Chef Nick Badovinus describes his newest restaurant, Brass Ram, as “built to jam.” It’s a loud, bold, showpiece housed on the top floor of a “one-of-one” Chicago brick building in that little zone between Downtown and Deep Ellum.
Badovinus, who has been part of the Dallas restaurant scene since he interned for chef Dean Fearing in 1996, owns a cadre of great dining spots in the city. His Flavorhook restaurant group includes Neighborhood Services, Montlake Cut, Desert Racer, Yo! Lobster, Town Hearth, and National Anthem. And the man has a penchant for dad jokes that only temporarily mask his serious side. “We don’t have investors and we don’t hire designers. We picked out and hung everything in here,” Badovinus says. Yes, that includes the private dining room full of Marilyn Monroe portraits at Brass Ram.
The “rockin’ room” is Badovinus’ description of the particular vibe he cultivates in his restaurants. It’s a loud, raucous space filled with people having fun, forgetting about the outside world, and eating delicious food. That’s what he’s serving at Brass Ram, along with classic steakhouse dishes.
Eater Dallas sat down to talk turkey (well, beef — the house specialty) with executive chef Mathew Ingersoll, chef de cuisine Karl Beasley, head of pastry Erika Lucio, and Badovinus.
USDA Prime Ribs: English, American, The Duke, Pop’s Cut
Mathew Ingersoll: We tried out a lot of different methods before we came up with one we think is best. We slow roast it in the beginning and sear it at the end. We also do a 24-hour salt-and-pepper cure to impart the most flavor, and we rub it with a 50/50 beef tallow and butter mixture. We didn’t revolutionize anything — we just perfected the technique.
Badovinus: It’s all prime beef from South Dakota, wet-aged a minimum of 28 days, but we like to get north of 40 days to get just the right amount of funk on it. And there’s a heavy corn finish on the animal, so it has a unique unctuousness. It has this luscious, rosy interior. When we were trying to nail the prime rib we were looking for a super good crust yet still red inside. On the weekends we do a wagyu version, too.
Erika Lucio: We make it with the beef tallow, starting with getting the fat super hot, and then we put the batter in there. We have to get into a rhythm where everything is just perfect to get them just right.
Ingersoll: It’s a 200-year-old recipe; like they served kings and queens back in the day.
“The Burger Like I Had in Paris That One Time a While Ago”
Badovinus: In high school, I went to France for almost seven weeks with a good friend whose grandfather was a chef and hotelier in Avignon. The first thing I did once we were on our own was order a $32 burger. Such an American, right? France was the very first time that I was truly introduced to restaurant life. At the end of each dinner service, everyone would come together for family meal. I left France with a completely new infatuation and curiosity about restaurant life. That’s where the passion started. So that’s why this burger is such a core piece to the menu in addition to being absolutely kickass, over-the-top indulgent, and rich. It’s an homage.
Karl Beasley: We use premium wagyu beef, raclette, Port Salut [cheese], Dijonaise, onions, bacon, and French onion jam. It’s very decadent and cheesy. The cheese has a nice funk to it, and then the onion jam has a sweetness. Then the tanginess from the Dijonaise really sets it off. And you know we’re making a burger in the back when you smell that funky melting cheese. It’s really good.
Karl’s Crab Cakes
Beasley: In Maryland, where they’re known for their crab cakes, there’s nothing in them but Old Bay, Ritz crackers, and an egg to hold it all together. That’s the recipe we use, except we use king crab from Alaska and Jonah crab from Maine.
Badovinus: It was about how we could get as much crab as possible in the bite, but still have it hold form on the fork. We want folks to get it from the plate to their mouth with the least amount of dry cleaning expense.
The Crudo Royale
Ingersoll: We tried to take the most premium seafood and make it a crudo. It’s a riff on a rainbow roll; that was the inspiration.
Badovinus: At first, we had an entire crudo section on the menu. But then we were like, ‘Do we really want to commit to all five crudos?’ So we took the best of each, and put them on one plate. It’s far and away better than any of the original five were alone.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Brass Ram is at 2130 Commerce St., 2nd Floor. Service is available Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m.