Carrying a Torch

Santiago Peña is back to cutting up and bending metal for restaurants. The sculptor and construction contractor, who made his mark on Dallas dining by welding thematically relevant forms for Star Canyon and AquaKnox, recently finished work on a new restaurant, Thai Tango in Flower Mound. Peña says he studied Thai culture for some six months before he took a torch to the restaurant's design elements. Yet it's amazing that Peña is expending any artistic effort at all in restaurants. In November, Peña filed a lawsuit against Dragonfly Restaurant and Bar operator Steve Kahn to try to salvage some of the $123,526 he claims he is owed for unpaid construction and sculpture work he did on the once-hot nightclub that was sunk by partnership squabbles. But getting money out of Kahn is perhaps akin to squeezing bloody Marys from a rock. So Peña put a lien on the property (owned by Dunhill Partners and now home to Milkbar) and indirectly named Dunhill in the suit. He is seeking to satisfy his claim by foreclosing the lien on the property. Peña wasn't able to grab the Dragonfly he sculpted off the side of the building before it became Milkbar, but he did get the Dragonfly sign. He's hoping to get a little more than metallic insects when his complaint goes before a judge September 27.

Mignon, the new the new 1960s French Steakhouse concept hatched by Emerging Brands (a division of Carlson Restaurants Worldwide) that was supposed to open by early fall, is choking on a piece of bureaucratic gristle. But it may be in the grip of a resuscitating Heimlich. This past Monday, the Plano Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that the Plano City Council grant the restaurant a special-use permit to serve alcohol. The council quashed a request for the permit by a vote of 7-1 on June 12. Why? The restaurant, under construction in the Lakside Market Shopping Center at Preston Road and Lorimar Drive by Turner Heritage Investments Ltd., ran afoul of a city zoning ordinance that prohibits alcohol service in a venue falling within 300 feet of residential zones. So Turner Heritage proposed to erect a 40-inch high screening wall between the restaurant and the nearby neighborhood. "The planning and zoning commission took a look at what the developer proposed, and the changes were substantial," says Plano development and review manager Tom Elgin. Elgin says the city council can consider waiving the 300-foot separation requirements if an alternate means of separation creates an actual walking distance that exceeds 300 feet (maybe there's a niche market for restaurant-maze construction in Plano). The city council will take up the issue on August 28.


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