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Commons Club in San Francisco | Patricia Chang/ESF

Plus, more Dallas dining intel

Welcome to AM Intel, a (mostly) daily round-up of easily digestible Dallas dining details that every local needs to know. Looking for more intel about where to eat and drink in the Big D? Sign up for Eater Dallas’s newsletter, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Virgin Hotels announces Dallas restaurant details

When Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotels Dallas makes its debut in the Design District later this year, it will be home to a restaurant, a bar, and a coffee shop. Per CultureMap, the hotel will be home to an outpost of the chain’s ritzy restaurant Commons Club, which opened in San Francisco earlier this year with dishes like grain bowls and wild mushroom tortelloni.

Also in the works for the hotel is the Pool Club, a self-explanatory rooftop bar with a pool, and Funny Library, a coffee shop that serves cups of joe brewed with fair-trade beans. No opening date for Virgin Hotels Dallas has been set yet, but it’s expected to arrive by the end of the year.

Twisted Root leaves SMU Boulevard

After 10 years near the campus of Southern Methodist University, Dallas-born burger joint Twisted Root has officially closed its doors. According to GuideLive, the lease for the restaurant’s space at 5609 SMU Boulevard was up, and owner Jason Boso decided not to renew because his company “didn’t think it was a good business decision to sign up for another 10 years on a street that isn’t what it used to be.”

Frank goes on hiatus

Dallas underground pop-up dinner series Frank is officially on hiatus. The collaboration between MasterChef competitors Jennie Kelley, Ben Starr, and Adrien Nieto is set to serve its final dinner “for a while” on July 29, according to the Dallas Observer. Over the past seven years, Frank has earned a reputation as one of the city’s most compelling dining experiences thanks to dozens of breathlessly positive reviews on platforms like Yelp.

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A bounty of colorful bowls at Malibu Poke | Kathy Tran

The fast-casual star’s obsessive attention to detail plays a major role in its success

From the beginning, it was clear to Jon Alexis that the poke trend was never going to last. As local shops and California-based chains alike made their way into DFW, the longtime owner of TJ’s Seafood saw that the mediocre quality of these raw fish bowls made the rash of poke bowl chains that infiltrated the city over the past few years unsustainable.

“We knew that garbage poke was never going to last as a fad,” Alexis says. “But good poke is always going to be appealing. Poke checks so many boxes for what diners want today, and we knew that by doing it well, it would survive the short life cycle of the poke trend.” Thus Malibu Poke, Eater Dallas’s 2018 casual restaurant of the year, was born, and it was an instant hit.

That attention to detail, and diners’ continuing obsession with healthy meals that are quick to eat and easy to customize, have resulted in much more rapid growth for Malibu Poke than Alexis and his investors originally intended. The first opened in Dallas in September of 2017, and it didn’t happen quickly. “We ran into all of the unsexy parts of running a restaurant. Paperwork, landlords, another restaurateur found out they had first right of refusal on the space right before we were about to start,” Alexis says. “It was just a bunch of crazy nonsense.”

Not long after the first Dallas location of Malibu Poke opened in Oak Lawn, the “world’s most incredible location,” according to Alexis, became available in Downtown Austin’s Seaholm District. “It’s a little easier to expand when you have a fan base,” Alexis says. “We had customers in Austin who were really excited to eat at Malibu Poke on day one. It’s easy to open three restaurants in 18 months when people are that excited. Otherwise we would’ve run out of money really quickly.”

The third outpost, at McKinney and Olive in Uptown Dallas, opened in spring 2019. This rapid clip of expansion is especially surprising considering Alexis’s first restaurant, TJ’s Seafood, expanded gradually, and only after earning a truly devoted crowd of regulars. Long before Malibu Poke was even a thought, Alexis’s family purchased the original Preston Hollow location in 1999, and he worked in the restaurant before buying the restaurant from his parents. A second location opened in Highland Park in 2012, and in 2014, the original TJ’s Seafood moved to a bigger, more modern home in Preston Royal Village.

After running two full-service restaurants (and their accompanying fish markets), Alexis found operating Malibu Poke to be a completely different experience. “Quick-service restaurants are cool in that they allow us to just focus on the the things that matter,” he says. “When I walk into Malibu, all I care about is that the food comes out fast, it’s really fresh, and the space is clean and hospitable. It’s much more focused, and there are fewer variables.”

