Growing up and to this day, going out to eat has always been an event. I still get all jazzed up when I head out the door, knowing I’m going to a restaurant. Fast food or to-go orders, on the other hand, don’t really hype me up the same way. And, until recently, the same could be said for grabbing a bite at the mall. The mall meal is no more than a necessary evil between buying socks and jeans that usually leaves you hating yourself from eating Panda Express.
When I heard that Dallas super chef Tim Byres (Smoke, Bolsa, Chicken Scratch, The Foundry) was opening his new opus The Theodore, at NorthPark Center mall, I was…meh. But, this is Tim Byres, the man responsible for some of my favorite meals over the past few years. He gets the benefit of the doubt.
That benefit of the doubt was well deserved when I recently made it over for lunch.
It’s a really cool and unique space. Arriving at the host stand makes you feel like you’re checking into a hotel. Love that.
An amazing bar extends into a very large outdoor space (hello, happy hour) and each room has its own vibe. From loungey bar fun, to a more formal sitting area (don’t worry, no white glove treatment here), to a friendly diner environment, I felt right at home.
The restaurant themselves describes the layout as “full of private nooks, sumptuous seating, and a bar that connects to The Theodore’s street side patio.” The diner feeling gets a helping hand from a huge neon sign pointing to the “open-air bakery”. Good lord the fresh bread smells were working.
Let’s get to the food.
We kicked off the meal with the Buffalo-Style Pork Ribs, which came prepared like you hoped it would. Carrot and celery shavings, blue cheese and a fantastic Buffalo sauce. When I say these things feel off the bone and directly into my heart, I wasn’t lying. Wildly tender; you could even cut the crispy skin with a fork. This really pumped me up for the rest of the meal.
For my main, I went with the Warm Roast Beef on French Bread (It’s a French Dip. Just call it that). Typically, if this sandwich is on any menu, I’m going to get it. It came with horseradish cream, red onion and a bowl full of au jus, for dipping. The overall taste was good but it wasn’t juicy enough. It needed more horseradish cream and/or a cheese for a sandwich this size; the beef could also have been a little juicier.
It also had A LOT of bun, which I’m not mad at. It was soft and very fresh, but I like my French Dip sloppy. By the time you’re done dunking each bite into the au jus, there should be enough roast beef left in the ramekin to make another half sandwich. Might just be me, but I needed more to call it a home run.
On the other hand, my partner in lunch crime, John, had the Turkey Club on White Pullman and he was all about it. A huge serving of turkey, bacon, avocado, tomato, lettuces, & green goddess was devoured, leaving nothing on the plate. But really, can you go wrong with that combo of flavors? When you have a winner, you have a winner.
The appetizer alone all but ensures another trip to The Theodore and will include copious, creative cocktails along with the full dinner menu.
The Wondergood Food bottom-line: I was impressed with the whole experience, from décor to wait staff; I wasn’t left wanting anything more. The creativity of both the cocktail and lunch/dinner menus were impressive and the food was delicious. It’s not a cheap lunch ($20-$25 per person), especially if you’re going to go entrée over sandwich. However, you shouldn’t expect this quality of food to be inexpensive regardless of being right below a Sonic and Chipotle. I guess, therein lies the conundrum of having a badass culinary experience, in a mall.
Mall food just leveled up.