Editor's note: Every week, we'll spotlight a culinary treat found around Dallas-Fort Worth — whether it's a new opening, a dish at a restaurant, or a grocery find.
Dish: Smoked tempeh sandwich
Location: BrainDead Brewing, Deep Ellum
BrainDead is the Deep Ellum brewpub opened in 2015 by superstar trio Sam Wynne, Jeff Fryman, and brewer Andrew Huerter. Three years later, they're humming along with a big lineup of craft beers brewed in-house, and a menu of sandwiches, tacos, and fun starters to pair with your beer.
A few months ago, they hired Taylor McCreary, a former sous chef at Whiskey Cake, who has applied a layer of professional sheen to the operation of the kitchen, and who is working up some new menu items for the fall.
BrainDead has always had a few vegan items on the menu including vegan queso. They're also fortunate to have some super vegan baking skills in the kitchen via sous chef Malikei Hetherington, and are regularly rolling out some keen muffins and baked goods.
But they've recently introduced some new items including vegan nachos, tacos, a tempeh sandwich, and zucchini noodles.
The tempeh sandwich is generous and unique, with lots of sauce and stuff going on. It's really not like anything else, but if you're trying to imagine something, it's sort of like a very messy BLT but without the L or T. Or the B for that matter, but the tempeh has a smoky thing and bottom line, it's a sandwich and it's on toast.
Their treatment of the tempeh begins with a quick submersion in the smoker. Then they slice it into matchbox-size rectangles and saute it to order. They also saute onion, bell pepper, and garlic until soft, then toss the whole shebang in a smoky sauce, heavy on the liquid smoke.
They place it on grilled Empire Baking Co. sourdough bread; Empire always improves the scene wherever it goes. The bread is spread with an avocado puree. So when you dig in, you get the toasted bread, you get the chewy tempeh with lots of smoky flavor, you get the sauteed veggies, and you get arugula.
Like Empire Baking Co. bread, arugula always improves the scene wherever it goes.
The bread can be dry around the edges; this could maybe be improved with one more spoon or two of the avocado puree. Either way, it's good.
It comes with sweet potato chips, but definitely get the French fries, tossed in a paprika-cayenne seasoning. The fries are also made in-house and cut to a perfect 3/8-inch width so that they're not McDonald's-skinny but not fat either. Some are golden rectangles and others are end pieces with the skin still on.
They come with a spiced ketchup which is also probably made in-house, and bravo for that, but ketchup is maybe one of those things you don't want to embellish.
If you're lucky, you'll get the amazingly attentive Adelaide as your server; and if you're there long enough, you'll probably get a visit to your table from Jeff or Sam.