I was thrilled to learn about the bologna sandwich on the menu at Shoals Sound & Service. I enjoy bologna. I also love when highbrow interweaves with lowbrow. Here you can get one of the the best vodka martinis in the city—that’s filthed up using the brine from house-made pickled green beans—alongside a mound of meat squished between a halved bolillo. Into it.
I dropped by at about 6 p.m. one night last week, grabbed a stool at the bar, and requested the sandwich. I had already split one with a friend a week prior. But it was dark then and I didn’t get a good look.
The new Deep Ellum spot, co-owned by Michael Martensen and Omar Yeefoon, is a refreshing addition to Dallas’ expanding bar scene. The cocktail menu is straightforward. They only serve the classics. Here you can get a daiquiri, Sidecar, Painkiller, Tom Collins, Bloody Mary, and, as previously mentioned, a darn good martini.
I’m a few sips into my cocktail when Christina, a woman working in the kitchen, hauls out a one-pound sandwich that’s cloaked in butcher paper. She sets it on the bar and the wrapping falls to the sides, revealing a giant, goopy, and glistening mound of cheese-and-pepper-coated shaved Mortadella. I gasp—I know, how embarrassing—but this thing is beautiful.
The sandwich: Mortadella, three blends of cheese (provolone, American, and mozzarella), Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, and hot peppers. (The guys pick up the bolillo daily from Fiesta Mart.) A half-pound costs $10, a full-pound is $18.
“The biggest thing that I had to have on the menu was the bologna sandwich,” says Martensen. “Omar really wanted empanadas and pies.” The menu offers those, too. Guests can order from a variety of house-made empanadas for $4 each, fried fruit pies, house pickles, and butta’ beans (the bar’s Texas take on fried black-eyed peas).
Shoals’ chef is Pablo Urueña. “He’s an Argentinian guy,” says Martensen. “He grew up making empanadas … everything we wanted to do had roots in Southern American food.” Urueña previously worked at Smoke, as a private chef, and as a consultant.
Those who don’t eat bologna, or who would rather drink their dinner, should order the Bloody Mary—the inspiration for which came from a trip to Paris. Martensen and Yeefoon spent a night barhopping and ended up at Harry’s New York Bar, where they indulged in several cocktails. “The bartenders were on their grind,” says Martensen. “We each had a Bloody and were like ‘this doesn’t taste like a typical, American brunch Bloody Mary.’ So we started watching to see how the bartenders were making them. We were each three in and hadn’t eaten. And were feeling really good.”
This is what eventually led to the vision for Shoals. And the Bloody Mary here is a replica of the one served at Harry’s. The drink is a mix of canned tomato juice, Aylesbury Duck Vodka, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and Tabasco. It’s no-frills and it works. “We had Bloody Marys for dinner,” says Martensen. “And we wanted to pass that culture along and bring it here.”
It’s a fine sentiment. And one I can get behind from time to time. But not when there’s a bologna sandwich handy.