Savor was destined to be a smash, if for no other reason than its prime location. As the lone, officially sanctioned restaurant of Klyde Warren Park, it enjoys a built-in audience of folks visiting this quirky city park built across the Woodall Rodgers Freeway. The park has proven to be a blockbuster, thronged by visitors enjoying its proximity to the Dallas Arts District and its gentle patchwork of walkways and greenery.
Their obvious go-to for lunch and dinner has been Savor, whose weekend nights are solidly booked and weeknights are lively, too. But this sophisticated urban spot is up to the task, with a stunning design and patron-friendly menu that combines familiarity with dashes of innovation.
The design is instantly engaging. Rock-star architect Bill Johnson of the Johnson Studio in Atlanta did the interior, which he cast as a glass box in a park. It’s an incredibly clever building, with an outer shell made of glass that allows everyone in the place a view of the park. All of the restaurant’s “guts” — kitchen, restrooms, wine racks et al. — are tucked into a core at the center, which also divides the restaurant and the bar.
White lights strung through the trees create a magical atmosphere on the patio. Inside feels polished and urban, with chrome columns, white banquettes and pale woods. A staff that’s efficient yet sweet is quick to make you feel welcome. A glitzy bar with a shelf of bottles floating overhead includes not only beer on tap, but wine, too. Part of Savor’s mission is to be eco-friendly, and wine on tap reduces the number of bottles.
The concept is “refined gastropub” but with a chef-driven bent: simple, fresh and good. Chefs John Coleman and Joe Scigliano came from the Ritz-Carlton, and you can see their attention to detail and ability to execute on the plate.
The menu runs from burgers to salads to roast chicken and flat-iron steak: basics with a foodie flair. The priciest entrée was braised short rib ($28), a dark, shiny, hulking chunk of meat, served with macaroni and cheese. Their version of this comfort-food favorite was made with tiny ear-shaped orecchiette pasta and tangy cheddar cheese.
Savor seems better at the lighter fare. Salmon ($25) was lightly smoked and topped with an exotic chutney made with apple and licorice-y fennel. The austerity of the salmon was offset by a creamy celery-root puree and crisp parsnip chips.
Savor delivers impressively on salads and sandwiches, with novel combinations and nicely handled ingredients. One salad paired zucchini with arugula ($9) and another stacked heirloom tomatoes with watermelon and arugula.
Crab cakes ($17) were a nifty rendition of a dish so old, it felt new again. Chunks of shredded Jonah and blue crab were tossed together lightly in a mayo and seared until the edges were brown and crunchy. They came with a zesty pickled onion slaw, but the revelation was the sauce: a golden Thai curry, bolstered with a sweet corn puree that gave the crab cakes the rich, creamy platform they deserved.
Starters were our least favorite category. Lobster puffs ($14), described as a fritter with Maine lobster and Comté cheese, offered up five small fried balls of mostly gooey cheese and no noticeable lobster. The presentation didn’t help: Five balls lined up on a long rectangular plate with a streak of sauce, making the portion size look even smaller.
The meatballs ($12) suffered the same problem, with five golf-ball-size nuggets lined up on a smear of sauce. Calamari ($12), combining squid with small fried shrimp, was a disappointment. It came to the table not quite hot and without much crunch. But we liked our fontina flatbread ($14), its soft, doughy crust topped with more gooey melting cheese, chunks of butternut squash, walnuts and browned Brussels sprouts leaves.
The dessert menu by pastry chef Julie Vorce is crazy-big, with 10 options — creme brulee, German chocolate cake, salted caramel pudding — served in bite-size versions for $3 each. It lets everyone get a sampler plate if they want, and it is very clever. A chocolate-peanut-butter pretzel bite with laser-sharp edges was luscious and rich. Yuzu tart with a perfectly-formed crust offered a potently flavored spin on lemon curd.
Savor has a companion kiosk next-door, called Relish, for quick foods on the go. But if you want to savor your experience at Klyde Warren Park, you know where to go.