Stop me if you've heard this one before. A woman walks into a bar, and an episode of the Food Network's Barefoot Contessa is playing on one of two flat-screen TVs. It sounds like a joke, right? I mean, bars are reserved for sports-watching. But don't go trying to put this bar, or the restaurant enveloping it, into a box. Because nothing is run-of-the-mill at Olenjack's Grille, far and away Arlington's best restaurant.
Recently at lunch, we found it fitting that the television doyenne of elegant and easy was playing in the background, because no place in this area strikes the balance between upscale food and lively, casual atmosphere better than this 4-year-old establishment, which features a wide-ranging, seafood-heavy menu using fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
Chef/owner Brian Olenjack, previously at the now-defunct Chisholm Club Restaurant in Fort Worth (and before that, Reata), offers an eclectic menu with something-for-everyone fare. Starters range from tomato bruschetta to prosciutto-wrapped quail. Mussels, crab, salmon, shrimp, oysters -- Olenjack likes his seafood.
The fried green tomatoes with crab ($10) were calling our name. Crispy and spicy, the plate featured four large tomatoes topped with crab and a spicy remoulade sauce. It was a delicious, straightforward take on a traditional Southern favorite.
The shrimp and grits ($18) entree -- which our friendly server said was an Olenjack's signature item -- was similarly impressive. The grits were amplified by a good amount of goat cheese, lending the dish an amazing richness. Andouille sausage, bacon and mustard greens, not to mention the delicate shrimp, added texture.
As for the locavore leanings of the menu, we also ordered the farmer's market veggie sandwich ($8), and substituted the onion rings for the fries. Stuffed full of grilled veggies (avocado, asparagus, portobello mushrooms, zucchini and tomato), the sandwich hits all the right smoky notes. Surely the vegetables and the hearty wheat bread were healthy enough to offset the heaping mound of red onion rings we devoured, right? Eh, we can kid ourselves.
And speaking of portions, they are large here. Between the two of us, we had enough shrimp and grits to carry home and enjoy as a side later that night for dinner. They were that good.
The service on our visit was exceptional, so much so that we started to suspect that someone knew we were there "on business." My Diet Coke was replenished before I could even drain the first glass. But we looked around, and every table seemed to be enjoying superior hospitality. It seems that the front of the house here is run as smoothly as its kitchen.
The restaurant clearly has won the Super Bowl real estate lottery; it's located in Lincoln Square, effectively across the street from Cowboys Stadium. But even before the Big Game was slated to come to town, Olenjack's was feeding the influx of hungry football fans with Cowboys-themed buffets and parking/shuttle service to the stadium.
A common refrain in the restaurant business regarding the Super Bowl seems to be that no one knows what to expect. But one thing's for sure: You can count on stellar food and service at Olenjack's Grille.