The business model also offered Alexis a significant advantage when it came to one of the restaurant industry’s most pervasive problems: staffing. As restaurants in Dallas and beyond struggle to hire qualified staff, Alexis has the ability to pull workers from one of his other four restaurants in Dallas. “I see the same people multiple times a day in different restaurants. My AM prep cook at Malibu Poke is my lead line cook at TJ’s,” Alexis says. “Everybody in the restaurant business has three jobs, and everyone wants to work 100 hours a week. We can’t give people 100 hour weeks with just one restaurant, but with three we can. I’m sharing our staff amongst our managers, not other restaurateurs, and that gives us flexibility.”

And then, of course, there is the poke. Using impossibly fresh fish sourced from top-notch purveyors and recipes created by James Beard Award-nominated chef Matt McCallister, Malibu Poke’s bowls go far beyond the traditional ahi tuna poke dressed in soy. Chunks of hamachi are tossed in bonito aioli or coconut curry sauce; cooked shrimp is dressed in tropical chimichurri; vegan tofu bowls are slathered in wasabi ponzu.

And, as of a few months ago, there is chicken. It’s cooked, of course, and served in the same style as the raw fish. The addition of chicken to the menu was a result of customer demand, though Alexis had been trying to figure out how to prepare raw fish and raw chicken safely in the restaurant’s small kitchen. “People were asking us for chicken, and we found a way to do a completely organic chicken that we felt was the same quality as the fish,” Alexis says. “But we had to be really careful, and have our operations dialed into a point where I had really trusted staff who knew how to handle all of the ingredients safely.”

Weirdly, though, the most important menu innovation since Malibu Poke’s debut has been the addition of a “medium” sized bowl. Originally, there were only two options on offer — small and large — neither of which really hit the mark for the perfect sized lunch. Thus, the medium, which combines the amount of fish in a large bowl with the amount of rice in a small bowl, was born. “Everyone congratulated us when we added it, saying it was such a smart idea,” Alexis says. “But no, I’m an idiot. A smart person would’ve put it on the menu from day one.”

Self-deprecation aside, this obsessive attention to detail and quality is why Malibu Poke continues to thrive, even as poke shops across the city close their doors. Even though Malibu Poke is, inherently, a fast-casual restaurant, both the vibe and the price point are a little more upscale than the typical quick lunch spot. There’s nice glasses of wine, rose gold tableware, and glass bowls instead of plastic. It’s intended to feel more like a sit-down restaurant than a quick place to grab a bowl of raw fish.

Now that Malibu Poke is on solid footing, Alexis and his team are looking to dial in their operations further, even as they field offers from landlords and property developers to open additional locations of Malibu Poke. “If a landlord isn’t giving us what we need to make Malibu Poke successful, we don’t have to say yes,” he says. “Landlords are difficult, and we want to grow because we want to, not because we have to do it to survive.”

Still, he isn’t ruling out the idea of future Malibu Poke locations. “To do the quality that we want, we can’t put a Malibu Poke on every corner. We don’t want to grow that fast or big,” he says. “Right now, there are more neighborhoods that would like a Malibu Poke than there are neighborhoods that have one. Until we run out of people asking for one in their neighborhood, I think we’re still good.”

This is the third in a series of occasional features on Eater’s 2018 Eater Awards winners. Stay tuned for the next installment.

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The Biscuit Bar/Facebook

The Plano-born restaurant has four new outposts in the works

The Plano original The Biscuit Bar is poised to takeover DFW with four new locations planned for the coming year inside the metroplex and a fifth set for West Texas.

Originally started at The Boardwalk at Granite Park in 2018, the news comes on the heels of The Biscuit Bar opening a second location near SMU just months ago. The booming fast-casual eatery features a variety of house-made sweet and savory biscuits sandwiches like a hot chocolate biscuit smothered in “chocolate gravy”; a Monte Cristo variety with ham, smoked turkey, and jack cheese; and a biscuit featuring Nashville-style hot chicken, pickles, and ranch dressing, to name a few of the many options. Craft cocktails, local beer, cold brew coffee, and kombucha are also offered on tap.

