By Sara Newberry
Ross & Hall is yet another beer-oriented restaurant and bar, which features an outdoor space for those times of the year when air conditioning isn’t a requirement. It’s located on Ross Avenue in an area that is becoming more of a destination for nights out, with new tiki-inspired bar Alice across the street and Bar & Garden — a plant shop that also sells spirits — next door.
The space is kind of standard “beer bar” decor: industrial-ish, high ceilings, dark wood, large booths, giant chalkboards.
The menu is also pretty standard: burgers, pizzas, sandwiches and a selection of “plates,” which are slightly more upscale but not intimidating, like Shepherd’s Pie or Shrimp and Gnocchi. Mismatched plates up the “quirkiness” factor. The chalkboard touts Ross & Hall’s sister establishments but, oddly, the important information is behind large columns so it is very difficult to read.
Walking in, we were greeted by a host stand, and immediately behind it, the table that the manager uses for an office.
When we were there, the table was covered with scattered paper and a laptop. I understand the draw of working in the restaurant rather than in a grim office in the back of the building, but I question the wisdom of having the “office” front and center in a place where you want your guests to relax.
The somewhat chaotic feeling carries over into the experience. Service was mostly friendly but, in our three visits, ran the gamut from attentive to absent. The quality of the food was also not consistent.
We tried a couple of the starters on a couple of visits — we enjoyed one of them and one of them was disappointing. Brisket poutine was the better of the two, with hunks of tender brisket and cheese curds in a well-seasoned gravy.
Fries were crisp and salty. Crab Dip was the opposite experience: I could not find any crab in the bowl; if someone told me it was queso I would believe them. Bread served alongside was stale. An R&H Burger was pretty standard, with a generous amount of crisp bacon on it. (Unfortunately, we had ordered the Tangy Blue burger, so even though the burger was fine, it wasn’t what we’d ordered. It was removed from the bill after we mentioned it to our server.) A Pulled Pork Cuban was not what it could have been. The bread was crisp, but the pork was dry and the whole thing was way too salty.
A brunch visit could not have been more different, which threw me for a loop, because brunch is so often the lesser experience when compared to dinner. This was not the case here. Service was attentive and friendly, and the food was as satisfying as it had been disappointing on our other visit.
Shrimp and grits were as good as I’ve had in Dallas, loaded with andouille and big shrimp, and the grits were creamy. A perfectly cooked poached egg was perched on top. Bison and chorizo migas were also topped with a perfect egg, this time sunny-side up. The migas were spot-on as far as seasoning and ratio of bison to eggs. A spicy crema and creamy black beans were tasty sides.
After these wildly different experiences, I needed to try Ross and Hall again. We went back for dinner and, unfortunately, it was very similar to our first visit. We waited nearly 20 minutes for our starter, then received our entree less than five minutes after that. This speaks to a lack of communication between the kitchen and the front of the house.
We tried a pizza on this visit and, again, it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t stellar either. The crust was crisp, and the toppings were fine. That’s kind of all I can say about it. A caramel cheesecake was so good it was only more confusing. The cheesecake was creamy and not too sweet; bruleed bananas were a fantastic touch.
The word that comes to mind when I think of Ross and Hall is “inconsistent.” From the atmosphere to the service to the food, my experience varied wildly. I’d like to return (especially once the weather is less oppressive), but it’s important that I know what to expect when I walk through the door.
Ross & Hall
3300 Ross Avenue