The folks at Tillman’s Roadhouse in the Bishop Arts District were awesome enough to name a specialty cocktail the Sassy Sara. Now, obviously this wasn’t actually named for me (note the absence of the ‘h’ at the end). However, the bartender offered to tell people they really meant it for me when we were there last weekend celebrating Robin’s 30th birthday. So, thanks sir. Appreciate you identifying my inherent sass upon our first meeting. Must have been the fact that I was a chick ordering Bourbon.
After an annoying wait, despite having a reservation (this seems to be a theme for me lately), our group of six sophisticated ladies were seated. There are many things I love about Tillman’s: they call their brunch “Blunch”, their servers wear plaid shirts, the private room in back is gorgeous, s’mores are on the menu, and they start your meal with a bowl of truffled popcorn. Yes. Popcorn drizzled with truffle oil. It takes everything I have in me not to pick up the bowl once all of the corn has been devoured and let the remaining truffle oil drip into my mouth. But as mentioned previously, I’m trying to be a sophisticated lady.
Time to order wine. The generous gals at the table send the wine list over to me to make a selection. As the biggest wino of the group, it is always my pleasure to peruse a restaurant’s wine list and (more often than not) pick something none of us has tried before. On this particular evening, I opted for the Innisfree Cabernet Sauvignon from Joseph Phelps Vineyards. I’d never tried this wine before – but I have warm feelings about others that I’ve tried from JPV, so I assumed this would be pleasing as well. Fortunately, my intuition was right on this one. The year 2006 isn’t as talked about as 2005 as it relates to Cabernets coming out of the Napa Valley (the growing season started a bit late), but I’ve had some pretty tremendous 2006s and this was no exception. The fruit was nice and balanced, with relatively smooth tannins (next time I’d decant) and it paired nicely with the delicious burger I was to have later in my meal. And at just $66 on the wine list – a rather good buy as well.
As mentioned in previous posts, Robin and I are forever on the hunt for the world’s best fried green tomatoes (FGTs). But really, we love tomatoes in nearly all their forms. Which is why, when it is this time of year and an heirloom tomato salad is on the menu, we order it. And in the case of Tillman’s version, they go a step further to fully win my heart by incorporating grits into the dish. The photo doesn’t really do it justice due to overexposure, but the tomatoes were incredibly ripe, fresh and delicious, dressed simply with oil, salt and pepper. The accompaniment of baby arugula had just enough zip to it to help balance the creamy, coffee-enhanced grits. Again, I had to remind myself “sophisticated lady” so as not to pick up the plate and lick any remaining bits before they cleared for the next course.
Which brings me to the second-most gluttonous part of my evening. I haven’t mentioned the first? That’s right – because dessert was the most gluttonous. Keep your pants on. I’ll get there. Anyway – for my main course, I elected to go with the 7th Street Burger – Tillman’s creation of wagyu beef, goat gouda, jalapeno aioli, baby arugula, tobacco-fried onions…all on a challah bun. I think I just had a tiny o writing about it. So imagine my reaction when this beefy masterpiece landed in front of me.
And let’s not forget the side of tater tots that came with it. You may be thinking, “tater tots? really?” Yes, really. Much like the popcorn starter, these tots have been grown-upified. Tillman’s adds chevre and truffle butter to its version, which has a crispy exterior and a creamy, mashed potato-like interior. These are not for sharing, friends. When you order them, keep every last one for yourself. Just remember to go to the gym the next day.
With my belly full of indulgent animal products, it was time for dessert. I may be relatively small in stature, but this girl loves to eat. Plus, if you’re headed to this Oak Cliff gem for dinner, you would absolutely be remiss in not ordering their tableside s’mores. This dessert is meant to be shared family-style, as they bring you a long board with three types of marshmallows, homemade graham crackers and chocolate. Oh, and a giant flame at one end. Each person at the table gets a skewer for roasting the marshmallow of his/her choice – choose from coffee, orange or caramel – then you grab your cinnamon graham and piece of chocolate and let the gooey, melty party commence in your mouth.
Now look, I love desserts in all their forms. And I have yet to meet a s’more I don’t like. But since this blog is about having an opinion, here it is. If I were to attempt to improving upon this nearly-perfect dish, I’d first opt for a slightly thicker graham cracker. The thin, crispy style is nice, but doesn’t really hold up well enough to the marshmallows and chocolate, given their size. A slightly thicker base and greater crunch ratio would be helpful for the overall texture and handling of the dish. Next, the chocolate. I realize milk chocolate melts better, but given the strong flavors of the marshmallows, dark chocolate may prove to be a better foil. Finally – the flavor profiles in each of the marshmallows (yes, I tried all 3) were spot on, but the size/shape/consistency of the caramel ones is different from the others and is a bit tougher to handle over the flame. But in the end, this sophisticated lady sucked it up and ate that particular marshmallow right off the skewer.
All in all, a great night. Robin was serenaded by the staff and received a special birthday treat. Many glasses of wine and specialty cocktails were consumed. And we all left with full, happy bellies. So, here’s to #30 Robin. Looking forward to our next decade of dining adventures.