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Restaurant Review: Brunch at J. Black’s Feelgood Lounge in Dallas

j. blackAfter two local email newsletters featured J. Black’s Feelgood Lounge in the same week, I had two friends ask me to go. One was seduced by the idea of the Bloody Mary bar; the other by the words “brunch” and “Austin” together in a sentence. I based my decision on the online menu, which looked like a solid field of tasty American dishes. And so with my Austin-loving friend I went for brunch on Sunday. It was a lot to, ehem, digest.

First, the name. You might think that a Mr. (or Ms.) J. Black is the namesake owner of the Henderson bar/restaurant next to Neighborhood Services. But you’d be wrong. There is no real live J. Black working behind the scenes. As our waitress revealed: the restaurant gets its name from a character on the soap opera Days of Our Lives, a badass amnesiac introduced to viewers in 1986 as The Pawn (what? I was 15 and lived in the woods. I taped it on my VCR and watched it after school, okay?). The waitress offered no other explanation than the owners are fans (and men). She then went on to mention that there are menu items named after other characters, like the Stefano, a pizza with applewood-smoked bacon, goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, shallots, and arugula. And though I personally think this is silly, I was willing to get into the spirit of things, so I searched the menu for other items named after the fictional residents of fictional Salem. I found only the Marlena Margarita. Maybe two is enough to carry the theme. But calling the Greek pizza the Victor Kiriakis seems natural, and I might suggest calling the coffee and donuts dessert the Bo & Hope—just to push it a little further. Or not.

They clearly had a very different theme in mind when they named the tacos on the brunch menu. The Title Tacos come in five varieties: 1971, 1977, 1992, 1993, and 1995—the years the Cowboys won the Super Bowl. (In Austin, apparently the tacos are called 1963, 1969, 1970, and 2005.) We ordered the 1977, with scrambled eggs, pulled pork, sauteed onions, and smoked gouda. What we were served was the 1992 (we verified our order with our ticket at the end of the meal), which was “slow-cooked pulled pork simmered in a spicy verde sauce,” according to the menu. Sad face. “It would be like ordering pot stickers in a Chinese restaurant and getting egg rolls,” according to my friend.

Unfortunately this was one of several disappointments.

avocado salad

I ordered the Southern Louie, which the menu described as “fried avocado topped with fresh lump crab meat and roasted tomatoes drizzled with a tequila-ginger vinaigrette.” Despite being fried, the lightly battered avocado arrived cold, and the crab meat looked like wet sawdust, not sweet lumps of seafood. The few tomatoes I liked, but the vinaigrette overpowered every other flavor. It was pretty but not delicious.

eggs benedict

The prosciutto eggs Benedict also arrived cold. Not warm, certainly not hot. Cold. My friend asked for another and pushed the plate aside. The second effort arrived much warmer, but the Hollandaise was not on the side (as per the original order). He didn’t have the heart to complain a second time. The sourdough English muffin, slathered in butter and grilled was delightful, but the prosciutto was cut too thick and the “spicy Hollandaise” had not a hint of spice and instead looked and tasted like Parkay Squeeze. The accompanying home fries were completely uninspired. The rejected plate of food sat on the empty table beside us for the duration of the meal, no one bothering to take it back to the kitchen.

fried mac and cheese

Having spotted the fried mac and cheese on the online menu, I was disappointed when it wasn’t on the brunch menu. However, when a tattooed fella identifying himself as one of the owners dropped by our table and I expressed my frustration, he saw that only a few minutes later a cone of mac and cheese meteors were delivered to the table. My first bite was still cold in the center, but things improved from there, and with the accompanying pimento cream cheese sauce, I found them to be pretty tasty. But as my friend says, “Good God, I’ve had less breading at the State Fair.”

And I’ve had better service on the midway. Who knows why, but the floor was understaffed, which could explain why those congealing eggs were ignored and our food arrived cold. By the time we left, the place was packed and there were just two waitresses working the large room. And all we could say about that was “like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives …”

5 comments on “Restaurant Review: Brunch at J. Black’s Feelgood Lounge in Dallas

  1. It just blows my mind that these places keep popping up (Common Table and Hacienda on Henderson, off the top of my head) where investors have dropped some serious coin to open these places and seemingly spend very little energy/time/effort to turn out even decent food and maybe even less to properly service their restaurants. Its amazing actually.

  2. I went to J Blacks shortly after they opened and was definitely disappointed with the food.

    The calamari was pretty, but suffered two major flaws

    1. Over breaded
    2. Small

    Combine those two mistakes together and you get a third: fried calamri that just tastes like breading.

    If you’re gonna do a heavy-breaded calamari, that’s fine (although I prefer it light) – but when doing so, give it to me cut from the largest calamari tubes you can find – not those that could nearly pass for penne.

  3. I tried J Black’s once. Had the burger sliders. I think they put Lipton Onion Soup mix in the burger mix. Seriously, I had a flashback to Tuesday night dinner on the L-Street in the 70s. Dis-Gust-Ing

  4. Went there at the start of the summer when it was new – wanted to hit up Neighborhood Services Tavern, but missed the last table by a minute, so we had seen some friends at J. Blacks so we sat down with them at the window seats, overlooking Knox-Hend.

    Servers came after about 10 minutes, drinks in another 10 minutes – food came out in about 20 minutes. Slow, but steady – except for only about half of the food came out, never got the hummus or the sliders.

    But have no fear, they were on the check.

    Places like this don’t train, they don’t have strong managers, they just hire cute girls – and that may work if you are just slanging buckets of beer and burgers (Jake’s), but not at a fully functioning restaurant/bar. The bartenders and managers are too busy hanging out with their friends at the bar, too busy checking out the chicks, and the end product suffers.

    Too bad, could have been a good spot.

  5. As someone who spent their first 24 years on Planet Earth growing up around the corner from this new joint, it’ll always be the Red Hoss Lounge to me.