It’s not often that you find vegetable greens growing just paces from a golf green. It’s all part of chef Nick Baker’s ambitious plan to elevate the cooking at Old American Golf Club,
a difficult, relatively new 18 hole track on the shores of Lake Lewisville.
Baker, who previously managed F&B operations at Bridlewood Golf Club, Great Wolf Lodge and has experience as a private chef, recently joined the Old American team with a mission to elevate the small grill into a full-blown restaurant that will attract customers beyond the usual golfing crowd. Very few chefs have such resolve. Even fewer golf courses.
To that end, Baker planted a large garden behind the clubhouse and set up a grill and smoker on the restaurant’s back porch. One recent afternoon, Baker’s Big Green Egg was smoking four racks of ribs, the garden was flush with bushels of squash, dozens of herbs, hearty tomato plants and a row of recently harvested corn. Peppers will go in soon. He’s committed to building a menu that belongs to the seasons and the earth and the garden.
“I’ll grow all my produce if I can,” Baker told me. “I plan to change our menu every couple or three months depending on what’s growing in the garden. After all, what’s more Old American than cooking from your own garden?” The restaurant has the kind of casual, make-yourself-at-home feel you’d find in a small town diner, with a bare bones decor to match. This isn’t fancy dining. But if you’re looking for a good value, you won’t find much that’s more fairly priced or carefully crafted than Baker’s.
Among the sure-handed items on Baker’s one-page menu: three thick lobster sliders, chock full of tender meat and just a bit of mayo and celery, plus a naan flatbread sandwich filled with grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil ($8). Baker’s simple burger ($8) is also terrific, made from dry aged beef he sources from Pat Lafreida Meats in NYC. Recent dinner specials included paprika-dusted red snapper with lime-cilantro butter ($16), smoked pepper-crusted steaks ($15) and crab claws sautéed with garlic, white wine and herbs ($15).
Out back, behind the kitchen and the cart barn, Baker grills and smokes thick racks of pork ribs, steaks, briskets and peppers. To accommodate demand from golfers wanting a to pick up a quick lunch at the turn, Old American plans a dedicated grill and outdoor kitchen by the adjacent No. 10 green.
The two big drawbacks to sending you there tonight is that the restaurant is only open for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. The other is that Baker’s F2T menu doesn’t have more F2T on it, though a bountiful garden in Dallas is ephemeral. To paraphrase food writer Alan Richman, a garden is not a grocery store, awaiting a call from the chef.
Even so, a casual supper at Old American on Friday or Saturday nights can be a good bet. The sun sets behind the clubhouse, which means evenings on the patio are shaded and a cool breeze off Lake Lewisville keeps the temperature comfortable, or at least tolerable.
“I didn’t want to come in here and raise prices,” says Baker. “You don’t have to be a member to eat here. We want to deliver great value and be a place that locals can hang out, regardless of whether they play golf or not.”
1001 Lebanon Rd, The Colony, Texas; (972) 370-4653