Category Archives: The Cedars/South Lamar

Vetted Well is … well … vetted.

Vet – verb \vet\ the careful and critical examination of quality

Vetted Well, the new bar above the recently-opened Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, may be one of my new favorite places.  Damn good food, a great beer selection (complete with 10 perfectly-paired boilermakers), one of the best rooftop patios in Dallas, themed private karaoke rooms, and a location directly above a quirky movie theater make for a great experience.

While Vetted Well does a lot … well … they have done well in not specializing in anything at the expense of others.  Perfect example: they have a damn good (local) beer selection (cans, bottles, and a bunch of drafts), but also have awesome cocktails and a small (but thoughtful) wine list.  They have some healthy food, but also some food that makes you want to break your Lenten commitment not to eat fried food (oops …).

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My review was actually my second visit … my first visit was with a  couple girlfriends after a movie to catch up a bit.  We enjoyed a shit ton of popcorn (which, if you order in the bottomless popcorn in the theater, you can continue working on finding the bottom upstairs), a Darker & Stormier (a seriously delicious take on the Dark & Stormy–apply brandy, Black Seal rum, ginger, lime, and crushed ice) and The Traveling Man (Eagle Rare 10 Yr. & Karback Weekend Warrior whiskey).  I was so excited to come back, that I nearly died when I saw the email inviting me in for a review.

I was spoiled with a couple boilermakers, a couple cocktails, and alllllllll the food (more on that later because, cocktails).  Their Moscow Mule was the traditional recipe (vodka, lime, ginger beer) and was well mixed, but the copper vessel was badass–because I’m kind of over copper mugs.  Next out was the Kentucky Buck (bourbon, strawberry, lemon, bitters, ginger beer), which was completely refreshing and I cannot wait to sit on their patio and sip one three of these on a warm, spring afternoon.

Let’s get back to those boilermakers.  Ten options, all decidedly Dallas with names like The Grassy Knoll and The Big Tex, make for a good challenge.  I’m four down so far, (… not as accomplished as Kevin, but I’m working on it) and I’m enjoying the progress.  Paired thoughtfully, my favorite so far is The Sears & Roebuck (Gran Classico & 512 Pecan Porter), but I look forward to trying the remaining six to see if it stays on top.  (There was talk about the technique behind drinking a boilermaker.  Do you take the shot of whiskey then sip the beer, sip both at once, or dunk the shot?)

Now … the food.  Everything they make is as homemade as possible from the mustard to the … other delicious stuff, and they also source from local vendors like Empire Bakery.  They’re currently serving lunch from their kitchen with brunch and then dinner to follow, but if you’re up there for dinner now, you can get items from the Alamo Drafthouse kitchen.  They bring it up with a dumbwaiter,  which they claim can hold 200 pounds … and I’m still upset they wouldn’t let me ride in it.  (Read: stay tuned for a staged dumbwaiter incident complete with live Twitter feed.)

We started with the Biscuit Beignets.  They hit the table and I knew my Lenten “no fried food” pledge was in trouble.  I figured that, as my mom says, Sundays are cheat days … and I’d been to church earlier.  So, I dug in.  I’m damn glad I did.  These fluffy, fried nuggets are perfectly light and come with dippable cinnamon sugar, raspberry syrup, vanilla bean crème, and spiced rum caramel.  Hot damn.  Next up was more fried goodness (because why just be a little bad?), Croquettes with smoked gouda, potato, bacon, and green onion, and served with a dill-lish dill ranch.  (Terrible joke … sorry.)  To round out the first “course”, they brought out the Panzanella Salad which, aside from the Brussels sprout I snuck off the plate while taking a picture, was snapped up before I could take a bite.

The heavy hitters of the meal were still to come–the 24-Hour Brined Pork Chop, Chicken Fried Chicken with Local Honey, Carved Turkey on Hippie Bread, and the Cubano sandwich.  All delicious and all recommended.  They mix it up by serving the pork chop with a waffle–take that chicken and waffles!  I’ll be having this one again thanks to the incredibly flavorful chop.  My other favorite was the Cubano (roasted pork, sliced ham, Swiss cheese, house pickles, and beer mustard served with traditional tostones).

I’m actually upset with myself for not requesting the Vetted Well Burger … this thing is a work of art–a burger with pork beans and pork belly?  That’s some genius shit right there.

