by Steven Doyle
When they aren’t uber-designing a new restaurant around Dallas or Fort Worth, the dynamic team of John Paul Valverde and Miguel Vicens are making a go at restaurateur life at the funky digs in Oak Cliff in what was once a single family dwelling, then their first born Campo Modern Country Bistro. Campo never really hit her stride despite all the fantastical elements you could possibly afford a restaurant, including a star consulting chef like Matt McCallister and finishing with one of the best kept secret chefs in Dallas, Michael Ehlert. By the way for those keeping score at home, Ehlert is in the kitchen at Hibiscus on Henderson.
A few months later and some serious hammer and nailing, the tiny house has been drawn into yet another hip and cozy dwelling for those seeking out a fresh take on classic food finds. Enter Outpost American Tavern. Now deep up in its first week with the doors wide open, the unique looking taproom is once again creating a buzz throughout the food loving community.
Sporting a menu which breaths fresh air into some old favorites, Outpost American Tavern is much safer and seemingly more comfortable in style and execution.
The bar is slinging quick but precise cocktails that will please the enthusiast as well as bacchanalian. There are also ten taps serving familiar and interesting brews. The list of beers passed over the local talent, but seems secure enough to get away with the faux pas. Although temperatures spiraled downward this week, there is a klatch of picnic tables corralled out front for al fresco merriment, as well as a smattering of tables on the wrap-around porch.
The food is innovative enough to sustain the early buzz. The burger is well constructed and flavorful to inspire frequent ordering, but early odds are on some of the homier dishes such as beef stroganoff and confit chicken and dumplings. A clubby favorite on the most recent visit was the beer battered tacos served with a chipotle aioli, Baja-style with a cabbage slaw. The tacos are served with a side of refried black beans, but they were given a heavy hand of cumin which deterred from the natural sweetness of the beans. Still a sturdy version of fish tacos.
The dish likely to make you smile the most is the Burrito and PBR, which for 8 bucks you may score a can of the hipster brew and a chicken burrito; a perfect answer to a quick bite to start an evening of revelry.
The most alluring starter is the house elotes, which is served a bit deconstructed. Order and be served two whole ears of corn grilled with Cotija cheese, sour cream and a treatment of chile powder served with a grilled lime for good measure. This dish is one of those room addictions where once you see it on another table you will order it as well. Soon the entire room is listening with ears of corn. Genius.
One concern for Campo was that there was never a sign posted on or even near the building, giving pause that the business was temporary from the beginning. Or perhaps Campo was above a label. The Outpost has an official, and very large sign that will hopefully give this bright new restaurant an identity the neighborhood can grasp and enjoy.