I've levied a lot of expectation on Savor, the new restaurant that opened last on Klyde Warren Park. Those desires have less to do with the Savor on its own, and more to do with the collective draw that a group of restaurants and attractions can create when they're tightly clustered. There's some potential brewing downtown right now, and I hope the momentum carries.
Just last week, I listened to some strange but pretty music at the Dallas City Performance Hall, and somehow convinced my date to join me for a drink afterwards. Options are slim at that hour, but I knew Lark On The Park stayed open later than most. It was less than half a mile away, the weather was great and my date had just gotten back from a trip to New York City and wanted to use her feet.
It's a nice walk from the top of the Arts District to Klyde Warren. The sidewalks are generously wide, and cars seem like they might almost stop at the crosswalks, for those who have the balls to test them. It was a lonely walk -- I'm not sure we passed a single pedestrian the entire way -- but changing the way neighborhoods work takes time. Klyde Warren has been open for less than a year, and until Savor opened, Lark was the only real option if you were looking for restaurants nearby. If Savor turns out to be a worthy compliment, though, it's reasonable to expect a few more people shuffling about before or after they eat.
Some early observations about Savor agitate me a little, but none of them are deal breakers. Share plates are mentioned, so you'll likely have to endure speeches about menu concepts, chef's desires and other hot-buttons you grew bored of five years ago. The drinks menu features wine significantly more than beer, which paired with the glassy modern interior, clashes with Savor's billing as a "gastropub." The chef John Coleman's bio reads fine enough, but his partner Joe Scigliano is listed at a Redskins fan -- a fact that has potential to aggravate some locals. But there's a lot that looks good, too.
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Hand-made anything is a good thing if it's hand-made well, so the gnocchi with wilted greens have plenty of potential. And meatballs, lobster puffs and flat breads would make for a good late evening snack. There's cobia from the gulf with quinoa and mint, and roast chicken for the classicists, and shrimp and grits. It should be easy enough to find something you like here. (I'll visit and review it sometime this fall, once they've worked out the kinks.)
And hopefully after customers do, they'll leave their cars with the complimentary valet and stick around for a while. They can hit Lark for a nightcap, or maybe take a walk around the park. If enough people start to enjoy themselves the place could build up some energy in the evenings. Nothing like what you'd see on a sunny Saturday afternoon, but enough to register a pulse. Other restaurateurs notice things like that, and suddenly the surrounding blocks are full of potential dining options.
If this sounds like a lot of expectation to thrust upon one single restaurant, it beats the alternative. Either Savor delivers , or it goes the way of the Commissary, and we're left with another One Arts Plaza. That project used to hold a ton of potential, too, but now it's a path you cross to get to the parking lot. Tei-An may be an exceptional restaurant, but it's not enough on its own.
Savor and Lark on the Park could be the start of something bigger, but only if we all want to eat and drink in them. To do that they'll have to dazzle us for a long time to come, but if it happened? Imagine Dallas -- the city that's so in love with cars -- turning a cavernous highway into a bustling town center filled with pedestrians.