You can't have a wall of country queens and honky tonk cowboys without Alan Jackson in his mullet days. Mama Tried is a honky tonky now open in Deep Ellum.

You can't have a wall of country queens and honky tonk cowboys without Alan Jackson in his mullet days. Mama Tried is a honky tonky now open in Deep Ellum.

Ben Torres/Special Contributor

A few years ago, Dallas bar owner Brooke Humphries couldn't have named a single Alan Jackson song. She didn't know anything about current cowboys Sturgill Simpson or Turnpike Troubadours, either. Or care.

But a trip to Gruene Hall more than a year ago changed her mind. Humphries, not a beer drinker, ordered a Shiner and watched the historic Texas dance hall pulse with energy during a Cody Jinks concert in 2016. In a single evening, Humphries decided she liked country music.

Opposite this fenced-in outdoor area at Mama Tried is a shipping container that serves as a bar.

Opposite this fenced-in outdoor area at Mama Tried is a shipping container that serves as a bar.

Ben Torres/Special Contributor

"Country music, if you see it in the right environment? There's nothing like it," she says.

She just opened Mama Tried Honky Tonk, a new country music venue, outdoor patio, restaurant and dance hall in Deep Ellum. Consider it the big-haired, boots-wearing addition to Humphries' portfolio, which is now pretty eclectic, since she also owns arcade bar Barcadia, retro nightclub Beauty Bar and dance club It'll Do. She operates a burger place called Pints & Quarts and growing coffee shop Mudsmith, too.

A long bar, running the length of Mama Tried, invites country-music fans to sit down with a cold one. Then maybe saunter to the back and gaze at a wall crammed with photos of country queens like Dolly Parton and The Judds. Out on the patio, a 40-foot-long shipping container doubles as an outdoor bar when the weather is pleasant enough.

Humphries plans to offer ticketed concerts featuring some of the country-western names she's become obsessed with, like William Clark Green, who takes the stage Aug. 3. But otherwise, it's open to barflies jonesing to hear a song or two by George Jones over the speakers. (He's "the [expletive] master of it all," Humphries has decided.)

In the same way Humphries is a new classic country fan, her chef is new to Southern cooking.

Bless her heart: Roe DiLeo grew up in New Jersey and had never eaten a pimento sandwich until Humphries and her team asked if she'd consider adding one to Mama Tried's menu. DiLeo is the food director for all of Humphries' companies and has lived in Texas for 12 years; she's spent months creating a menu for Texans to enjoy. 

Chef Roe DiLeo's pimento cheese sandwich comes on Texas toast she slices herself. "I couldn't find Texas toast thick enough otherwise," she says.

Chef Roe DiLeo's pimento cheese sandwich comes on Texas toast she slices herself. "I couldn't find Texas toast thick enough otherwise," she says.

Tom Fox/Staff Photographer

"There's nothing I want more than a big country boy in the front of this bar with a turkey leg in one hand and a Coors Light in the other," says DiLeo, who lives in Deep Ellum. Just don't expect a burger or barbecue on her menu: "There's a lot we can do here without doing barbecue and burgers," she says. Especially since Pecan Lodge is around the corner.

One of the items on the menu is DiLeo's pimento cheese sandwich, which comes encased in giant slices of Texas toast. She cheffed up the traditional pimento cheese recipe a bit by using aged cheddar and Duke's mayo.

Humphries seems pleased with her new place -- and with her new country-music habit, which has taken her to Nashville seven times in a year and a half.

"If I do something, I do it all the way," Humphries says.

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