Ben Verdooren might have been down, but he was far from out.
Just weeks after the abrupt closure of his restaurant Zymology, this popular young entrepreneur is staging a comeback. And you might be surprised to learn just how far he didn't travel to find a new gig.
Bandera sits at 1924 Greenville Avenue, right in the middle of dive bar central, and a stone's throw from the space formerly occupied by Verdooren's well-reviewed gastro-pub. "That's Bandera--as in Bandera, Texas," he explained in a phone conversation Wednesday, straining to be heard over the droning hum of saws and drills in the background.
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If you'll recall, Zymology's brief run was cut short, in large part, due to the hard-drinking demographic of lower Greenville Avenue. Verdooren found it difficult to convince people to venture outside the usual Dallas dining destinations to give his restaurant a try. In May he was forced to close, citing "lack of money" and "lack of business due to the area" as the two primary contributing factors. The good news for Bandera is that owners Jim Baugh and Anthony West, a former pro bull rider, have planned something more in keeping with lower Greenville's current vibe.
"My job is to take care of the place," says Verdooren, who will be a daily presence in the bar (the owners are largely hands-off). He emphasizes that Bandera will focus on drinking for the time being. No food right now, just booze. That might be a disappointment to those who miss Zymology's well-executed bistro-style fare, but Bandera hopes to build its own clientele by showcasing live music 3-4 nights a week of the Cross Canadian Ragweed variety.
From gastro-pub to alt-country bar? Not exactly a logical move, but then again, the guy's only 31.
With characteristic optimism, Verdooren explains that he's still interested in "trying to get a different crowd down here on Greenville." Perhaps Bandera, which puts a little spin on what's already working in the area (and comes complete with a rodeo tie-in) will do the trick. One thing's for sure--between all his loyal former customers and his recent valuable learning experience, Verdooren's heading into this new opportunity two steps ahead of the game.