There’s a little elephant in Dallas that everyone acknowledges, talks about and yet ignores all at the same time. And no, I’m not referring to the traffic. I’m talking about the annoying “bubbles” that exist all around the city. Uptown, Downtown, North Dallas, Mid Cities, anywhere in the loop of 635, these are the areas that dictate our social space and therefore our happy place.
I live to burst bubbles. So, when Dallas Food Nerd received an invitation to check out the new and improved Champps Americana in Las Colinas, I jumped at the opportunity and drove down 635 in rush hour traffic. The things I do for food.
Wait, I thought to myself while driving down 114, I thought Champps filed for bankruptcy? Wrong, that would be the Champps’ parent company Fox & Hound. Carry on.
You won’t sit in picnic tables and find peanuts on the floor at the new Champps. This popular pub is ditching the traditional bar ambience for a more casual and grown up restaurant that focuses on a higher quality of food. The décor is contemporary with a local athletic touch, and the red kitchen is the cornerstone of the whole restaurant, not only because of its fiery hue, but also because of the delicious meals that come out the door.
I was a little tardy to the party and sat down to fellow bloggers passing around an assortment of well-presented appetizers including 7-layer hummus dip, chicken satay, calamari and spiced ahi tuna. My favorite was the hummus dip accompanied with crisp pita chips. It was the perfect combination of opposing textures. The dip was smooth with little bits of red pepper as garnish, and the chips were crunchy and a great companion to the hummus.
For the main course, I opted for the grilled salmon served with a bourbon sauce, garlic mashed potatoes and seasoned vegetables. Other options included a kung pao chicken, baby back ribs, roasted artichoke and grilled chicken penne, vodka chicken farfalle or your choice of premium hand cut steaks. Taking a peak down the table, it looked like everyone had ordered the red meat.
While we waited for our main entrée, managing partner Brian James gave us a quick tour of the newly remodeled restaurant. Straying away from the stereotypical bar environment, Champps is designed to give regulars the opportunity to sit at the bar where everyone knows their name and casual diners a quieter area where they can enjoy a nice meal. In the middle is an area for those who want a little bit of action, but also want to spectate.
Shortly after being served, Chef Adam Harkless came back to our table to share how each dish was carefully prepared. The attention given to each dish and his knowledge of food was very impressive. How ironic that his favorite entrée was the kung pao chicken….that nobody ordered. Whoops.
My salmon dish was exactly what I was looking for—light and healthy—but a smidge dry and slightly under seasoned. I requested an additional side of bourbon sauce to pour on my fish. I could have also done without the entire bundle of asparagus they put on my plate. Six spears or so would have been fine, and everyone else who ordered an entrée with seasoned vegetables seemed to agree.
After all the appetizers, salad and main entrée, I thought my stomach would explode if I even smelled a dessert.
And this happened.
And this happened.
And this happened.
That, my friends, is what they called the “Dessert Sampler.” The tower of deliciousness better known as the Mile-High-Seven-Layer-Cake immediately stole the show. Queue the iPhone photos. It was literally seven layers of ice creams sandwiched in between two layers of brownie, topped off with whipped cream and cherry.
It’s times like these that I hate being lactose intolerant. Ok, maybe I had one small piece of the seven layers of goodness, but that was all. I’m not even sure it was worth the potential sickness, because the dessert tasted like regular ice cream that happened to be dramatically presented. But hey, what can I really say from two one tablespoon.
I should have given a disclaimer at the beginning of this post—I’ve never dined at Champps in my life, so I really didn’t have anything to compare. Throughout the evening, I thought to myself, “Oh, it’s like Houlihans or BJs” but when I saw the look on Brian James’ face when another blogger made a similar statement, I kept my thought to myself.
At the end of the day, Champps’ management is confident in the brand and the consistency of their regulars, who probably live in the Irving/Las Colinas area. To me, it’s just a sports bar, a glorified sports bar. You have the chance to draw your own conclusion at the grand reopening celebration on Thursday, February 20, 2014 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. for drink specials, appetizers and live music. Don’t forget to try the kung pao chicken.
(Disclaimer: My meal was compensated in exchange for a review, and all thoughts are my own.)