When Nick Badovinus announced that he was opening up Off-Site Kitchen, the addition marked his Neighborhood Services group's fourth restaurant. The new place had a lot of buzz. Badovinus' original location was banging out four-star cooking, and his Tavern was noted as having some of the best bar food in town. A casual walk-up counter with cafeteria classics was a guaranteed success, right?
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The anticipated start date came and went, and Off-Site Kitchen's windows remained obscured with brown paper. Then the Dallas Morning News re-reviewed his original restaurant and took back two stars. Badovinus was scrambling to shore up his primary spots while the opening date of his casual eatery in the Design District kept getting pushed further away.
Badovinus wouldn't talk on the record about his struggles through that period, but he made one thing very clear: While opening a single restaurant is famously hard, opening multiple doors is orders of magnitude harder. So when my experience at the new Company Cafe seemed lackluster, I wondered if the second location was causing similar growing pains.
While talking to the staff, I uncovered some interesting facts about the restaurant, but learning about chef Fred Messick, who happened on his role with the restaurant by chance, was a real surprise. The chef that earned consistent praise for his cooking at Company Cafe's first location had never been to cooking school. He's been cooking for less than two years. You can read more about Messick and and his cooking at Company Cafe in this week's review.
Everyone I interviewed for the review seemed sharp, bright and devoted to making the Company Cafe a top-notch restaurant, and despite some current issues I think there's a good chance they'll get there. Badovinus worked though his growing pains, and now Off-Site Kitchen is one of my favorite places for a burger. With some hard work and retooling, Company Cafe could be a more than worthy place to score health-conscious food.