52 AM

            The main issue with the menu is that Josh is trying to do too much with too small a kitchen. I've said this before and I'll say it again: a good chicken fried steak would FLY out of that kitchen, and it would put Deep Ellum on the map, because it's the signature dish of Texas and nobody does it up here. It's not that hard: Dredge a cube steak, mash some potatoes, steam a side veg, make a cream gravy, fry a couple thick slices of the pain de mie from Clear Flour for Texas toast, and watch the orders pile up.

        2. re: danaf
          BarmyFotheringayPhipps RE: danaf May 23, 2007 10:42 AM

          So what you're saying is that the beers at the Publick House are $3 less per than the beers at Deep Ellum. So that means my beer of choice at Deep Ellum, the Blackfly Stout from Gritty McDuff's, must cost only $2 a pint at the Publick House...which would be quite a bargain if they actually served that beer there.

        3. MaggieMuffin RE: Allstonian May 23, 2007 11:07 AM

          Ate there for brunch on the weekend. I like this place and hence we decided to give it shot for brunch. They were terribly understaffed for the crowd and it took forever for the food to come out. I'd say it easily too almost 20 minutes to place our order and almost another hour to get the food.

          So I'll keep going for the drinks but probably won't eat there again. I also think they are trying too much with their little, understaffed, kitchen.

          1 Reply
          1. re: MaggieMuffin
            kittychow RE: MaggieMuffin May 23, 2007 11:28 AM

            This past weekend might have been a tough one over there. I hear that Max, bartender/owner who works brunch, had a lil baby girl on Friday. (aww, congrats to Max).I hear this is a little earlier than expected so DE was probably not prepared to be without him last week.

          2. a
            aventinus RE: Allstonian Jun 27, 2007 09:02 PM

            I find Deep Ellum exceptional. Everything I've eaten there, aside from a seitan sandwich, has been remarkably good. Fries with malt vinegar and fleur de sel were among the best fries I've ever eaten (and only cost $4 for a big basket). Among other bar snacks, I've had delicious chicken empanadas and pretzels with spicy mustard there. Even the entree I ordered--Israeli couscous with seafood--was tasty. Based on just the food--at least the bar food--I think Deep Ellum is worth a special trip. (I would much rather eat there than places near where I live such as West Side Lounge and Temple Bar, which happen to be more expensive.)

            There is no question that many of the beers are among the best in the world, and they're stored and served properly. They aren't that much more expensive than at a liquor store. The cocktails are the best I've ever had. Deep Ellum is literally one of the top beer bars and top cocktail bars in America. The only clearly better beer bar I remember is Toronado in San Francisco. Publick House is on par.

            BTW, I don't think this place is yuppieish at all. I believe it's run by a former Bukowski's bartender, and at least one of the bartenders came from Bukowski's. If anything, I'd complain that the atmosphere is a bit too youthful and raucous for my tastes. The staff are unusually competent.

            So in sum, I think Deep Ellum is a Boston-area superstar.

            3 Replies
            1. re: aventinus
              okra RE: aventinus Jun 28, 2007 08:56 AM

              I will qualify this by saying that I've only ever eaten lunch at Deep Ellum, but I've tried most everything on that menu. A good sized $5 burger this week was just right, and having been to the Publick House the night before, beer prices are comparable. All of the staff that I have met, Max, Josh, Casey & Jen have been insanely nice, and I always leave having either made a new friend, or learned something...

              my $0.02

              1. re: aventinus
                BarmyFotheringayPhipps RE: aventinus Jun 28, 2007 10:28 AM

                From your description, it's sounding like the menu has changed yet again, and is sounding a bit more in keeping with things a tiny kitchen like that can pull off. We haven't been in a while, but I'm thinking a return trip is in order.

                I still think they need to put a chicken fried steak on the menu, though.

                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
                  bitsubeats RE: BarmyFotheringayPhipps Jun 28, 2007 10:34 AM

                  mmmm I would love to order chicken fried steak and yes it would be a great addition

              2. steinpilz RE: Allstonian Sep 18, 2007 05:18 PM

                I finally found Deep Ellum having driven by it numerous times (it's at the intersection of Brighton Avenue and Cambridge Street in Brighton, across from the fire station, w/an unassuming sign outside and a variety of small businesses alongside).

                They have a very good selection of US and foreign beers (many Belgians) on tap and in bottles, the atmosphere is 'new' but comfortable. I had their cheese app which featured a soft cow cheese and a blue goat cheese from Westfield Farm in Hubbardston MA, with a cherry preserve, almonds, nice crisp slices of bread, and caramelled walnuts. They also have a variety of appealing entrees which today included home made sausage and a shrimp-lobster-pasta dish.