Overall, Vetted Well is quite the delight.  The patio is unreal–both the front and back one.  The front patio has a great view of Downtown Dallas and the back patio is complete with locally made furniture and a giant outdoor screen where they’ll show classic movies a couple times a week.  If that’s not enough entertainment, check out one of their four themed private karaoke rooms for rent by the hour to accommodate 6-20 people.  You know I’ll be hitting those rooms hard with some hardcore Hall & Oates.  The karaoke rooms will be open to the public starting Thursday.

I can’t wait for the next rainy weekend when I can commit to spending an entire day bouncing between the theater and Vetted Well to get my hands on their burger.  Who’s with me?

Overall, I think their name is deserved.  I was told that “vetted” is used often in the military as a quality check.  While I’m not military, I feel as though I can still give this place my seal of approval–it has been vetted … and it’s gooooood.


VETTED WELL
vettedwell.com
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1005 S Lamar St, Dallas, TX 75215
214-695-7009

SUN-THURS: 11:00am – close
FRI-SAT: 11:00am – 2:00am

Checkered Past Urban Winery

A winemaker, farmer, and a designer walk into a bar …

Well, actually, they built the bar.  Namely, Checkered Past Winery, the newly opened urban winery nestled into a basement in South Side on Lamar in the booming Cedars neighborhood.  Partners Scott Relyea (founder and designer), Sandro DiSanto (winemaker), and Carolynne Chancellor (vineyard owner and farmer) came together in 2008 to dream up this Texas-centric “wine pub”, and their plan … succeeded.

Housed in the formerly dimly lit Absinthe Lounge location, the space is nearly unrecognizable–light, galvanized metal, and vespas fill Checkered Past now.  Who knew the space even had windows?

So … let’s talk wine now, y’all.  Checkered Past stocks wines from “their friends”–wines from other wineries around Texas that the staff loves, and from the rest of the world.  (Because it’s Texas vs. the rest of the world, right?)  They have bottles, glasses, and even draft wines available along with local beers.

They don’t stop there.  They’re making their own wine with two currently available and three more promised before the end of 2016.  (Bring it, Sandro.)

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Even better than just having a damn good (local) wine list, the food at Checkered Past is perty good.  Sandro a first-generation American from his Sicilian family, and the menu reflects that.  Simple, but delicious, the items on the menu were carefully crafted using local ingredients when possible, but they won’t compromise quality for the sake of staying local.  Not to be missed: their flatbreads, namely Rudi’s Double Meat (made with meats hand-picked from the best purveyors available and no sauce — novel), the Goat Cheese Pappadew Skewers, the Smoked Salmon & Herb Goat Cheese Bruschetta (I detest smoked salmon and ate one of these … and enjoyed it), and the Kalamata Tapenade (because sometimes the most delicious things are the simplest).

To make me love this place even more … they don’t f**k around with their post-meal goodies.  I’m talking about their pairing of dessert wines with their gluten-free Warm Double Chocolate Cake.  Even if you’re not a fan of dessert wines, let them make some recommendations–my favorite was the Jacquez Maderia from Haak Winery in Galveston.  You may become a believer yet.

Stop by Checkered Past for some good local wine, good eats, and ska music.  I mean, at least stop in to see what the innards of Absinthe Lounge really looked like.


CHECKERED PAST URBAN WINERY
checkeredpastwinery.com
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1409 S Lamar Street, Suite 008 (South Side on Lamar, The Cedars)(214) 242-0411

Free parking can be found on the far west end of Belleview, the street that Checkered Past faces.  You’re welcome.


Side note: the lovely Pizza & Champagne sisters and I will be hosting a “singles night” on 2/12/16 at Checkered Past!  Stay tuned for more details coming soon!  (All are welcome, taken or not!)


***Checkered Past treated me and a couple buddies to an evening of trying out their wines and food.  And I got a neat t-shirt.  I love t-shirts. Check out my Snapchat to see it! (@susieosz)***

The Cedars Social

With the announcement that The Cedars Social is under new ownership, I wanted to duck in to see what changes were happening at the craft cocktail den in The Cedars.  I was a fan of TCS when I worked in The Cedars but hadn’t heard too much about them recently.  Turns out, new owners Jeffrey Yarbrough and Chad Boyle seem to be keeping the essence of TCS intact–the decor is still as eclectic as ever, the food classic with a bit of a twist, and the cocktails … well, strong.

