Into Shelley’s Belly: Outpost American Tavern in North Oak Cliff

Beef stroganoff (photos by Matthew Shelley)

In my junior astronaut training I learned that to nobly love and care for a woman, one must always prepare a dish just before midnight that will titillate and elevate her spirit, bringing her closer to the stars. I have yet to determine however the hell that is possible, but I came pretty close this weekend and decided to celebrate by treating myself to a sumptuous dinner.

The curling winds of last evening’s temperate weather brought me to a destination I have seen before. You probably don’t remember the restaurant in north Oak Cliff called CampO. Well, shame on you. It was divine. However, the owners, John Paul Valverde and Miguel Vicéns have created a new restaurant in the same space called Outpost. It’s an American tavern with comfort-driven food.

The nobly masculine bar (left); Nil’s Cosmo (right)
The Grilled Cheese

The tavern has a cozy bustle, with the street sweeping by the outside of a spacious wrap-around patio. Inside, there are wood paneled walls, cozy candlelight, indie punk tunes streaming across the airwaves, and even a single flat screen television glistening with sports and manly programming. Wide cedar top tables and caged bottle racks above the bar hold an impressive array of spirits. The white-tiled wall at the back opens quietly to the dining room with a single window for the delightful servers to collect orders from the kitchen, and the pristine tile is a welcome and creative contrast to the wooded walls, table, and ceilings.

Even the thin leather bound drink menu calls out a coolness and sophistication that sits well in your hands while you peruse the wide selection of cordials, whiskey, gin, rum, scotch, and bourbon. The owners have played it safe with the draft beer list, but it’s still early (Outpost has only been open since Saturday), and I assume this tavern will exercise its craft beer muscles as time goes on.

A cozy tavern table

I commenced into the menu’s offering with the Aviation cocktail. This is one of many spirits crafted from Dallas’ own Jason Kosmas. It’s made with gin, Luxardo Marachino, Crème de Violette, and lemon juice. The flute arrived with a lavender tint and what I can only guess was either a very large blueberry or a persimmon resting in the bottom. Nice touch. The cocktail had a dry, sweet potency to it that drank easy, and it finished with a strong smokiness that left me feeling smooth and slightly elevated. I ordered the elotes to start off my journey; they did not disappoint. The cobs were grilled well, and the crumbly cojita cheese added the perfect touch of texture and salty grittiness to its edge. The chili powder was understated, but left a nice light spice in the afterthought. I didn’t notice much of the sour cream, but that could be because I’ve spent years blocking it from my diet. My first entrée was the grilled cheese sandwich. It’s made with Fontina, Gruyere, and cheddar, with arugula and fig jam on a robust sourdough bread. It’s grilled to crunchy perfection. While I applaud the trio of cheeses, the star of the sandwich was the fig jam. The cheeses were slightly unnoticeable, but the presentation of the sandwich on a wooden cutting board sure made it look cool. I then finished my entrée excursion with the house made beef stroganoff. With short rib, cremini mushrooms, peas, and a deliciously sensuous housemade egg pasta, this dish left me diving headfirst with unrelenting indulgence into every bite. It’s rich and comforting, yet commanding at the same time. The pillow-soft pasta held beautifully with the tender short rib and soft textures of the peas and mushrooms. This is certainly the Outpost’s signature prize pony, and I almost forgot how to speak English after eating it.

Elotes (left); The Aviation (right)
Inside the quaint tavern

I finished off the night with the Nil’s Cosmo. It’s made with Belvedere Pomarancza, lemon juice, lime juice, and cranberry juice. It was light and not too sweet, but the sweetness it did have was certainly generated from fresh fruit juice that wasn’t syrupy at all. It’s a perky little lady with a fruity disposition, but I guess I should have expected that ordering a pink cosmo. It finished me off in a pleasant and refreshing manner, which I never argue with.

Outpost is the new kid on the block, and it certainly has room and potential to grow into itself and its carefully crafted food. By stepping into casual food and out of the delicate, worldly cuisine that embodied Campo, the owners have left their own comfort zone. But with the love and care that permeates this new take, they will certainly rise to the occasion and continue delivering well-manicured cuisine in this cozy, refined American tavern. I will be back, Outpost.