Dallas' Biggest Food Fights of 2013
Starbucks' Mobile Monopoly Command Center.
As 2013 comes to a close, we could focus on all of the peace and goodwill toward men that we wish for in the coming year. We could put aside our differences, invite some vegans to a barbecue and toast a gluten-free beer with our friends.
Or we could look back on a few of the juiciest, richest Food Fights that went down over the past year in the Dallas culinary scene. Yeah, let's do that instead. It feels more natural.
Starbucks vs. Pearl Cup It started out as a normal day at the downtown location of Pearl Cup. Business-bros were being dutifully caffeinated. Baristas were chatting nicely. Until, tragically, a long-haired green mermaid from Seattle shattered any modicum of decency and set up her two-tailed shop right outside.
A Starbucks trailer began to give away free joe to potential Pearl Cup customers just a few steps from the entrance. Later in the week, Starbucks PR denied the allegations of predatory business practices, stating that they were only handing out 4 ounce samples, which shouldn't be enough to keep a coffee enthusiast from still needing to purchase a full cup. Further, the downtown spot in question was just one of several city-approved spots for their "sampling campaign" and that Dallas was one of five major cities that were targeted by the promotion. Which, we believe, since a coffee vendor in Manhattan filed a similar complaint against the Big Green Giant the same week.
Winner: Pearl Cup. After manager Crystal Johnson complained, Starbucks scooted and promised to find another location to give away Starbucks coffee. Perhaps in front of a Starbucks?
Ten Bells Tavern vs. Mark G. Apparently hell hath no fury like a Dallas restaurateur scorned. Back in September, a Yelper named "Mark G." gave Ten Bells Tavern a one-star review, because "frankly, it smells" and "some of the staff look cracked out ... like something you'd find in a seedy part of town."
Discerning Yelpers know to ignore that low-level noise in a sea of other five-star reviews. Ten Bells owner Meri Dahlke, however, recognized the customer and decided to personally respond.
"Which part made it smell worse? The part where we didn't serve you any alcohol or the part where you harassed the female staff by exposing your chest hair in lieu of showing your ID? Next time you want a Miller Lite, please bring the appropriate ID that is required when you go to a bar and we'll gladly serve you."
Point, set, dropkick. This response is full of so much gold that it was posted to reddit and then found its way to Gawker and national attention. Hopefully Ten Bells had a few more folks at the bar from the free publicity. Properly buttoned up, of course.
Winner: Ten Bells, obviously. Our homegirl turned ordering a Miller Lite in a deep-V into an insult.
Aaron Barker: People's Ice Cream Champion
Carnival Barker's vs. the State of Texas This one had all the makings of a libertarian fever dream. Two young, fresh-faced entrepreneurs were just starting to get their critically acclaimed small business off the ground when the Big Government Bureaucracy Machine rolled in and shit red tape all over them.
Unbeknownst to Carnival Barker's (or any one else that I've ever talked to about such things), businesses that make ice cream are privy to the rules of the Texas Department of Manufacturing, which requires all frozen desserts to either use an expensive, pre-made lactic slurry OR buy a crazy-expensive machine to pasteurize their own milk. After a full year in business and lots of acclaim, Carnival Barker's was forced to shut down for the whole summer (which, coincidentally, is a very profitable time to actually sell ice cream) while they scrambled to become compliant.
Thanks to a well-supported kickstarter campaign, several good friends, and successfully walking the line between sticking-it-to-the-Man and doing-what-the-Man-says-so-you-can-stay-in-business, Carnival Barker's is back, fully licensed, and sufficiently pasteurized, slanging ice cream from a shack at the Greenville Avenue Truck Yard.
Winner: Whoever sells expensive pasteurization equipment.
Yeah, it works fine without the slogan.
Deep Ellum Brewing Company vs. Feminists DEBC isn't the first only brewery to use a very obvious double entendre to market their beer (I'm looking at you, Rahr & Sons Pecker Wrecker), but earlier this year they took it a little further when they wrapped their van with the logo for their Dallas Blonde Ale, which features a creepy doll in a blonde wig and the slogan, "Goes Down Easy." Like ... maybe after drinking, it might be easier to convince a blonde to ... you get it, right?
A few other people got it too and weren't happy about it, claiming the image made use of "rape culture" for marketing purposes. John Reardon, DEBC's owner, pondered this criticism, defended the artwork because lots of companies use the objectification of women to sell beers, and within a week determined it was best to go ahead and redesign the van. In other news, John Reardon is a smart business owner.
Winner(s): Feminists. And blondes? DEBC won lots of free advertising and avoided a prolonged battle. Everyone and no one.
The glass is more than half empty at Smyth.
The Cedars Social/Smyth vs. Their Bartenders This one is still a bit shady. About a month ago on a Monday night, the entire bar staff walked out in unison from both Cedar Social and Smyth, two of Dallas' best cocktail bars. Michael Martensen, the mixology architect of both bars, also left his business partnership that oversaw Cedar Social, Smyth, and the soon-to-be-opened Establishment.
We haven't gotten a whole lot more details since then, but Brian Williams, Martensen's business partner, was overly glowing about the whole situation the next day. "We are grateful for everything that Michael has done to make us the success that we are," he said, "and wish him the very best." Both joints had to close for several weeks while new bar staff was hired and trained. Martensen was also vague. "We, as a team, have decided to pursue new opportunities that have presented themselves over the past several months and begin the next chapter of our professional careers." So... whatever that means.
Winners: No one? The newly-unemployed bartenders don't seem to have won. Martensen might have something grand to unveil, but we haven't seen it yet. And Cedar Social and Smyth had to scramble to hire/train an entirely new, probably not as good, bar staff.
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