Cedars burger joint serves a mouthful
“A hamburger that isn’t a cheeseburger isn’t a hamburger,” says Jennifer Bonner, co-owner and chief foodie at Full Circle Tavern in The Cedars.
She’s right, of course. With respect to vegans and the lactose-intolerant, if you aren’t gonna melt a slab of cheddar over a slab of medium-rare broiled meat, you might as well have a steak or a dog.
The kitchen at Full Circle will, if you ask nicely, 86 the cheese, but best just to enjoy the clever creations at this dinerish, sports-barish, English-pub-with-American-food-ish neighborhood joint next to South Side on Lamar. They know what they’re doing, and they’re doing it well.
The heart of the menu is almost exclusively comprised of sandwiches, whether of the burger or hoagie variety, which is just a way of saying they like to put their entrees between two pieces of bread. In a larger sense, however, their creations are no more meant to fit into bite-sized portions than those folks who compete for Guinness glory with “world’s largest enchilada.” These are meals, disguised with toasted rolls.
Take the Jacques po-boy ($12.95), which replaces the traditional fried oyster filling with three full-sized crabcakes on a baguette. The croquettes are meaty and thick, with a remoulade spread underneath adding a spicy substrata. Personally, I peeled back the top roll and ate them with a knife and fork, like oversized crostini.
There’s a temptation to do the same with the Italian stallion ($10.95), sort of their variation of a French dip. Beef is slow-roasted and seasoned with Italian spices then shredded like a bodybuilder on steroids and laid out across a 6-inch garlic roll. Colorful bits of pepperocini and a melt of provolone do their thing, but you’ll wanna keep it between the bread so you can dunk it in a ramekin of jus. It’s like a deli specialty without being mashed down between wax paper ends.
The badass burger ($15.95) is not plated so much as engineered for table delivery. Dagwood would have to get mandible replacement surgery trying to bite into this rudeboy. Two patties of medium-rare beef trap a layer of sharp cheddar, while strips of maple-sweet bacon, fries, onion and a sunny-side-up egg dance above, held in place by a knife. You’ll need the knife to segment the burger into human-sized portion — and you’ll want to. The beef is flavorful, the presentation eye-popping. It’ll probably cost you a month’s worth of Weight Watchers points … and be totally worth the extra day you’ll spend on the treadmill.
With “tavern” in its name, you have to turn an eye to the drink menu. The jackass (their version of a Moscow mule) comes appropriately in a copper mug, and they served a milky-mango-colored potable rimmed with chili powder as dark as dried blood. Both pack a kick, but there are many more items to explore.
The decor is as hip as the food: Quirky signage, exposed brick, a garage door wall. If The Cedars didn’t want them, Deep Ellum would.
Full Circle Tavern is what every neighborhood needs: A welcoming, casual spot to pub-and-grub with folks who are always happy to see (and serve) you.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 16, 2013.