Diners can expect The Biscuit Bar’s standout sandwiches to pop-up in the following places:

  • Deep Ellum at the forthcoming mixed-use residential, hotel, and office tower called The Epic, located at 2550 Pacific Avenue. This location promises late-night hours to cater to the Deep Ellum post-bar crowds.
  • Fort Worth at the Stockyards’ Mule Alley, which is currently undergoing construction and will boast a hotel, shops, restaurants, and a live music destination.
  • Arlington at Champion’s Park overlooking AT&T Stadium and Globe Life Park. The 3,000 square-foot location will feature a two-story patio and tons of TVs perfect for game watching.
  • Coppell at 104 S. Denton Tap Road in the suburban community close to DFW Airport. This small city is taking off as a dining destination with the Cypress Waters development located on its south border, which is welcoming handfuls of Dallas’s beloved eateries.
  • Abilene in a joint venture with Abilene Christian University, a new “lifestyle village” at Allen Ridge will offer retail and residences in addition to eateries.

Stay tuned for official updates on The Biscuit Bar’s impending DFW arrivals, including opening dates and hours of operation.

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Photo by Annie Wells/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Sweet conchas, crunchy raspberry taquitos, and so many more pastries await

Fundamental to Mexican, South, and Central American cuisine, panaderias serve some of the city’s best baked goods. Some of these bakeries are entirely devoted to fresh breads and pastries, while others double as pastelerias, making and decorating cakes for special events like quinceañeras, weddings and birthdays.

Whatever the occasion, these 10 panaderias in Dallas serve perfect pan dulce, expertly-decorated cakes, and so much more. Go forth, and feast on pastry.

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A rendering of the Hall Arts Hotel | Hall Arts Hotel/Facebook

Expect Napa-style eats when Ellie’s debuts at the Hall Arts Hotel

Ellie’s, a new restaurant planned for the ritzy Hall Arts Hotel in the Dallas Arts District, will have Oprah Winfrey’s former private chef leading the kitchen.

Eric Dreyer, who also spent time as executive chef at Fearing’s in Uptown, will helm the kitchen at Ellie’s, set to open inside the Hall Arts Hotel at 1717 Leonard Street later this year. According to a press release, Dreyer will serve up a menu of Napa-inspired fare, which makes sense considering that his most recent job was serving as executive chef at Winfrey’s Montecito mansion, Promised Land.

Named for the mother of Craig Hall, who owns the Hall Arts Hotel, Ellie’s sounds a lot like any other farm-to-table focused spot that’s opened in recent years. No details on the menu have been made available just yet, but the restaurant will source its produce from local farms and serve seasonally appropriate dishes.

It’s interesting that Hall would hire a man as executive chef, if only because when the restaurant was announced, it boasted a “mission to empower strong women.” The restaurant has hired hospitality industry veteran Bhuvanesh Khanna, also a man, to serve as general manager at Ellie’s, and it’s unclear how exactly the restaurant plans to empower any strong women if it doesn’t hire them into leadership positions.

The Hall Arts Hotel is expected to arrive sometime this fall. Stay tuned for an official opening date.

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Courtesy 77 Degrees

77 Degrees will have four decks serving resort-inspired booze and eats

A super trendy rooftop bar that hails from Austin will bring its sleek skyline views to Knox-Henderson next month.

77 Degrees is set to debut its four-tiered rooftop layout at 2107 N Henderson Avenue in a 13,000-square-foot space. According to a press release, 77 Degrees is designed “to evoke rum-soaked evenings in the Caribbean or tequila-fueled nights at a coastal resort in Mexico.” To that end, designers have dreamt up resort-inspired furnishings like cabanas and swings that are done up in a neutral color palette with white accents and electric pops of color via the lighting.

Drinks will obviously be in keeping with the tropical theme. Offerings include Norman’s Cay with several types of flavored rum, coconut water, and lime; Loca Chica served in Topo Chico bottles with Patron Silver, pineapple, and lime; and Chingon! with Illegal Joven Mezcal tequila, Cazadores Reposado tequila, lime, agave, jalapeno, and ginger — all cocktails are $12. For food, 77 Degrees offers a tapas-style menu of tacos, pineapple bowls, and an assortment of dips and light bites like pulled pork tacos, guacamole, and Gulf Coast ceviche.

Later this year, 77 Degrees’ sibling concept will move into Knox-Henderson also — expect Jack & Ginger’s Irish pub to take up residence below 77 Degrees. 77 Degrees officially opens in August, hours of operation will be Monday through Friday 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday and Sunday 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.

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7 Leaves Cafe brings tea, coffee, macarons, and more to Frisco Ranch

7 Leaves Cafe, a cozy Asian teahouse known for its specialty drinks, will open its doors in Frisco this week.

The cafe is the newest addition to Frisco Ranch at 9292 Warren Parkway, a development that’s positively bustling with exciting new Asian dining and dessert establishments. 7 Leaves got its start in Southern California, and has since expanded to more than dozen locations across California, Nevada, and Texas. The first Texas outpost arrived in early 2019, when 7 Leaves opened a cafe in Houston’s Chinatown.