We started with a couple of their options from the seasonal cocktail menu–they offer seasonal options along with classics from both the pre-Prohibition era and some from the Prohibition era.  Their cocktails are made with high quality, fresh ingredients and some of the best liquor options around by incredibly skilled bartenders.  (I was glad to hear that the new owners were still partnering with original partner and bar manager, Michael Martensen.  He does good things.)  Our seasonal choices were the Berry Gin-erous (Seagrams, Blueberry mint syrup, lemon juice and ginger beer) and the Juliet & Romeo (Plymouth Gin, Lime Juice, Muddled Cucumbers, & Cane syrup, with Angostura bitters, and a mint leaf topped with rose water).

After getting warmed up with some drinks (as one does at brunch), we ordered their fresh fruit, truffle fries (duh), and deviled eggs.  I was bummed that they don’t offer their truffle grilled cheese anymore, but I figured the fries were a good substitute.  The Truffle Fries had a nice truffle essence without it being overpowering and they were perfectly crispy.  The Deviled Eggs were a good start to the meal thanks to their light filling.  While fruit is good for you and all (and TCS’ was quite delicious) … save it for home.

Our second round of drinks got a bit more adventurous.  I went for the I Do What I Want (that’s the real name of the cocktail) featuring Ketel One, aged balsamic, honey syrup, muddled strawberry, lemon juice, and egg white.  It was nicely mixed and the balsamic really gave it a punch and a bit of extra complexity.

As for the food, we ordered the Housemade Turkey Hash (herbs de Provence, scrambled eggs, and hollandaise sauce) and the Omelette Florentine (prosciutto, spinach, mushrooms, and goat cheese).  Both were accompainied by potatoes, and both were pretty damn good.  (I’d suggest getting the hollandaise on the side of the hash … I’m a big fan of self sauce-regulation.)

While I usually choose to spend my brunch calories on drinks, we were encouraged to get into some dessert action.  Once we heard that their cheesecakes are from Val’s Cheesecakes, we couldn’t not. And ice cream goes in a different stomach.  So yeah.

Since we were delightfully boozed up and stuffed, we decided that Sunday just wasn’t going to be a thing … at least not a productive one.  (Their drinks are pretty hefty, so try not to plan too much after a brunch at TCS other than a nap or more drinking.)  So we packed up our leftovers (of which there were plenty) and did our best to roll ourselves to the car.

Needless to say, after the reminder of the good things TCS does, I’ll be back before too long to hit them up for some of their dinner options–hello, Akashi Short Ribs, Kobe Meatballs, and Truffle Mac & Cheese.


THE CEDARS SOCIAL

www.thecedarssocial.com
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1326 S Lamar St, Dallas, TX 75215
(214) 928-7700

Open daily, 4-10pm
Brunch: Saturday & Sunday, 11am-3pm

Don’t Be a Square, Check out Full Circle Tavern

Last night I attended Full Circle Tavern’s cleverly named “360° One-Year Anniversary” party down in the Cedars area. Owners and winners of Food Network’s “Food Court Wars”, Lara Whittington and Jennifer Bonner, celebrated with an 80s cover band, prize giveaways and 360° drink and food specials, including $3.60 Stoli drinks, $3.60 Brooklyn Lager beers and $3.60 Full Circle sliders.

I arrived right after 5pm when the festivities were scheduled to kick off. They were still setting up the band and I couldn’t really tell if the event had started yet. Nevertheless, I grabbed a seat outside on their patio, which was very pleasant on a beautiful spring day.

I had a great server, Tamara, who was friendly and attentive. Even though I don’t normally drink vodka before sundown, I ordered one of my favorite vodka cocktails—Stoli Blueberry with soda and a splash of cranberry. I also ordered the Cheese Curds, a first for me. While I waited, Tamara brought me a bowl of their homemade chips, which was a nice touch. My cocktail was nice and strong and was delivered quickly, which was appreciated as I was parched. The cheese curds were, as promised, very tasty but I’m not a huge fried foodie, so I only had few. I was intrigued by their menu, which is pretty extensive and includes several gluten-free substitutions/options, (which I greatly appreciate since my husband has a gluten allergy).

In my opinion, Full Circle Tavern just makes sense. It’s located in South Side/the Cedars in the same complex as Bill’s Records and is next door to the NYLO hotel and down the street from Gilley’s.

Full Circle Tavern is comfortable, friendly neighborhood spot with what I found to be great people watching. It seems like a perfect spot for NYLO guests and South Side on Lamar or The Beat residents to kick back and enjoy happy hour or a lazy Sunday. Since it’s not close to my neighborhood, I might not necessarily go out of my way to return unless I have something going on down in that area, but when I do, what better place to grab a cocktail and fill up on some carbs before a concert than Full Circle Tavern?

