Some people can make a room look better by simply moving around a few pieces of furniture. There’s an art to it. The Foundry reminded me of that. We had been to and liked Jack’s Backyard, the previous joint in The Foundry space, off Fort Worth Avenue in North Oak Cliff; when Jack’s moved, we were bummed.
But The Foundry, though it keeps much of what Jack’s had in terms of layout and structure, rearranges, adds to, and adjusts everything—and is way cooler. In fact, it’s just plain old cool. For adults, and especially for adults with kids.
The Foundry is the bar. Chicken Scratch is the restaurant. They sit next door to each other on about an acre of land. Both are co-owned by chef Tim Byres (Smoke) and Chris Jeffers and Chris Zielke (both from Bolsa and Smoke). The Foundry has the Bolsa and Smoke sense of local, hipster cool and organic foodieness. But The Foundry is much more chill.
The bar’s wide garage doors slide up to open the interior to the pea-graveled grounds. Gary Buckner, Cliff dweller and recycle king, made a stage from recycled wooden pallets. Stacked pallets, even structurally sound ones, have pockets of empty space, which creates a sense of openness. A huge pecan tree provides shade. Along one side of the courtyard, shipping containers (“cans” if you’re a stevedore) are sliced open like diorama shoe boxes. Thrift-store tables and chairs have been slipped inside, creating cozy living rooms. A chipped, whitewashed fence encloses an area housing a beanbag toss game and tables made from tree stumps. The outside spaces are so inviting that it’s hard to imagine hanging in the smaller interior bar area, industrial garage cool though it may be.
That outside space is part of the reason The Foundry is an easy place to bring kids. One, they can run. Two, they can wiggle and jump and still not hassle the child-free, happy-hour grown-ups. Three, parents can drink really good beer (think St. Arnold’s Elissa, Deep Ellum IPA, and 50 others, in addition to a full bar) while watching kids play and twirl to the music—twirling that made the child-free, happy-hour hipsters grin, for the record. Four, there’s stuff to do, games that work well for kids or adults. Twister-type dots and hopscotch are painted on the ground, and perhaps pingpong is to come. Five, the decor is uber-recycled and largely indestructible. It’s hard for kids to hurt picnic tables or recycled shipping containers. Six, feeding the kids is easy—the Chicken Scratch menu is pretty kid- and adult-friendly. Roasted chicken! Fried chicken! Biscuits! Mac and cheese! Popsicles! Peanut butter and jelly! (Okay, that one’s really for the kids, and yeah, there is a kids menu.) And the chicken is hormone-free and local.
On some staycation-type date nights, my husband and I tuck the kids into bed, open a bottle of beer or Champagne, and stream Jeff McCord’s Left of the Dial Friday-night radio show on KUT, out of Austin. McCord is the station’s genius music director, who plays songs from a variety of genres. The music is great and often new and exciting to us. Sitting at The Foundry’s wooden picnic tables, watching our kids hopscotching, our beers in hand, we appreciated The Foundry’s music, which, it turns out, is from Jeffers’ iPod. (Chris Jeffers, meet Jeff McCord.)
On occasion, though not often, I hear people say they would never go to Oak Cliff, and I think about how easy it is to say no and how much is missed. The most fascinating people I know are fascinated by the world. Many of the happiest people I know are the ones who seek out and try new things. I thought about this while eating my roasted chicken and quinoa salad with pickled vegetables (turns out, even when Tim Byres is in charge of food, I still don’t care for pickled vegetables). We loved taking the kids to The Foundry and Chicken Scratch, and we enjoyed being there sans kids one late night, as adults among the cool people (yes, dude, your motorcycle boots are super cool, and, no, I am not being sarcastic—though I wish I were). The Foundry is only months old, but it feels like it has legs, that it will settle in and find its groove in the local color. And be fascinating to watch.
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