Denton’s fine-dining category doubled a few days ago when celebrity chef Tim Love opened Queenie’s Steakhouse, the city’s first fancy steakhouse, located a block off the courthouse square. Honoring his mama by applying her family nickname to the joint, Love has brought some of his signature dishes and a couple of intriguing new ones to Queenie’s.
Last Friday night we watched an animated crowd pack the 65-seat dining room and 35-seat bar, with more than a few well-dressed patrons table-hopping as they spotted friends here and there. In other words, it looks like Hannah’s, the longtime Denton destination when you wanted a good hanger steak and a glass of fine red, no longer stands alone as the special-occasion place in town.
Queenie’s is only open three days a week (at least for now), and the menu is shorter than those at most Love restaurants. Still, it’s big enough for him to push the envelope. From the section labeled “First,” we nabbed the spicy lobster salad, inspired by his travels in the Caribbean. The simple salad is a mingling of chunks of fresh, cool lobster, chopped tomato and onion, minced scotch bonnet chile, and a generous squeeze of lime.
From the “Second” options, we tucked into a dish of ricotta gnocchi dressed in a tomatoey sauce that includes the famous, or possibly infamous, sausage (minced rattlesnake, rabbit and fennel) that is a staple on Love’s menu at Lonesome Dove, located in the Fort Worth Stockyards district. We skipped the monster Wagyu tomahawk steak for two, choosing instead the New York strip, judiciously cloaked in coarse salt and cracked peppercorns and served with a small selection of sauces, including a garlic demi and a cilantro pesto.
We also did a vegetarian course and were wowed by the massive, roasted poblano chile with a filling of diced sweet potato and caramelized red onion and a topping of melted fontina cheese. Sitting atop a pool of corn puree and smooth black beans, it’s not just an afterthought, which is often the case with veggie dishes. A side of roasted hen of the woods and cremini mushrooms added another level of texture and flavor to both steak and chile dishes.
“I’ve always wanted to do a straight-up, quality steakhouse in Denton,” says Love, who was raised in Denton by Margaret “Queenie” Love, who continues to reside there. “The time was finally right. We got a little criticism for doing high-end in a college town, but it looks like it’s working.”
We’re inclined to agree, and are likely to return, Interstate 35 traffic be damned. It’s only 30-ish miles north of Dallas and Fort Worth. Besides, we need to check out his pheasant confit “chop” and that crazy fried whole lobster. If the crowd continues to grow, we’ll just sip martins and dine at the community table in the bar, where a jazz band from nearby UNT plays, like the locals seem to enjoy doing. The setting is quite pleasant, and you’d never guess it had been the location of his Love Shack burger joint. The exterior is wrapped in strips of wood and metal for a contemporary style, and wife Emilie Love warmed up the interior with draperies suspended from thick rails; heavy, soft-leather seating; and small candles (real ones, not the ridiculous LED kind) and plentiful fresh flowers on the tables.
Appetizers range from $6 to $12; main courses are $24 to $58, with the tomahawk for two $85. Bar. 115 E. Hickory, Denton (940-442-6834). Lunch Fri only 11:30–2:30. Dinner Thur–Sat 4:30–midnight.