A hot address in Dallas' Deep Ellum may have finally met a tenant that will do it justice, with the premiere of Off the Cuff, a new restaurant-bar opening at 2901 Elm St. in February.
This is the cute building that was most recently Craft Junction Kitchen, and before that, Kitchen LTO, and before that Twenty Seven, and before that, My Private Chef, and before that Rush Patisserie, and we'll just stop there for now.
The building is on the fortuitously positioned corner of Elm and Malcolm X Boulevard which should be a slam dunk, but for some reason this space has had a troubled history.
The new owners are Alex Hines, a food & beverage veteran who has worked at places such as Stirr and Fat Rabbit; and Minhtan Mai, aka DJ Phathead, who own Fresh Wok, a restaurant in the mid-cities.
The two met in Uptown years ago and began plotting their own casual but good-quality place. Off the Cuff will be a restaurant and a bar, but more of a "bar with food" than a "restaurant with a bar program."
"One thing we noticed was that there's aren't many places to watch sports in Deep Ellum," Hines says. "But we're doing really good food. We hired a consultant chef to come in and make a menu we'd be proud of."
The menu is small, with a focus on sandwiches, burgers, and wraps.
"The only other place in Deep Ellum dedicated to doing sandwiches is Uncle Uber's, and those guys do a great job," Mai says. "The area already has plenty of Mexican and pizza places."
They're doing all of your prototypical sandwiches: cheesesteak, banh mi, Cuban, club, sandwich, and a veggie wrap.
When it comes to the burgers, they're taking a revolutionary approach.
"Our burgers will be different in the way they're served," Hines says. "They'll be upside down. If you think about it, when you grab a burger, it's an inefficient movement with your hands. I read an article that says burgers have been served wrong for all this time, and thought they were right."
The upside-down burger is a topic that's abuzz with controversy. First broached in 2016, it suggests that placing all the stress of your burger and toppings on the bottom half of the bun is a mistake, since the bottom bun is half as thick as the top.
The theory was revived in November 2018 by a so-called "life hacks" expert who said that flipping the burger upside down prevents bun collapse. But another expert countered that the best way to avoid bun collapse is to place the cheese beneath the burger and leave the bun as is.
Team Off The Cuff is upside-down all the way, and will present their burgers with the "bottom" of the bun on top. "The main thing we want is to make sure we have the perfect burger," Hines says.
As for the bar, they'll have a small menu of cocktails and six 6 beers on draft all local.
A big thing is keeping the price affordable. Nothing on the menu is over $13, so you can get a sandwich and a drink for under $25.
They'll keep long hours: seven days a week, until 2 am every night. There'll be a big bar in the middle, with a casual, Deep Ellum vibe that's welcoming to all.
"We're keeping the brick walls and we'll have murals by local artists," Mai says. "It's a very homey, comfortable atmosphere with a friendly staff. We feel like those basic things kind of get lost in a lot of places these days."