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As The Green Room Revamps, We Wonder:
Can Deep Ellum Support Fine Dining?

There's no shortage of good food in Deep Ellum, but does The Green Room's extended vacation mean fine-dining restaurants can't make it there?

The Green Room hasn't gone out of business yet, although circumstances surrounding its unannounced closure were sufficiently suspicious to excite the blogosphere yesterday. After Sidedish's Nancy Nichols reported the restaurant had closed, The Green Room took to Facebook to announce plans to "reopen Tuesday, January 18th, with a new menu and new wine list for the new year."

An outgoing voicemail message was updated with the same information, but so far nobody's saying why the restaurant decided to sit out New Year's Eve, how the menu will change or whether Joel Harloff's hanging on to the head chef position, and neighboring restaurants owners wonder if the January 18 date is realistic. Food gossips love this sort of thing.

But what does the situation mean for Deep Ellum? Unlike its trendy crosstown counterpart, Oak Cliff, the neighborhood hasn't incubated many ambitious, high-end dining spots (although the lone exception, Local, is lovely.)

Jay Jerrier, who's planning to open Il Cane Rosso in Deep Ellum next month, thinks The Green Room's problems weren't entirely geographic.

"I don't think expensive restaurants do well anywhere," Jerrier says. "People want good food, but they don't want premium prices."

Jerrier recently worked as a consultant for Brackets, the new sports bar in the former Trader Vic's. The menu there includes a $26 cowboy rib-eye, a $25 lobster ravioli and a $23 filet. According to Jerrier, those plates aren't selling.

"It's a good menu, but nobody orders from it," Jerrier says. "People are ordering burgers and pizza."

Jerrier doesn't know whether the recent embrace of down-market food reflects depleted bank accounts or a fatigue induced by too many years of high-cotton eating: "I've had a $200 gift certificate to The Mansion for three years, and I don't have the energy to use it," he says. But he agrees the situation may be slightly direr in Deep Ellum.

"You have the mix of lawyers from the west side of the highway and doctors from Baylor. I think people have an expectation of a quick lunch," he says. "After concerts, I don't think they're looking for a $30 entrée."

But Jerrier thinks a few restaurateurs could make a high-priced concept work on Elm Street.

"If I decided to screw Il Cane Rosso, do white tablecloth, I don't know," he says. "But if Nick Badovinus opened another Neighborhood Services down here, I bet it would do pretty well."

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