Full Circle Tavern
1319 South Lamar Street
Dallas, Texas 75215

Happy Hours (as of 5/20/14)

  • Tuesday – Thursday (11:00 am – 10:00 pm)
  • Friday – Saturday (11:00 am – 12:00 am)
  • Sundays (11:00 am – 4:00 pm)

Kitchen closes 1 hour prior to closing times

The One Year Itch

Last year, when Sala closed, I was a little crushed because I only had two chances to enjoy the delightful drinks they offered. So I waited and waited … and waited some more to find out what would replace it. There was a glimmer of hope when construction activity started in the former Sala space. What arrived wasn’t worth the year of waiting, but I’d have waited six months.

My first venture to Cedars Social resulted in them turning my coworkers and me away for happy hour and asked to come back an hour later; we felt dejected (ok, we were pissed). When we finally made it inside a week later, we sat at five two-tops pushed together and commenced ordering. (If you can, avoid the booths because the cushions are deceptively fluffy and firmer padding is necessary to avoid feeling like a midget.) I started with one of the weekly specials, a Green with Ginvy; with only one exception, the rest of my nine coworkers ordered Moscow Mules. My first sip was so strong and flavorful that it sent me flying – literally. I put the drink down and did a crazy combination of a shimmy and whinny (yes, it was a bit embarrassing). After finishing my first drink, I jumped on the bandwagon and ordered the drink of the evening, the Moscow Mule … and it was incredible. The owner of our company, a savvy lady with a discerning palate, said (verbatim), “This is the best thing I’ve ever had in my entire life!” That’s quite a testimonial if I’ve ever heard one.

They claim to make only “classic” cocktails (more on that later), so if you want a list of liquid concoctions you’d never dream of trying, check out one of their menus that look straight out of a 1930s schoolhouse. You’ll find a list of delightful concoctions that are “tributes” to original cocktails and seasonal fresh fruit, “hand -crafted” cocktails to satiate even the most sophisticated booze hound’s palate. That being said, I’m a little peeved at them because they refused to make me a dirty martini (twice). Seriously? In my book, that’s as classic as a cocktail can get.

The drinks are great – I’ll give them that, but some weren’t of a portion that I’d call generous. The “pint” glasses seemed to be a bit smaller than a full pint and the cocktail glasses looked like they were made for smurfs (yes, it’s smurfs and not smurves; I looked it up).

Our waitress recommended cheese plates for the table which were a delight (go heavy on the cheese and light on the “salumi” – yes, C.S. serves “salumi” and not “salami”). Since my dad was joining me after my happy hour for dinner, I was eager to try the rest of their fare. After my dad arrived, my experience turned south.

If you’re looking to have conversation with someone, you’ll need to take chalkboards and a few sticks because the music is too loud to have a decent conversation … so it’s totally a great first date place (ha?). We even asked them to turn the music down a smidge – call me crazy, but somehow it almost seemed louder after.

The place as a whole has a warm feel and is anchored by a long bar, a small library for intimate groups, and a large, round fire pit. As a whole, the place has a decidedly 1960s bachelor pad vibe – I secretly wanted to clap to see if the lights would dim and a disco ball would drop from the ceiling. The patio has another fire pit that lights up a view of the Dallas skyline that is to die for – a definite must for the great Dallas spring weather we’re experiencing now.

So, I guess you’ll want to know about the food. I am not a food critic and I don’t fancy myself as one. The food, though, was bland. I had the chicken and waffles and the chicken was tasteless. I’ll go for the Victor Tango dish over C.S.’s take on it any day of the week. We also had meatloaf and potatoes, which unfortunately followed the chicken and waffle’s example. After conveying my indifference toward the food to friends, they said their experiences were much different. We realized that they all had eaten there on weekends and I ate there during the week. Call me crazy, but maybe the chef took a few days off. To read an opinion from someone who enjoyed their meal, check out this review from The Dallas Diva.

In short, this place is good for a couple drinks and a cheese plate, but don’t dedicate dinner to it unless you are sure the resident chef and not the sous chef is running the game.

Drink strength: 4.3
Overall: 3.4

The Cedars Social
www.thecedarssocial.com
1326 S Lamar St | South Lamar
(214) 928-7700