Oak Cliff's The Foundry Is Almost Perfect. Almost.
We've already established that Dallas doesn't need more mixology joints. But what about what it does need?
Ah. Glad you asked.
My answer: Dallas needs more outdoor beer gardens. Lots and lots of outdoor beer gardens.
All the coolest cities have them. But Dallas only has a few that are actually worth their while. Meanwhile, the ones that are worthwhile have become so overrun with Uptown Bros and Drunk Highland Park Dads that they're almost not worth visiting any longer.
(Yes, we're looking squarely at you, Katy Trail Ice House.)
Enter Oak Cliff's newest landmark of note, The Foundry.
Founded (pun intended) by the men behind the acclaimed Smoke restaurant and Bar Belmont, this spot, once home to the lesbian-oriented and sadly defunct Jack's Backyard, combines the feel of an Austin beer garden with appealing design elements, great lighting and a down-home-style eats.
The attached restaurant, named Chicken Scratch, is the middle-class answer to Henderson Avenue's Sissy's Southern Kitchen, except, from what I've heard, it's better.
Personally, though, I wouldn't know. The bad thing about Chicken Scratch is that its hours aren't exactly conducive with late-night drinking binges. But more on that later.
The first time I visited the Foundry, it was a Saturday night. My friends and I were immediately enamored with the blue generator-looking lights lining the roof of the exterior wall of the open garden space. Same goes for the hanging bulbs strung above the copious picnic tables. Combined, they let off a warm glow — just the right amount of night time light, really.
Against that outer wall is another nice touch — alcoves boasting rows of private-ish tables and chairs. There's nothing uptight about them, though; the couches look as if they were pulled out of grandma's basement. I don't know about your grandma, but my grandma was pretty cool, so I'm OK with that.
Meanwhile, at the head of the spacious garden sits an impressive stage assembled from various wood pallets. To the right of the stage is a large, open garage door, behind which sits the establishment's only bar area.
Despite the large crowds and the small amount of bartenders (we only spotted four), the wait for drinks was never too long. The cocktail waitresses ambling about the gravel garden area certainly help alleviate their workload.
All in all, were a bar (or beer garden) to be rated on ambiance alone, The Foundry would get five stars.
Unfortunately, there are other factors at play.
Though it touts itself as a beer garden specializing in craft varieties, the beers on tap are laughably lacking in variety compared to the selection at Ice House or the Meddlesome Moth (the closest thing Dallas has to an indoor beer garden). While the bottled offerings are more numerous, none are particularly out of the ordinary. For the casual beer drinker, The Foundry surely whets the palate well enough, but beer snobs best look elsewhere for rare finds.
The boozy drinks, on the other hand, are standard, and, more important, strong. So you really do get your money's worth there.
The real problem comes after you've already had a couple.
You see, The Foundry is permeated with the smells of grease and happiness wafting from the on-site Chicken Scratch. Any time during the day, this is a welcome feature. But, come 10 p.m., the restaurant closes, and disappointment reigns.
Let's do a little math, shall we?
Multiple Drinks + Person = Drunk Person
Drunk Person = Hungry Person
Hungry Person + Food = Happy
Sounds basic, right? Unfortunately, after the Chicken Scratch there's no food to be had here.
This wouldn't be so problematic if there were something like a 7-Eleven next door to the Foundry, but seeing as the Foundry is in the middle of bumfudge nowhere (and by that I mean a slew of factories and shipping depots), this defect can't really be overlooked.
Let's face it: The novelty of a bar/restaurant concept loses its novelty if the food isn't readily available. I mean, at least get us some damn peanuts, right?
Nonetheless, though The Foundry isn't quite perfect, its promise more than provides a glimpse of the potential glory to come.
Dallas: It's time we took a cue from this joint, learned from its few mistakes, and fully got on the Beer Garden Bandwagon.
No? Just me?
Whatever, I'm fine with that.