Dallas Attracts a Flock of Luxury Restaurants

Dallas Attracts a Flock of Luxury Restaurants

The crowds that flock to Highland Park Village crave luxury. At this open-air mall in suburban Dallas, they park their Porsches, carry Yves Saint Laurent handbags, flit in and out of Audemars Piguet, and stop for brunch at Sadelle’s, Major Food’s chic new deli Group in New York.

Sadelle’s has been open for a little over a year, and it’s not uncommon for the place to be packed on a Tuesday afternoon when well-dressed patrons are sipping mimosa and $18 pork in a blanket and $85 latkes with salmon and Eat Osetra caviar. Even the sugar for the coffee is served in Le Creuset’s tiny Dutch ovens.

Dallas has long had a reputation for living big, an image based on oil monies and the vast expanses of ranch land featured in the television series of the same name. But today, the city is experiencing a resurgence of new developments, new residents, new affluence — and a dining scene that’s being beefed up by the arrival of several top-notch national restaurant groups, all eager to feed the party.

These companies are giving Dallas the kind of attention they previously gave to tourist spots like Las Vegas and Miami. In the last two years or so local outposts have been established by STK, RH, Komodo, La Neta Cocina y Lounge and even Nusr-Et, the Salt Bae Steakhouse. Major Food Group opened a branch of its maximalist Italian restaurant Carbone in Dallas last year and says it has even bigger ambitions in the city.

The local rumor mill is buzzing with speculation about the next possible imports — names like Joe’s Stone Crab of Miami (which said it has no such plan) or Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bar (which didn’t respond to requests for comment) and Pastis (it said , these are “preliminary talks” about a room) from New York City.

“I’ve had calls from every single restaurant group in the country,” said Stephen Summers, whose family owns Highland Park Village. He added, “Every group you can think of, from Los Angeles to New York City to international groups, seems to want to be in Dallas.”

The pandemic prompted many Americans to relocate to places like Miami and San Antonio, where the weather was warmer and Covid restrictions were looser.

No city has benefited from this change as much as Dallas. From April 2020 through July 2021, the Dallas-Fort Worth region added approximately 122,000 new residents, more than any other metro area in the country, according to census data. Some demographers predict that Dallas — now the largest metropolitan area in Texas — could overtake Chicago as the country’s third-largest metropolitan area by the 2030s.

Where will these people go to have fun? The Dallas-Fort Worth area doesn’t have beaches, mountains or wonders of the world, but it does have around 15,000 restaurants. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average Dallas household spent a larger portion of its income on dining out in 2022 than households in New York, Miami, or San Francisco.

Like any major city, Dallas suffers from hardship – 17.7 percent of the population lives in poverty – and economic inequality. The area is home to 92,300 millionaires and 18 billionaires, according to a 2022 report by Henley & Partners, a London-based investment firm, in which Dallas is the 18th richest city in the world. Several Fortune 500 companies, including AT&T and American Airlines, have their headquarters in the area.

“You have no idea how fast spending is happening in this market,” said Julie Macklowe, the founder of Macklowe American single malt whiskey, which sells for $350 to $400 a shot at numerous Dallas restaurants. “It’s like the US version of Dubai.”

These upscale chains cater to the city’s super-rich — and those wanting to live like them for a night out. Las Vegas-based restaurant group Blau + Associates recently opened the Crown Block in Dallas’ soaring Reunion Tower, where the seafood tower is $230. The eatery had about 10,000 reservations before it even published a menu.

The three-month-old Dallas branch of La Neta Cocina y Lounge, originally from Las Vegas, is offering a $95 lobster taco served in a cheese-filled tortilla.

Ryan Labbe, the restaurant’s owner, has high hopes for Dallas, where – unlike Las Vegas – a meal isn’t just a pit stop en route to a show or club.

“Dinner in Dallas is your night,” he said.

In Dallas, these companies have also found manageable operating costs. There is no state or local income tax. Rent is cheaper and ingredients are cheaper than in many other major cities, said Matt Winn, partner and chief development officer of Chicago-based Maple Hospitality Group, which owns two Dallas restaurants — Monarch and Kessaku — and plans to open a third, Maple & Ash. It was easier to hire workers and sell extravagant dishes, he said.

At Monarch, “we have a whole king crab that serves eight people and costs $1,000,” Mr. Winn said. Dallas guests “will show up and spend this.”

In a city whose dining scene has often been overshadowed by Houston’s diverse cuisines and Austin’s array of distinctive independent restaurants, many locals appreciate the attention.

“Two Ritz-Carltons are being built here,” said George White, a retired IT salesman who eats out often. “Things happen.”

But a lively dining scene isn’t necessarily interesting, said Brian Reinhart, the food critic at D Magazine, who recently published a list of the city’s 50 best restaurants — and deliberately left out the chain restaurants outside of the city.

