Lonesome Dove occupies the renovated Patrick Sullivan’s Saloon and its neighbor building, once known as Annie’s. The Texas connection starts there, in that onetime proprietor Annie DeLisle was once married to Cormac McCarthy, whose novel All the Pretty Horses has entered the same Texas literary pantheon as Larry McMurty’s classics from The Last Picture Show to, yes, Lonesome Dove. The restaurant echoes the Texas vibe of celebrity chef Tim Love’s restaurants in Ft. Worth and Austin. Chef de Cuisine Jesse Rossbach came from the Austin Lonesome Dove in 2016, having joined the LD family a year and a half before from Austin’s trendy North Italia Modern Cuisine and True Food Kitchen.
If you aren’t in a Texas state of mind when you walk in, a warm “Howdy” from the hostess gets you started. The saloon bar runs along the right side of the room. Behind it, a selection of spirits, arranged artistically to set off their different shapes and sizes, let you know that this is a place where a cowpoke can get a real drink. Like a western movie set, the balcony level of timber-frame beams runs down the left side of the saloon. Diners can look down on the bar or nestle beneath the balcony. The dining room that was once Annie’s features an open kitchen emanating the aroma of elk and venison on the grill. With twangy music, exposed brick walls, and stained-glass clerestory windows, it’s refined and funky at the same time. Overflow goes the second-floor Fulmer Dining Room— named for the coach; Tim Love is a proud UT alum. Groups can rent the top-floor Sullivan Room, once a bordello and still haunted by Clara the Ghost.
Servers take orders for all courses all at once, so the crew can orchestrate the arrival of different courses. “We take you on a journey,” says Rossbach. The tour guides are well informed and enthusiastic about their dishes, which they will split up for family-style sharing.
In his quest to create unique dishes, Rossbach says, “I’d like to feel that I make a difference.” The journey begins with Wild Game Fettine, paper-thin shaved roulades of wild pig, venison, quail or pheasant spit-roasted over open mesquite fire. First courses standouts include the satisfying crunch of Lobster Hushpuppies with parsley-cilantro salad ($15), wild-but-not-gamey pheasant meatballs with soy-cured egg dip ($15), and irresistible Elk/Foie Gras sliders with blueberry jam ($14). In the second course, don’t miss the spicy bowl of Texas Red beef chili with avocado corn salsa, cheddar, crema and crispy tortilla ($10), or fresh Acorn Squash soup with bacon, crème fraiche, and manchego ($10).
The dozen main courses change regularly, except for the signature Roasted Garlic-Stuffed Beef Tenderloin with salty, spicy, and crunchy Western Plaid Hash, grilled asparagus and Syrah demi-glace ($36 for 6 oz.; $42 for 9 oz.). Other steaks are available, cut by the ounce. The Rabbit Roulade with rabbit pork sausage, basil salad and black garlic ($36) is unique and tasty. The Duck Breast with duck foie gras sausage, corn puree, and pickled pear ($36) is subtle and savory. Elk Loin with Swiss chard, rare Hen of the Woods, salsify, and candied blackberries ($39) echo the tastiness
of the elk sliders.
Notable sides include Crispy Cauliflower in a truffle fondue ($10), and Beet Home Fries with goat cheese and lemon ($8).
The journey is relaxing and full of surprises. The dishes are presented artfully and with occasional touches like shaved Margarita ice atop an amuse bouche.
The celebrity vibe comes with celebrity prices. There’s no getting around that a full culinary journey at Lonesome Dove is pricey. If you want the experience, try having just a first and second course and a side. These are memorable offerings, and the servings are generous.