Getting the Blues

Next Tuesday, our celebrated urban core will be needled out of its tequila-addled mind when the Dallas version of Iron Cactus Mexican Grill and Margarita Bar debuts. The three-story, 14,000-square-foot restaurant, imported from Austin, comes complete with a cylindrical tower housing a winding staircase, a rooftop deck that overlooks Dallas' downtown patina, bottomless brunch mimosas, a circular open-air tapas bar, a water fountain and lots of curled baffles and wavy channels through which to channel patrons doing the blue agave two-step.

"We've taken a square building and made it symmetrical with all kinds of turns and curves," says Cactus co-founder Gary Manley. And he did it all in the circa-1915 Thompson Building for about $4 million, retaining the building's original terra-cotta finish in the process. But throwing greenbacks at leisurely distractions is nothing new for Manley and partner Michael Pottoroff. In 1987 at the ages of 20 and 21 they sunk $20,000 into a couple of tanning salons in Austin. After that they tried their hand at an activewear clothing line targeting the Caribbean market. In 1990 they birthed Pete's Dueling Piano Bar in Austin, which they sold in 1997 (the new owners have since installed Pete's bars in Addison and Fort Worth). Now this: Iron Cactus features 80 types of tequila made from 100 percent blue agave juice. Indeed, in 1999 Iron Cactus was ranked sixth among the top tequila bars in the United States by Spirits & Cocktails magazine. Spirits & Cocktails, as you'll recall, was the Dallas-based magazine launched by Presidio Media Group L.L.C. in 1998 that passed out after just a couple of issues (the group also served as a hospice for The Met and Texas Business). Anyway, Manley says another Iron Cactus is set to rise from the River Walk in San Antonio in the fall, and he's been fielding interest from cities such as Denver and Irvine, California. "It's not cookie-cutter," Manley insists. "We're not just stamping out restaurants...Our goal is to find historic or turn-of-the-century buildings that we can have a hand in remodeling."

Melrose Hotel Chef de Cuisine Joel Harloff has pegged the executive chef slot left vacant after former chef Doug Brown set off to launch his own gourmet fast-casual concept Beyond the Box. Harloff held tenure in several Dallas restaurants, including the late Joshele in Plano, Nana in the Wyndham Anatole and Mi Piaci Ristorante, now run by Il Solé founder Brian Black... Aurora will now serve lunch Wednesday through Friday beginning April 28. "This is a result of customer demand," says a Wayne Broadwell press release that includes this punch line: "Pricing will be 'economy friendly.'"


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