In the mid 1990s Deep Ellum had a vibrant club and music scene, one worthy of making the trek up to Dallas from Austin every weekend. Maybe I was naïve but I don’t remember feeling unsafe walking from club to club, surrounded by many other partygoers wandering the streets. But all of that changed in the early 00s and it became known as a “very dangerous place” that resembled a ghost town (for a detailed read see this Dallas Observer article).
Everything comes full circle and if that wasn’t evident by all of the new bars and restaurants replacing the vacant spots then it clearly was one recent weekend when I foolishly thought I could find parking easily. There were throngs of people walking the sidewalks and not a single parking spot to be found, making me late for the soft opening of the newest Deep Ellum restaurant, Filament.
Filament is the second restaurant from genius chef, Matt McAllister. His first restaurant, the hugely successful FT33 in the Design District, focuses on “seasonally inspired” fine dining but I wouldn’t call FT the sister restaurant of Filament. Instead I think of Filament as the refined cousin from the South. You won’t find “tweezer-food” here but you will find catfish, grits and lots of whiskey.
Matt brought in Chef Cody Sharp (*UPDATE: Chef Cody has parted ways. More info to follow.) to run the kitchen and judging by his restaurant training and pedigree (formerly of Standard Pour, Casia Rubia, Stephen Pyles) I’d say it was an excellent choice! (More on Chef Cody).
I was told that the Nachitoches Meat Pies were one of the most popular items and I can see why. The chicory, sourced from an Austin farm, and crisp radish salad nicely balanced the savory meat contained inside the large pastry shell. One order is enough to split amongst 3 friends.
Next we tried the Johnny Cake Okonomiyaki. Chef Cody took a cornmeal staple from early Americans (Native Heritage Project), stuffed it with ham and cabbage and then went Asian-Southern fusion on us by serving it with kentuckyaki. Yeah, that’s a real thing: Kentucky bourbon flavored with teriyaki sauce. The final ingredient, flakes of bonito, common in Japanese cuisine, gives the dish unexpected movement. You have to see it to believe it (click here).
Don’t be scared to try the Wood Grilled Octopus (pictured in cover shot). Not only was it one of the prettiest dishes but also our group of 6 thought it was the most tender octopus we’ve had and not overcooked and chewy like most restaurants unfortunately serve it.
Other favorites, the Country Ham served with delectable pickles and mustard, Fried Hot Catfish with Horseradish Ranch and Dill Pickles, and the New Orleans Style BBQ Gulf Shrimp. Items listed under From the Grill are large enough for a single entrée but best shared with a group. The Butcher’s Block TX Waygu was so good that I couldn’t even get a photo of it before it was gone in 60 seconds!
Don’t forget to try one of the many fabulous French wines or whiskeys!
- Filament is easy on the checkbook with many shareable plates under $15. Go with a group of at least 3 to get more bang for your buck. Order one item from the grill (large entrée size) and several sides or shareable plates and split amongst yourselves!
- No valet here but there are many surrounding parking lots where you can pay with a credit card. Meters start running at 6p and some except credit cards (PaybyPhone.com) but download this app and set-up ahead of time else it will take you forever. Better yet, take a Lyft instead.
- Trying to be spontaneous with your dinner plans on a Friday night is typically a stupid move but Filament withholds a certain amount of tables for walk-ins so live life on the edge!