Drive-by tasting: Yolk

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All-star breakfast at Yolk

First-look review: The Yolk’s on you

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but can you judge a restaurant by its opening? That that issue after what happened earlier this week with Yolk.

I was surprised to get the opening-day invitation less than a week before the doors opened. Usually, you get a press release promoting the opening while the restaurant finds its legs — a soft opening, friends-and-family practice services, a press walk-thru — prior to the grand opening. That didn’t happen with Yolk. Monday was the preview and the only sample prior to the grand opening on Tuesday morning. Perhaps, I figured, they didn’t need to rehearse — this is the seventh shop and the chain. They must know how to do this.

But Yolk is an import from Chicago. This is Dallas.

The opening was an unqualified disaster. It was supposed to start at 6 p.m., though I arrived 30 minutes early (with their permission) for a sneak peek. By 6:15 p.m., the doors where still shuttered with about 70 people lined up outside. Yet not a single piece of bacon was frying on the griddle, nor had a single egg been scrambled. They didn’t even offer me so much as a glass of water while I cooled by heels, or provide a press kit. When nothing had changed by 6:20, I left.

I wasn’t the only one. Those who stayed griped on social media about the paltry food (in quantity and diversity). Not the most auspicious of starts.

Maybe those practice services would have been a good idea after all.

Other than the location — the former Screen Door and Café des Artistes space in One Arts Plaza in the Arts District — Yolk doesn’t feel like Dallas at all. On the menu, they add the parenthetical “sausage” after “chorizo.” Perhaps they don’t know what that is in Chicago; Dallasites know better.

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The sunnyside up interior at Yolk

Actually, I didn’t meet a single staffer who was local — everyone (the owner, the publicist, the manager) came down from Illinois. I asked the owner, Taki Kastanis, why he chose Dallas as his first store outside of the Midwest. “Dallas is awesome!” was his brief but enthusiastic response. “Why, thanks,” I said, “but maybe some specifics?” He noted that Dallas and Chicago have a lot in common, both being cities with many newcomers. Then he walked away.

Still, I wondered why hadn’t done a little bit more research for the local market. Yolk is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. — excellent if you wanna get breakfast on the way to work or are looking for a brunchy lunch spot (both lunch and breakfast items are served all day).

But the Arts District is a nocturnal neighborhood that sometimes doesn’t get hopping until 9 o’clock at night. Why not offer a late-night menu for post-theater munchies? (Yolk also doesn’t seem quite high-end enough for its neighbors.)

These are the complaints that twirl through your head when you’re at a restaurant opening and there’s no food.

So how is Yolk at the food?

So far, so good.

The menu is extensive, though much of conjures variations on a theme. There are eggs (benedict, scrambled, omelets) and French toast and crepes; bacon, sausage and beef burgers; breads and buns and coffee. No real surprises. (And can anyone tell me why you have to pay at the counter at every breakfast spot instead of the table? It’s some unwritten rule, I guess.)

For my first visit, I ordered the all-star breakfast, which seemed like the best option for a sampling of the menu: Two eggs any style (I got mine scrambled), two slices of bacon, two sausage links, two pieces of French toast, plus that most hackneyed of breakfast plate clichés, the orange wheel.

The bacon, hickory-smoked and thick-cut, was chewy and filling, if not cooked to the crispness I personally prefer. I’m a huge fan of sausage links, and these were good. So was the toast, make of challah bread with a slight crunch on the edges I enjoyed. Also good was the maple syrup — authentically viscous, not the water sugar glue you often get. The plate even arrived with bottle of catsup and hot sauce without asking (hot sauce is a go for me; catsup not so much).

The eggs, however, felt slightly corporate — although ordered “scrambled,” they arrived more as an omelet: flat folds of protein and cholesterol that lacked fluff or texture. I envisioned they being designed to fit conveniently on an English muffin for a to-go order rather than convey the best the eggs have to offer.

Then again, they were eggs. Not much you can do to ruin them, I guess. And the coffee is … coffee, neither great nor bad.

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South of the border benny, with chorizo (that’s sausage)

Which is, perhaps, why the blundered opening bothered me so. A breakfast restaurant is actually quite destinational — not for an anniversary, perhaps, but you need to want to have diner food to seek it out. And breakfasts tend to be more about familiarity than innovation. You need to win us early, and get us coming back.

I did go back, the next morning. I ordered a different selection — specifically, the south of the border “benny” (for “benedict”) featuring the aforementioned chorizo on an English muffin topped with poached eggs and hollandaise. The hollandaise flavorless — it lacked the necessary zing from lemon juice — but the side of melon (and, again, orange slices) did cut the heat and greasiness from the chorizo. But this was almost too much food for an office worker to consume in one sitting.

I’ll give Yolk a chance, at least if I happen to be in the area. But it could use improvements. They should offer free guest wifi, the kind of perk that would woo eaters away from a drive-thru or Denny’s and make this a destination diner. And I still think they need to consider being open late, at least on weekends when there are performances at the Winspear, Wyly, Meyerson or City Performance Hall. With all due apologies to Sean Connery, that’s the Dallas way.

Yolk at One Arts Plaza. EatYolk.com.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

BREAKING: Screen Door gone, new Lombardi brasserie to open

Screen Door, the eatery in One Arts Plaza opened by Scott Jones but currently under new management, is closing on Saturday. Employees were told earlier this week.

A source in a knowledgable position says a new restaurant will open there as early as October. The new resto, part of Lombardi Family Concepts, will debut Cafe Des Artistes. Owner Alberto Lombardi has long hoped to open a classic brasserie and piano lounge, and the space, adjacent to the AT&T Performing Arts Center, makes the ideal pre- and post-theater stopover.

Lombardi had been looking at the space where The Commissary was until recently operated; that has since closed and Ziziki’s announced it will take over that space soon.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones