Party's Over

Dallas restaurateurs weather a year of many valleys, few peaks

Italian also displayed resilience with eccolo Ristorante and enoteca opening in the former Toscana spot and Patrick Colombo's Ferré opening in the new West Village. Down the street on McKinney Avenue, Espartaco Borga opened La Duni Latin Café.

Extensions also dotted the landscape, more so than new openings. Mico Rodriguez's restaurant machine opened a dazzling new Mercury in the Shops of Willow Bend in Plano. Jeanie Terrilli expanded her Greenville Avenue namesake to Frisco with Terrilli's Sauce. Joel Lebovitz, founder of the Thomas Avenue Beverage Company, opened a more upscale operation called 2900 Thomas Avenue across the street from TABC. Franki's Lil' Europe founders Franki and Gabriela Kovacic launched Cafe Lago, while Rock Fish Seafood Grill founder Bill Bayne left that company and opened Half Shells Seafood Grill in Grapevine.

Perhaps the most significant opening this past year was also one of the smallest and least dramatic--at least on the outside. Longtime Dallas chef Sharon Hage purchased the aging York St. and infused it not only with fresh blood but soulful elegance.

Restaurant consultant Matthew Mabel says economic cycles finally caught up with irrational exuberance in 2001.
Judy Walgren
Restaurant consultant Matthew Mabel says economic cycles finally caught up with irrational exuberance in 2001.

Location Info


Nana (in the Hilton Anatole Hotel)

2201 Stemmons Frwy
Dallas, TX 75207

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Downtown & Deep Ellum

Perry's Steakhouse & Grille

2000 McKinney Ave.
Dallas, TX 75201

Category: Restaurant > Steakhouse

Region: Uptown & Oak Lawn

La Duni Latin Cafe

4620 McKinney Ave.
Dallas, TX 75205

Category: Restaurant > South American

Region: Park Cities

Rockfish Seafood Grill

4701 W. Park Blvd., Ste. 105
Plano, TX 75093-2326

Category: Restaurant > Seafood

Region: Plano

Cafe Lago

9219 Garland Road, #1102
Dallas, TX 75218

Category: Restaurant > Eclectic

Region: White Rock Lake Area

Half Shells Oyster Bar & Grill

6617 Snider Plaza
Dallas, TX 75205

Category: Restaurant > Seafood

Region: Park Cities

Food Flux

Transitions were also numerous, perhaps the most interesting involving former We Oui chef Nick Badovinus, who left an opportunity to open his own place with Phil Romano to join Tristan Simon in crafting menus for Cuba Libre and his Las Colinas restaurant Blue Fire, which is still on the drawing board. Thai Soon was shuttered on Greenville Avenue after roughly 14 years and reopened in Richardson, while the Greenville location became Moosh, a lounge opened by Teiichi Sakurai, who operates Teppo next door. Also on Greenville Avenue, Basha Middle Eastern restaurant was shuttered and reopened as Tabouli's.

But the most significant transitions involved people. Michael Cox, who with Stephan Pyles created Star Canyon, AquaKnox and Taqueria Cañonita, left the restaurant business after a short stint with Carlson Restaurants Worldwide to become manager of H.E. Butt Grocery Company's Central Market in Plano. Former AquaKnox Executive Chef Lisa Balliet left the cramped kitchen at the Cock & Bull Wine Bar and Restaurant and the restaurant business to spend time with her family. Brian Luscher, notable crafter of Hill Country cuisine at the defunct Routh Street Brewery, is now at The Grape. George Papadopoulos left Scott Ginsburg's multimillion-dollarVoltaire restaurant and headed back to New York before he signed on with a country club in Philadelphia with plans to come to Dallas someday to start his own restaurant. Papadopoulos was replaced by Joseph Gutierriz.

Salve! Ristorante, Phil and Janet Cobb's Italian restaurant on McKinney, continued to shed key employees including maïtre d' Wayne Broadwell, Executive Chef Kevin Ascolese and pastry chef David Brawley. Brawley and Ascolese resurfaced at Patrick Colombo's Ferré.

Then there's Doug Brown, who made his mark at Nana Grill atop the Wyndham Anatole. Brown returned to Dallas from Murial's Supper Club in Palm Springs, after it succumbed to dot-com cash suction, to open his own restaurant. But the deal soured. So he's hanging out as corporate sous chef at Eatzi's until another one ripens.

Grim Reapings

McKinney Avenue solidified its reputation as Dallas' strip of restaurant antimatter. Three notable restaurants--O'Dowds Little Dublin, Bistral and Mangia e Bevi--chewed dust in 2001. It seems the places that do the best along this piece of pavement are sports bars and small joints with cheap food. So while other restaurants sputtered and died, Frankie Carabetta (formerly of Frankie's Sports Bar & Grill on the same street) and his partners Ed and Michael Ruibal Landscape Systems of Texas quietly opened Rocco's Pizza & Pasta and the McKinney Avenue Tavern.

Farther uptown, Lemmon Avenue saw the death of Shelly Dowdy's Venus Steakhouse & Supper Club after a few short months. This is the space where Chris Svalesen is slowly growing his restaurant 36 Degrees. Up north, Laura's Last Chance Texas Grill and Cantina was locked up after just a year in business, as was Caribbean Red, Anthony Bermea's eclectic Caribbean-Latin fusion restaurant and lounge, after just a couple of months. Francesco and Jane Secchi, owners of Ferrari's and Il Grano, opened and closed the Italian Cowboy and promptly sued the building's owners for sewer problems. Gene Street and his Consolidated Restaurant Cos. shuttered the Buttermilk Café.

Other restaurant corpses include Isola Gozo in NorthPark Center; Soprano's "Ameri-Ital" restaurant in Frisco (now Terrilli's Sauce); Jimmy Lu's Asian Bistro; Traci's restaurant, which shuttered to make room for a new boutique hotel on Leonard Street; and the massive brew pub Coppertank Brewing Co., which will reopen sometime in 2002 as America's Pub. Air-conditioning breakdowns made Fish a floater, and Les Saisons, the two-decades-old French restaurant that moved from Turtle Creek Village to the Centrum in 1997, closed its doors. Another Frenchie falter was Phil Romano's Ameri-French bistro We Oui in the Crescent Court, which is now an upscale casual New Orleans grubbery called Gumbo's. Romano is working on a seafood restaurant called Lobster Ranch with chef Tom Fleming. Carlson Restaurants Worldwide shuttered the Pyles-Cox global water-cuisine haunt AquaKnox and turned it into zen den, while the spot that was once La Valentina de Mexico was purchased by the group operating Nuevo Leon, which promptly shut it down after just a couple of months.

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