When it opened in May, Red's Roadhouse faced a bit of a culture clash. It was a down-to-earth restaurant (in what used to be a Kennedale hardware store), with kitschy touches such as an Airstream trailer in the dining room, but with an ambitious menu featuring such offerings as wild mushroom and goat cheese enchiladas, and deep-fried boudin balls.
The menu proved to be a bit too upscale, and Red's has adapted, with more of an emphasis on comfort food such as meatloaf and chicken-fried steak. It's a better match for this laid-back, friendly and spacious spot that really does feel like a roadhouse -- minus, say, the chicken wire an old roadhouse might need to protect bands from rowdy customers. It has two outdoor stages, and a busy concert schedule.
Red's announces itself with an old drive-in movie sign at the roadside, and in addition to the Airstream, there are Packards, Buicks and other cars in the main dining room, and parts of old pinball machines mounted on the walls of the large patio. The unpretentiousness of the place won us over before we sat down, and when so many restaurants are cramming people together these days, it was nice to have some breathing room between our party of four and other tables.
The website boasts about the chicken-fried steak ($10; includes two sides), which was good without being a revelation -- the coating was more tender than usual, and the gravy, with cracked pepper and green onions, had a nice kick. The chicken and waffles ($10; sides extra) also earned kudos, with just the right touch of sweetness to the Belgian waffles, and the chicken crispy and flavorful. Our friend who ordered it was a bit disappointed that the chicken came in the form of chicken strips, but it was a minor complaint.
The grilled pimento cheese ($8) is described on the menu as featuring green chiles and sharp cheddar, without any mention of pimentos, but in reality was more of a creamy spread - without any evidence of pimentos. Despite this, my wife, the only vegetarian in our party, was happy to have a nonmeat option on the menu, and she liked the sandwich, her only reservation being that the Texas toast was a bit too thick for the filling.
The Roadhouse rib-eye ($19), an 18-ounce cut, was a misfire. Ordered medium, it came closer to medium-rare, and this particular cut was on the tough side. The flavors were OK, but eating it took more work than it should have. As for sides, the dragon fries ($6 as a starter; also available as a side) were the winners in that department: fries tossed in a mixture of butter and three hot sauces (Frank's RedHot, Sriracha and sambal, a sauce popular in Southeast Asia), with a mix of mozzarella and cheddar melted on top. Although the soft texture might turn off those who like their fries crispy, the dish is a must for spicy-food lovers.
For dessert, we ordered the fried apricot pies ($5 for two) and the apple cinnamon empanadas ($5 for two). Both were the biggest hits of the night, with tender flaky crusts and bountiful, sweet fillings. Each order came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which added to the dish, but the pies stood up very well on their own.
A few nights later, my wife and I came back to try the burgers. The vegan burger ($10) turned out to be a fairly standard veggie patty that didn't really live up to the menu's description of being made with "quinoa, brown rice, bulgur wheat and roasted vegetables." She enjoyed it, but she thought it could have benefited from an inventive house-made condiment. The "Squeeze Burger" ($10), an 8-ounce patty steamed so that the patty is covered by cheese from all sides, was more successful, although it didn't call me back the way the dragon fries did.
Red's just underwent a grand re-opening, and also just launched a Sunday brunch menu featuring omelets, pancakes, waffles and biscuits and gravy as well as many of the regular salad and sandwich options. That's worthy of a return visit, especially with the dragon fries still on the menu.