Gershwin's, the 20-year-old classic that thrust its distended belly skyward last June, is about to roll over and play living. In mid-January, the former Gershwin's space will reopen as Saltwater Willy's—an identical twin of the casual dining concept that debuted in front of Grapevine Mills more than a year ago. "We're not changing anything," says founder and Landry's Seafood House alum Billy Bunch, who founded and operates the casual concept with fellow Landry's refugees Arthur Godinez and Ruben Santana. "I'm trying to be like Pappadeaux's meets Saltgrass Steak House minus about $5 per entrée." To achieve this, Bunch operates his restaurants chef-free, substituting articulated recipes executed by a kitchen manager, while serving fresh fish and certified Angus steaks in a dining room outfitted in haggard barn wood for that weathered boathouse feel. Bottom line: Toque + buffed paneling = $5.
He etched his name in Dallas at the Adolphus Hotel's French Room. Before that, William Koval did time with the Ritz-Carlton, graduated at the top of his class at the Culinary Institute of America and head-butted the grindstone in Parisian kitchens. Now Koval, who most recently was corporate executive chef for Culinaire, the hospitality management company that operates Nicola's at Legacy, is returning to Adolphus parent Noble House Hotels & Resorts. He'll charge the culinary operations at the 235-room Edgewater on Seattle's Elliot Bay, Pier 67, and its restaurant Six Seven. "I'm redoing the menu, the kitchen, the whole kit and caboodle," Koval says. Not only that, he will oversee the culinary operations at Noble's Hilton and Paradise Point properties in San Diego and its Portofino Hotel & Yacht Club in Redondo Beach, California, plus another in Palm Springs. Koval originally scuttled his celebrated French Room shift for an ill-fated run as chef of the Joule Urban Resort, a luxury downtown hotel hatched by Tim Headington of Headington Oil. "If I had known what I know today I'd still be at the Adolphus," Koval laments. The Joule opening was originally scheduled for last March but has been pushed to a summer 2007 launch. Maybe...One day after celebrating her restaurant's 14th anniversary, Sara Tillman shuttered Tillman's Corner, the classic Bishop Arts District restaurant. Last week, she reopened it with a new name: Tillman's Roadhouse. "It's like a brand new restaurant," she says. "The interior, we're calling it kind of a...it's like a modern Texas whorehouse look, I guess you'd say." Modernity means chef Dan Landsberg—most recently at Stephan Pyles—has crafted a menu with things such as venison Frito pie, chicken-fried hanger steak and cedar plank-roasted trout cake. This is complemented by carved wood deer heads jutting from the walls.