Uncommonly Great Food 4

With a reinvented menu, Common Ground near TCU could become your new favorite restaurant.

Proximity to a university or college can serve as a boon to a restaurant or bar. Students provide a readymade and eager clientele, while game days, graduation and other events bring an influx of new patrons — most of whom have standards defined by expediency, rather than quality. It’s easy for “College Standard Bar & Grill” to coast on domestic beers and burgers, with design elements limited to university-themed pennants, posters and flat-panel televisions.

While there’s no reason to discount the fun atmosphere of a traditional college-style bar and grill, the arrival of Common Ground at 3201 S. University Drive has raised the TCU area’s standard for refinement and polish.

The brainchild of Chris Hutchinson, owner of Red Goose, Dagwood’s Grinders and Blue Bar and Grill, Common Ground arrives to stimulate palates and serve the needs of locals and students alike. The ambience and quality of Common Ground’s menu is such that it should lure patrons from outside the neighborhood — and give all of us a reason to visit University outside of game day.

A Fort Worth native and 20-year veteran of the restaurant and bar business, Chris has long had his eye on the TCU area.

“I’ve always wanted to get a spot near the university,” says Chris. “I wanted the chance to do something that was a cross between a college place and a neighborhood place. I heard about this space that the Londoner had started and then bailed on, and reached out and got into it.”

Common Ground first opened in November of 2015. Located at the corner of University and Devitt Street, the bar and restaurant sits just one block south from the busy intersection at West Berry. A well-appointed interior calls to mind an upscale pub, with leaded windows, dark wood and subtle lighting. Such an attractive space deserves the right menu to do it justice. Chris has entrusted this side of the operation to Andrew Derden, an inventive and committed chef with years of experience in upscale dining.

“We lost our first chef to the surprise Christmas gift of his own restaurant,” says Chris. “He took over the lease for something and left suddenly, and we lost a little direction from January to February. I brought in Andrew in early April, and he’s quickly gotten it back on the right track.”

For Andrew, the right track means a high-caliber menu, top-quality ingredients and a tightly run kitchen. This attention to detail makes sense when you consider that Andrew’s first experience as a professional cook came in the Navy, where he prepared officers’ meals in the kitchen of an aircraft carrier. Andrew’s first civilian gig was at Fort Worth’s Glade Chop House, and he’s also done stints at Reata, Grace, Brownstone, Stephan Pyles, and Driftwood.

“I love to make food, I love to make people happy, and with cooking I can knock out both those things at once,” says Andrew. “At Common Ground, everything’s fresh now. I get a lot of things from local farms, and I utilize Chef’s Produce, almost 100 percent of which is non-GMO.”

With Andrew’s arrival, Common Ground’s sojourn in the culinary wilderness came to an abrupt end. Patrons can now find upscale dishes of a quality and variety not previously found in the university area. For example, a dinner patron could enjoy a USA wild caught fish presented with a carrot puree, roasted beets, turnip chips and a cilantro gremolata. For an appetizer, you could enjoy a selection of house-made pickled vegetables, or a watermelon salad with cucumber, shaved onion, bleu cheese and dressing.

“The approach I want to have for the area is elevated food,” says Andrew. “Here you can get dishes similar to what you’d expect downtown, made with the same ingredients, from the same purveyors — we just don’t charge as much. For the college students, we have a lot of burgers and comforting dishes, and they’re all elevated.”

If you haven’t yet tried Common Ground, you’ll want to get in before the rush. Visit them on Facebook to learn about the latest social media specials and promotions. In the near future, this surefire neighborhood favorite plans to host live music Thursday through Saturday.

“We strive to appeal not just to the students, but to young professionals and the local crowd,” says Chris Hutchinson. “We welcome everyone, and we know that it’s our neighborhood that will sustain us through the upcoming years.”