A Scene to be SeenApr 01, 2017 ● By Amy Richmond
Apparently, we were a few months late in getting the memo. Arriving at 5:50 p.m. on a Sunday evening, my husband and I thought we would be beating the rush. We were surprised to see a crowd already forming, and were even more surprised at the projected 30-minute wait to be seated. The popularity of the place was immediately understood.
54th Street Grill and Bar is bustling with activity, so there was no lack of entertainment while we waited. The Blues Brothers were the first sighting, behind the hostess station. Angelina Jolie and Elvis Presley were hanging out together in an interior room. An elephant’s head towered over a table of diners, while an ice cream cycle suspended its treats above others. Only after backing into a life-sized carved bear did we realize a motorcycle had been hanging over our heads the entire time. The eclectic assortment of décor is a sampling of life, hanging from the walls.
No pomp and circumstance exist here, just the energetic vibe and vigor of casual life. While the décor renders representation of our existence in still life, the bar and back patio radiate life in real time through modern flat screen televisions and a bar scene that is spiked with activity.
Cleverly positioned glass walls create invisible barriers to the noise of the bar and the kitchen, yet still leave the space feeling open and inviting. Refreshingly, no flat screen televisions exist in the main dining area — a rarity in today’s casual dining destinations. There is no need for them. One’s eyes can hardly take in all the décor during a meal, and conversations abound at every table. Goodness knows there are enough conversation starters in the room!
After opening our menus, we realized the experience had only just begun. 54th Street has more than 150 items on their menu, with prices ranging from $7.99 to $19.99, and selections include soups, salads, sandwiches, barbecue, burgers, pasta, seafood, steaks, Mexican food and more. My mind wanders to think what it must take to achieve that selection behind the scenes. Seth, our server, had an impressive grasp of the company’s history and logistics. According to him, 20 cooks descend on 54th Street at 4 a.m. every morning to prepare each menu item from scratch, including their honey wheat bread and hamburger buns. The level of pride in preparation and presentation is palpable.
With so many choices, the task of choosing an entrée was daunting, but enticing. The menu creates a magnetic pull to come back and try more.
Ultimately, we decided on two Five Four Favorites, including the Coyote Chicken ($13.49) and the Grilled Chicken and Rice ($12.49) for our entrees. We ordered the new Tater Kegs appetizer ($6.99) at the high recommendation of our server.
While savoring honey wheat bread topped with honey butter, we noticed cellphones seem to have taken a back seat. Everyone was engaged in vibrant conversation. Laughter rang through the metal pedal cars and bounced off Iron Man. Celebrities smile down at the crowd with approval. This is how casual dining should be experienced. Scratch-made meals shared with engaging conversation are the ingredients for lasting memories. 54th Street taps into what you do not realize you are missing during a meal out, and it has led to overwhelming success.
Opening in Frisco in December 2016, 54th Street has seen a stream of steady crowds. In fact, the 54th Street Frisco location set a record one Saturday with 11 hours of non-stop wait times.
After only a few months at the Frisco location, there are already plans to open two additional locations in Lewisville and The Colony. The concept is spreading and the crowds are following like paparazzi. Years ago, in Kansas City, Mo., the script for the production started with Thomas E. Norsworthy’s vision for “a place that would appeal to both dining and bar customers, but also offer the quality food and drinks that exceed national chain competitors.” Each location fulfills the Five Four Promise to “forever uphold the tradition of serving generous portions of house-made food and drinks at an honest price.”
We had almost consumed our entire loaf of honey wheat bread, which had not taken long, when our Tater Kegs appetizer arrived. Those pearls of potato goodness taunted us as they cooled. Was it worth the wait? Goodness, yes! Our server’s recommendation was spot-on. Mouth-watering potatoes wrapped a hidden treasure of bacon, cheddar cheese and chives inside. Dipped in ranch dressing, the combination was addictive and should be considered a required preamble to your next meal. I say this because I already know you are going. There is too much to be missed if you do not!
Just as we finished the last of the Tater Kegs and felt a twinge of regret at their hasty disappearance, our entrees arrived on the scene. Grilled chicken draped with Colby jack cheese and topped with mushrooms, peppers and onions, were positioned seductively on a bed of fluffy wild garden rice, while steamy vegetables and pineapples paraded their bare goodness. The Coyote Chicken, similarly dressed, immediately followed in the procession, accompanied by a loaded baked potato and an entourage of steamed vegetables. This chicken was sophisticated with an intriguing flair of spice. Internal applause rang in our ears as the show approached its finale much too quickly.
For dessert, we were torn on how to write the ending. Should we select a typical conclusion of all-American apples or an upscale brownie with ice cream? With guilty grins, we decided on both the Cinnamon Apple Crisp ($5.99) and the Salted Caramel and Chocolate Brownie ($5.99). While often found on other menus, these desserts were akin to an unassuming actress who astonishes with her technique and ability to draw you into the action. Indeed, all sense of reality was completely lost during consumption.
The Cinnamon Apple Crisp held an element of surprise with its gingered apples. The sweet gooey goodness of the chocolate brownie, contrasted by a salty pretzel crust, topped with caramel and robustly supported with vanilla ice cream, was almost too much to bear. Almost. Somehow, not one bite was left behind. As reality started to set back in, we leaned back and realized we had been drawn in by a master of the craft. Every bite was distinctly fresh and flavorful. The entire experience was entertaining and invigorating. We left more than satisfied, yet still hungry for more.
54th Street Grill and Bar is located at 9449 Dallas Parkway in Frisco. Check out the full menu at 54thstreetgrill.com.