Dallas restaurants have plunged deeply into the effort to ease the anguish caused by Katrina. Behold Project Lagniappe (Lagniappe is a Creole expression for an unexpected gift). In large part spearheaded by Whit Meyers of the Entertainment Collaborative (Green Room, Jeroboam) and the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association, Lagniappe consists of the typical stuff: a restaurant-based cash/food drive (top needs: peanut butter, canned tuna, chicken, beans and rice) to benefit the North Texas Food Bank, food-service job postings at the association's Web site (www.gdra.com) and participation in a national restaurant fundraiser benefiting the Red Cross October 5. But the most innovative spoke in this aid wheel is Deep Relief, a project to allow displaced New Orleans hospitality workers to use vacant Deep Ellum space rent-free through the end of the year to reestablish their New Orleans restaurants in Dallas. "Instead of feeding people the fish, we're giving them the chance to blacken their own fish," Meyers says. Deep Relief provides insurance services and is working with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to expedite alcohol licensing.
The first, Crustaceans, will open in the evacuated East Wind restaurant space in early November. Crustaceans was a Cajun/Creole restaurant operated by 40-year New Orleans chef Ronald Honore, second cousin to Army Lieutenant General Russel "Don't get stuck on stupid" Honore, who is spearheading the federal Katrina relief effort. Together with his son-in-law Brian Wright, a Dallas real estate investor, the evacuated Honore intends to make Crustaceans a permanent Dallas fixture with a fried chicken recipe he says beats the feathers out of any other Big Easy formula. "It's no joke," he says.
Fresh off their success with Fuse, Aperture LLC, the restaurant and bar development company hatched by Michael Bratcher and wizard chef Blaine Staniford, is planning at least three new venues downtown over the next 18 months. Flaunting rustic European fare, Scene will settle in the old Mosaic Building at Pacific Avenue and Akard Street, which is being retrofitted with 438 residential units. Aperture will crown the building with an 8th-floor lounge called Vue. Before the end of the year, the pair will open Verde, a 50-seat Sante Fe-style restaurant just aft of Fuse. But perhaps the most provocative project the pair is undertaking is a lounge in the Davis Building modeled on New York's B.E.D., where patrons sup on pillow-infested beds, rendering pick-up/hook-up banter obsolete. "It's kind of a very lush, know your neighbor kind of thing," Staniford says. "It's totally legal. There's nothing bad going on. Instead of doing a VIP room, you do bottle service on the bed."