Boston’s Deep Ellum Bar Isn’t That Bad. But It Also Isn’t Very Deep Ellum-Like.
It’s maybe the oldest and well-known adage of them all: If you find yourself in Rome, you should do as the Romans do.
So we get why it was a potentially damning offense that, while on a recent trip to Boston, we opted take a break from eating bowl after bowl of glorious New England clam chowdah and purposely go out of our way to seek out a supposedly Texas-themed bar named after Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood.
We were curious as to the way our city was being perceived by Bostonians. Knowing that the owner of this establishment had area ties — and that his bar is called, rather bluntly and simply, Deep Ellum — gave us a little hope that it wouldn’t be too bad. Plus, y’know, it had been a few days since we’d enjoyed a cold Lone Star and we were jonesing for one.
But what we found when we actually got to Deep Ellum was something far from our expectations. For starters, aside from the glaring-albeit-forgivable lack of Lone Star beer being served, we found it rather criminal that there wasn’t a single Texas beer listed on the bar’s four-page-deep beer menu. Not even a Shiner.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. When Dallas native Aaron Sanders hooked up with Boston restaurateur Max Toste to open up his Texas-themed bar in that city’s Allston neighborhood back in January 2007, the two decided to call their new venture Deep Ellum as a nod to the tattooed, hipster-friendly, art-forward Dallas neighborhood and as an acknowledgment of Dallas neighborhood’s similarities to Allston.
But in the years since — and discounting a brief period last summer during which the bar actually did stock Deep Ellum Brewing Company’s beers — it seems this Boston establishment’s only ties to Dallas’ Deep Ellum (or Texas at all, for that matter) these days are the longhorn skull that hangs behind the bar, the exposed brick interior, the Texas Pete hot sauce found on all the tables and the fact that the bar’s surrounding businesses, such as the dairy-free ice cream parlor just a few doors down, would fit right in at home in Dallas.
As for Deep Ellum (the bar) itself, we’re not so sure. In fact, best we can tell, the bulk of the decor and menu items at the bar bears a closer resemblance to Uptown eatery Bread Winners Cafe than any place we can think of along Elm, Main or Commerce, just to east of the Good-Latimer Expressway.
Also, not to sound like a complete dick here, but Texas Pete is actually a Louisianna-style hot sauce that’s manufactured in North Carolina.
We’re not the only ones confused by the so-called Texas connection, either. In her review of the place, Yelper Abby R. writes: “It’s a loosely Texas-themed bar, I guess Deep Ellum is a town in Texas. Pretty metal name for a town, bro. Anyway, the atmosphere isn’t at all LONESTAR! BUTTLESS CHAPS! SQUARE DANCIN’! RIBS! And there are no drifts of peanut husks on the floor, which I count as a plus. It’s a bit on the hipstery side all things considered, but this is Allston.”
Her review is generally positive, though. And, to be sure, the duck confit hash, salmon sandwich, and mimosas we had for brunch weren’t the worst things we’ve ever eaten. Also, we more than approve of menu items like The Mexican Happy Meal (read: a can of Modelo Especial, a shot of Blanco tequila and a sangria chaser for $10).
Moreover, by all accounts, this disparity between the two Deep Ellums doesn’t seem to bother Bostonians too much. The worst thing most Yelp reviewers seem to say about the place is how packed it is just about all the time.
Still, during our trip to Boston’s Deep Ellum, we couldn’t help but think that the spot would have been better served with a different name altogether. Like, say, McKinney Avenue.