“As we head toward a world where fine dining is as interlinked as the simplest fast food,” he said, “it becomes harder for Dallas to maintain any kind of differentiation or culinary character.”

Chain restaurants have always been part of the city’s identity, albeit cheaper ones: Chili’s, On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina, and 7-Eleven all got their start here. The proliferation of these businesses is tarnishing the image of the local dining scene, said Mark Masinter, founder of Open Realty Advisors, which leases properties to Dallas restaurants.

But in recent years, many of the city’s independent restaurants have seen a resurgence, earning national praise. Bon Appétit voted Dallas the 2019 Restaurant City of the Year. Other publications ranked Petra and the Beast and Roots Southern Table among the best in the country. (The Times included Roots in their 2021 list of America’s Favorite Restaurants.)

Sam Romano, who runs local steakhouse Nick & Sam’s, said the influx of out-of-town restaurant groups will continue to raise Dallas’ profile. “With restaurants comes prestige,” he said, citing Major Food Group’s decision to open a satellite of Carbone, one of only four in the United States. “That says something about Dallas.”

A few years ago, Dallas wasn’t even on New York restaurateur Eugene Remm’s radar. At the encouragement of a colleague, he visited in 2021 and was surprised to find full dining rooms every night of the week.

“If there are restaurants that are busy on Mondays and Tuesdays and restaurants within a close two mile radius that can make $17 million to $22 million, there aren’t more than 10 markets that have that type of spend on a more regular basis.” basis.” he said. “That’s what makes it special.”

Next year he plans to open Catch, an upscale seafood and steak restaurant, in the fast-growing Uptown neighborhood.

He used to associate Dallas with “George Bush and cowboy hats,” but then he found out it was more like New York. “People go to membership clubs and have the same Dior store and the same Gucci store and everything is the same.”

Not every national restaurant group succeeds in this. Chef Tom Colicchio closed his craft location in Dallas in 2012. Il Mulino, an Italian import from New York City, closed in 2006 after just two years in business.

Today, Dallas diners are more cosmopolitan, said Candace Nelson, who opened a Sprinkles cupcake shop in 2007 and a Los Angeles branch of Pizzana restaurant in 2022. “They’re thrilled when a concept chooses them from their many travels. City to come to.”

On a Friday night at the Carbone, that excitement was palpable among the guests. Customers in stilettos and suits poured out of Cadillac Escalades throughout the evening. Waiters in crimson uniforms sped through the restaurant with $600 bottles of burgundy and pieces of chocolate cake topped with edible gold.

“People who work here call them captains and they have the equipment,” said Nav Singh, who works in real estate and indulged in his birthday celebration in Carbone. “You’re trying. At a convenience store, it might be a white shirt and black pants.” Compared to the average Dallas restaurant, he said, “this one is more upscale.”

But the boom in out-of-town restaurants was not without losses for the home team.

In 2021, Julian Barsotti, who owned a longtime Dallas restaurant called Carbone’s, sued Carbone for copyright infringement. But it was Mr Barsotti who finally changed the name of his restaurant after striking a deal with Major Food Group.

“If the name meant that much to them, at the end of the day I was more than willing to compromise,” said Barsotti, who said he could not disclose the terms of the deal.

Erin Willis, who recently closed her French restaurant RM 12:20 Bistro in East Dallas, said the big restaurant groups are partly to blame.

“These big corporations that now own all the restaurants can pay for more advertising, they have more money and they’re more luxurious,” she said. “It takes a backseat to small places like me and we can’t survive.”

The outside groups also diluted the city’s culinary diversity, she said.

“Dallas has so much ethnic food, but the corporate side brings so much of it to the metroplex,” she said. “There is no variety. It crowds out people trying to stay true to their culture.”

Teiichi Sakurai runs Tei-An Japanese restaurant downtown, just a short drive from two nationally known sushi restaurants, Nobu and Uchi, which hail from other cities. But Mr. Sakurai said his business has not been affected by the competition.

“Nobu, they have a lot more European dishes with Japanese fish carpaccio style,” he said. “We make handmade soba.”

And the guests in Dallas are loyal, he said. “We’ve had 25-year regulars.” National groups come and go, he said. “They don’t remember names.”

Regino Rojas, who serves dishes from his native Michoacán, Mexico at his restaurants Revolver Taco Lounge and Revolver Gastro Cantina, said upscale chains focus more on creating an atmosphere than serving unique food. His clientele is different, he said.

Additionally, according to Mr. Romano of Nick & Sam’s, Dallas is becoming denser and larger as new developments expand the area of ​​the metropolitan area. If restaurant groups want to set up here, “we have the space and the people for it.”

Is there such a thing as too many restaurants?

“I don’t think it’s enough yet,” he said.

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