Saturday, January 28, 2023 Jan 28, 2023
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Food and Drink

Review: Deep Ellum Cafe

By Nancy Nichols |
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photography by Kevin Hunter Marple

The press release proclaimed, “The Cat is Back.” The t-shirts on the servers read, “The Kat is Back.” But who cares how you spell it. The Deep Ellum Cafe, with its angular angry cat logo, is back in its original location on Elm Street. A brave move considering the trend for other restaurants in the ’hood has been to close. Across the street, the mailbox of the Green Room is stuffed with unopened mail, and dead plants hang from the rooftop garden, once the hottest spot in Dallas. Next door, through the dirty windows, you can still see the colorful bar of Tarantino’s, which shuttered a few months ago.


Landlord Don Cass, president of Decco Services/Urban Lab and owner of loads of Deep Ellum real estate, is behind the project. Acting as consultants are other Deep Ellum devotees, like Jeroboam and Green Room brass Whit Meyer and Chris Pyun, the opening chef at the Green Room. Cass has more restaurant plans in the works. Most industry insiders think he’s crazy, but we love crazy, and Deep Ellum Cafe is worth a trip.


As a professional eater, I usually just taste a lot. My second trip to DEC, I ordered chicken fried steak and ate the whole thing. It was lightly breaded, crispy fried, and the gravy was not the usual thick and pasty mess; it was light and creamy. Accompaniments were whipped potatoes and asparagus. The price? $10.


In fact, all the prices are lower than other upscale eateries. A 2-inch-thick pork chop stuffed with Black Forest ham, smoked gouda, and jalapeños, also with two sides, was a mere $13. Okay, the presentation was so late ’80s: the bottom of the chop was flattened, and it sat upright on the plate, which inspired a few Flintstones jokes. But once it was de-towered, it disappeared in minutes.


However, the tower presentation of onion rings worked. Piled nearly a foot high on the plate, one order of hand-dipped and -battered rings are more than enough for two. And they come with jalapeño-spiked ketchup.


Thirsty? Try a nice glass of lemonade or perhaps an Arnold Palmer (half lemonade, half iced tea). Deep Ellum Cafe also has a lovely (and growing) selection of low-priced wine—no doubt the influence of Whit Meyer.


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photography by Kevin Hunter Marple
Dining in the daylight is a little rough on the senses. Sitting in the front room with the door open, peering out into the street, strains the eyes as much as seeing Pamela Anderson without makeup.

The Gothic servers of old have been replaced by red-, white-, and blue-haired, tattooed grungesters. Our waitress, with B-A-N-G-B-A-N-G etched across her knuckles, was pleasant and more than efficient. The vibe is cool, and customers are a funky mix of business types, artists, musicians, and gays. Where else can you sip a Riesling, poke your fork into a delicate ravioli pink with lobster stuffing, and feel groovy at the same time? Nowhere.

Get contact information for Deep Ellum Cafe.