Absolute Zero

The Mercury, Mico Rodriguez's posh dining nook slipped into the upscale Shops at Willow Bend in Plano, quietly dribbled out of the thermometer tube last week. "We just weren't able to sustain a following, especially since we opened up September 7, 2001," says Rodriguez. "It really was doomed, I think, from the get-go. We had a little bit of business, but we just weren't able to afford to stay open." So now Rodriguez says he's going to put his marbles in the original Mercury: the Mercury Grill, which is mining restaurant riches in dirty laundry. Rodriguez says Mercury Grill subsumed a portion of Manhattan Cleaners next door and used it as a private room to book parties. Now he's taken over the whole space, transforming it into Club Manhattan, a lounge with a back-door entrance, a baby grand piano in front of the kitchen and a sushi bar. Ask to be taken to the cleaners after November 1.

"They whupped us," said Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson after the Oklahoma Sooners made cheap hamburger out of the Longhorns last Saturday, grinding them 65-13. "We won it hands down," said Consolidated Restaurant Operations Chairman Gene Street after his Good Eats chicken-fried steak beat an entry from Karen's Kitchen of Enid, Oklahoma, in the chicken-fried steak competition just before the game (Newton's restaurant from Oklahoma City chickened out). And Street had stiff competition. Karen's used filet mignon. Street used round steak. Karen's deep-fried their meat. Street fried his in an iron skillet. Karen's had a nouvelle presentation, with a gravy puddle on the bottom like some disgraced demi glace. Street served his "country-style" with the gravy ladled over the top. But that's all beef. When it comes to Street's deal with Dallas businessman Scott Ginsburg (a deal rumored to be on-again, off-again) to put a Cool River Café in the former Voltaire space, Street is all chicken. "It's by no means a dead deal, but it isn't a done deal," he says. "Just five old men running around like chickens with their head cuts off."...Texas' 5th District Court of Appeals denied a request last week filed by Dallas steak house mogul Dale Wamstad to overturn the court's June dismissal of the $10 million libel suit he filed against me and the Dallas Observer. Wamstad claimed that the story "Family Man," published in March 2000, slandered him. "Family Man" chronicles Wamstad's alleged professional and personal peccadilloes over the years. Wamstad and his attorneys have 45 days to apply to the Texas Supreme Court to review the decision, a move they are expected to make.


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