Welcome to the Scene Report, a column in which Eater captures the vibe of a Dallas restaurant or bar at a specific moment in time.
Over the weekend of November 4th, Wriggly Tin opened near Fair Park. It’s an unlikely building, a converted mechanic’s garage that was formerly a Cajun fried turkey shop. Described in the press as “ultra-hip” and “folk-chic,” it is an odd fit into a predominantly Black and industrial neighborhood of people who live at the poverty line. The area gets flooded by traffic during the State Fair, summer concert season at Dos Equis Pavilion, and random events at the park — all of which seem most likely to be its bread and butter. When none of that is going on, it’s a destination. It was created by Jacob Boger and Aaron Garcia, owners of Small Beer Works, and it is the only place in town that serves that small brewery’s five beers.
Early in the evening on Saturday, things were uber-chill, but it had not been quite so chill on opening day. The owners posted a sign near the entrance that food was restricted to indoor service. According to the staff, things got out of control for the kitchen the previous day. And so, the crowd was mostly inside at its 4 p.m. open — groups of two to six, mostly middle-aged couples and families with kids. Some 30-something groups came out closer to 6 p.m. to sit outside and have drinks on a perfect patio weather day.
What to drink
Order a beer mix, whether you’re a beer person or not. The four available offer the option of Hart or Black Pepper Pils mixed with an array of options: grapefruit soda, prickly pear lemonade, amaro and lemon, or Chicha Morada (a Peruvian purple corn drink). The glassware, across the board, has clearly been carefully selected — and these beer mixes come in fat, circular, dimpled mugs. They’re topped with Sonic-style ice. The dilution makes it not a high AVP, so it’s easy to sit around drinking them for several rounds. When the weather is in the ‘70s still in November, this is an excellent and cooling option. It was much better than the batch-made Pink Cadillac Margarita, which was too sweet and had a giant, flaky salt rim that overpowered the drink.
On the menu
Pizza, sandwiches, salads, light Italian food apps, and a brown butter chocolate chip cookie for dessert. It’s a simple menu with many overlapping ingredients to make it easy on the kitchen; that’s evocative of what anyone would expect at a brewery where food is secondary, and the beer and drinks are the things. But chef Desmon Coleman does put some nice touches in. The pizzas are sauced with San Marzano tomatoes, and the pepperoni is the high-quality cupped kind on a crisp sourdough crust. Mortadella and gem lettuce make several appearances in various dishes, as does roasted broccolini — there’s at least a nod to quality here, even if variety is hampered by what the kitchen can reasonably handle.
That being said
In this establishment, you’re on your own, kid. This place offers a QR code-based service based on a numbered table system. That means no one will come by to explain the menu or answer questions about the drinks. Cocktails are batch-made with no listing on the menu of what kind of tequila, vodka, whiskey, etc, is in them and no option to substitute. Service is still being ironed out, as evidenced by the indoor orders only, and employees wondered around looking for table numbers, both indoors and on the patio.
My pizza order didn’t come for 40 minutes, and I had to get up to ask about it. It was a stroke of bad luck — I was sitting at one of the center tables inside, which didn’t have numbers or QR codes. The person who took my order was taking walk-up orders for the room and had no idea who I was or what I’d ordered — nor is it reasonable to expect them to with such a large number of customers. However, that puts the customer in the position of having to advocate for themselves, which is uncomfortable. Two staff members kindly explained what happened and offered me anything I wanted to make it right, which was appreciated and declined.
This style of service also misses the chance to invite discovery. After eating and having a cocktail, I knew I wanted to sit outside but I needed to figure out what to do for a second drink. The wine was listed as a rotating red or white, but to find out anything about it, I would have to stand in line to ask the one person servicing the inside. I landed on one of the beer mixes because a customer at a nearby table was discussing them enthusiastically and sounded well-versed. Even then, I was left with two beer options, and no idea what they were other than gathering that one was a pilsner. For some customers, this service is perfect. For creating a connection and understanding what’s on the menu, not so great.