The menu at 7 Leaves Cafe boasts a lengthy list of coffee, tea, and juice-based drinks, ranging from the classic jasmine milk tea to hand-squeezed passionfruit juice. Teas can be garnished with chewy tapioca pearls, aloe vera jelly, custard pudding, and “sea cream,” a whipped topping spiked with sea salt. Eight different flavors of macarons are also on offer, in flavors like Earl Grey and salted caramel.

7 Leaves Cafe will celebrate its arrival with an over-the-top grand opening party on Saturday, July 20, starting at 11 a.m.

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12 Cuts Steakhouse is en route to North Dallas

Next month, Brazilian steakhouse 12 Cuts will open its doors in the space formerly occupied by yet another shuttered churrascaria.

Signage is up on the space at 18010 Dallas Parkway, formerly home to ritzy Brazilian steakhouse Rafain, which closed its doors back in April. It joins the crowded scene of Brazilian steak-focused spots in North Dallas and Addison, including outposts of major chains Fogo de Chao and Texas de Brazil.

Much like its predecessor, 12 Cuts will serve Brazilian-style cuts of Prime beef, a bountiful salad bar packed with organic veggies, and cocktails to wash down the endless parade of meats. Menu details have not been made available just yet, but Eater has reached out for more insight into what will be on offer.

12 Cuts Steakhouse is set to make its debut sometime in August. Stay tuned for an official opening date and more details on this forthcoming steakhouse’s menu.

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Hungry Belly took over Mamasan Poke’s former spot

A new spot for sushi, noodles, bento boxes, and more just debuted in East Dallas this week.

Hungry Belly threw open its doors in the space formerly occupied by Mamasan House of Poke at 2818 N Fitzhugh Avenue. The space features the the same general layout as the previous tenant, with a large angular patio out front that offers table-and-chair and lounge seating. Inside, diners will find industrial chic interiors with warm wood accents and mural art on the white-washed walls.

According to a menu posted on Door Dash, Hungry Belly offers a very extensive list of Asian-inspired eats. Think small bites like kimchi or pork belly-topped fries, beef and shrimp gyoza, baby octopus salad, and miso soup; tons of noodle dishes including ramen and udon varieties; fried rice options; bento boxes; and Asian-inspired burgers and tacos. Then there are whole menu sections devoted to Korean delicacies like barbecue and bibimbap and a wide assortment of sushi rolls and sashimi. According to photos posted to its Instagram account, Hungry Belly also appears to have a full bar. No word yet on what kind of specialty cocktails are on offer.

Hungry Belly is now open and serving food from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. daily.

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Plus, more DFW dining intel

Welcome to AM Intel, a daily round-up of easily digestible Dallas dining details that every local needs to know. Looking for more intel about where to eat and drink in the Big D? Sign up for Eater Dallas’snewsletter, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

A new spot for healthy eats heads to Richardson

A fledgling fast-casual chain Coolgreens is bringing its healthy eats to Richardson’s CityLine development this fall. The Oklahoma-based eatery already operates a DFW location in Southlake. Diners will find Caesar salad, pesto chicken and salmon club sandwiches, kale quinoa bowls, and Southwestern flatbread with chicken, black beans, corn, and roasted poblano peppers.

Windmill Lounge is getting a revamp

The no-frills dive bar on Maple Avenue in the Medical District will soon be revamped into M.D. Tavern, a play on the initials of its locale and many of its clientele. The new owners, who also own the Ivy Tavern on Lemmon Avenue, bought Windmill Lounge in 2017. They promise to keep the tavern feel, but they’ll serve food and open in time for lunch. Diners can expect burgers, sandwiches, and Southern dishes including boudin balls, as well as upgrades to the patio, interiors, and more TVs for game day, CultureMap reports.

A Pokemon-themed bar heads to Dallas

Apparently, Pokemon fervor has not died down — a bar devoted to the anime empire is headed to the Dallas area this January, reports GuideLive. The Poke Bar is embarking on a tour of North America and Europe with food, booze, interactive games, and “card battles” in tow. Tickets range $35 to $55 per person in other cities with a Pokemon-themed burger and drink included. No word yet on how much it will cost to gain access to the in-person Pokemon experience in Dallas, but those interested can check out the pop-up’s website for updates.

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