Chef Doug Adams in the kitchen at Bullard

Doug Adams is more than his fried chicken. You have to feel for the man, who vaulted to food TV name-check in 2014 as a contestant on Top Chef with a dynamite plate of Texas-inspired fried chicken, served with watermelon pickles, jalapeño jelly, and a drizzle of honey. When rabid fans visited him at Imperial, where he was executive chef under Vitaly Paley until 2016, you can guess what they wanted: stout, bearded, TV personality Doug Adams and that damn fried chicken.

Jump-cut to 2019: Adams waited two years for the opening of downtown’s Woodlark Hotel, where he’d signed on to run Bullard, named for his East Texas hometown. At his much-hyped opus, fried chicken is on the menu (Sundays only), but Adams has finally crawled out from the reality-TV pigeonhole and into his own brand of Texas meat-craft.

Bullard’s Lone Star–meets–Beaver State cooking centers on the smoker, which sits in the Woodlark’s basement eating a steady diet of Oregon white oak. Massive beef ribs and San Antonio chicken both get the treatment, sided by heaps of tomatillo salsa and chewy, near-transparent Sonora-style flour tortillas. Bring a crew to tackle the smoked pork belly, tucked, bo ssam–style, into lettuce and sided by devilish Calabrian chile dip and the best griddled corn bread in the city, bar none.

In a year where monied boutique hotels are popping up faster than Uber can haul tourists from the airport, each flaunting its own marquee restaurant and local chef bona fides, Bullard breaks from the pack with a rock-solid point of view and unexpected flavors that goose hotel standards.

Despite its spartan aesthetic (Bullard’s sister bar, Abigail Hall, seems to have all the looks—and the better burger), Bullard is our best hotel restaurant right now. Even during sleepy brunch hours, when it’s just you and a jet-lagged family surrounded by concrete and a few antlers, the heart-stopping “loaded hash browns” with heaps of Texas red—chile-stewed brisket—sour cream, guac, and a runny egg over the greasy-fried spuds are ample distraction. If this is the real-life Doug Adams, off-screen and unedited, sign us up. 813 SW Alder St

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