                Deep Ellum has an competitive mixed drink menu selection (reminded me a bit of Eastern Standard, I'd be interested in MCslim's opinion of this), I chose absinthe in the traditional manner after encouragement by the very knowedgeable waitstaff... around 2oz absinthe, burn a sugar cube to caramel that falls into the absinthe, add H2O as you like.

                Great fun, I'll be back.

                9 Replies
                1. re: steinpilz
                  MC Slim JB RE: steinpilz Sep 18, 2007 06:48 PM

                  Funny, I just posted about this earlier today on the Spirits board www.chowhound.com/topics/334408 . As a beer-snob bar, Deep Ellum is the last place I expect to find superb vintage cocktails, but they indeed make them there. (I first wrote about this in my rye piece for The Dig back in February-- they do wicked Sazeracs and Rye Sours, among other great Golden-Age concoctions).

                  Knowledgeable, passionate bartenders: mainly co-owner Max Toste, but also longtime B-Side stalwart Dave Cagle on some nights. My current favorite example of how great mixology can crop up in unexpected places.

                  1. re: MC Slim JB
                    PaulB RE: MC Slim JB Sep 18, 2007 06:58 PM

                    >as a beer-snob bar, Deep Ellum has no business offering superb vintage
                    >cocktails, but that's what they do.

                    I'm not sure I see why the two can't coexist, though I agree it is rare to see in Boston. It's all about quality beverages and knowledgable servers IMO.

                    1. re: PaulB
                      MC Slim JB RE: PaulB Sep 18, 2007 07:09 PM

                      Agree there's no reason it shouldn't be, but my own less-than-salutary experiences of cocktails at the serious beer bars here -- the Publick House, Sunset Grill and Tap, Bukowski Tavern, the Lower Depths -- make Deep Ellum's shaker work stand out.

                      Cracking that top tier requires a certain scholarly approach to cocktails, hiring and cultivating a skilled, dedicated bar staff, and a commitment to carrying obscure liquors, hard-to-find bitters, fresh juices, and so on. There's a pretty scant handful of places that do that. Folks expect the seriousness at No. 9 and ESK (and the B-Side, which got that whole ball rolling in this town.) Deep Ellum is one of those up-and-comers, along with Green Street and the Alchemist, that are trying to do artisan-level bartending in settings that require a little more evangelism.

                      1. re: MC Slim JB
                        digga RE: MC Slim JB Sep 18, 2007 07:37 PM

                        Agreed - Max and Aaron are SO passionate about the art of bartending that Deep Ellum should not be labeled as a beer-centric bar, but just as a great neighborhood bar a la B-Side. I had the pleasure of chatting with Aaron at a dinner party recently and man, does that guy love what he does (Max equally so). Yes, these guys are trying to make a livelihood, but they are also out there to educate and elevate. Please go, patronize and more importantly, chat them up. Plus, they have a killer seitan burger!

                        1. re: digga
                          BarmyFotheringayPhipps RE: digga Sep 18, 2007 09:47 PM

                          But has the food gotten any better than it was? Josh was just trying way too hard for such a tiny kitchen when the place first opened, and there were some pretty serious misfires. (Cassoulet? What does THAT have to do with an artsy/divey neighborhood in Dallas?)

                          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
                            digga RE: BarmyFotheringayPhipps Sep 19, 2007 05:59 AM

                            BFP, I have enjoyed everything I have tried (admittedly not many items, since I don't eat meat). My partner has certainly enjoyed his meaty dishes, although he once declared the wings not to his liking - and then proceeded to eat them all. I don't think they named the place with the intention of serving Texan food - but to evoke the image of, as you say, an artsy/divey place.

                            1. re: digga
                              okra RE: digga Sep 19, 2007 06:40 AM

                              Oh, and someone must've been paying attention... chicken fried steak has made it onto the menu... :)

                              1. re: okra
                                BarmyFotheringayPhipps RE: okra Sep 19, 2007 09:27 AM

                                Then I know where I'm going for dinner tonight while Allstonian is off at the Chow gathering in Malden. (deadline tomorrow: I can't afford to spend the travel time there and back or I'd go with her) I shall report back.

                                I still maintain that "cassoulet" and "artsy/divey" do not belong in the same sentence, Texas or no.

                                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
                                  okra RE: BarmyFotheringayPhipps Sep 25, 2007 08:24 AM

                                  Another update... the chicken fried steak has been replaced by an Autumnal salad...

                2. b
                  blackcoffee RE: Allstonian Sep 22, 2007 02:48 PM

                  I was there Monday night with a friend. Truffled cheese fries as a starter were awesome.

                  The dinners we had were very much subpar. My wild mushroom risotto with duck didn't have a whole lot in the way of either ingredient, and my buddy's wild meat plate (can't remember exactly what it was called -- Shepherds' Plate? Something like that) contained some amazingly overcooked selections.

                  It's too bad, because the steak frites and duck ramen from a menu or two back were both great dishes.

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