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McKinney upheaval
It's hard to tell whether the turmoil surrounding three well-known restaurants on or near McKinney Avenue that have either shut down or swapped owners is due to poor execution or shifting fortunes. And rumors are swirling that at least one more demise is possible.

The most high-profile closing was NorthSouth, the upscale venue owned by fitness maven Larry North, Darwin Deason of Affiliated Computer Systems (ACS), and California restaurateur James Cook. Opened in fall 1996, the restaurant had just revamped its original menu concept of offering diners a choice of both high- and low-fat dishes, and the owners converted the restaurant's bar to the N-Bar, a live music/dancing night spot. Apparently, these moves weren't enough to resuscitate the gasping operation. While the N-Bar was doing brisk business since its March 6 opening, the restaurant struggled, in large part--some believe--to the often over-priced, dramatically inconsistent menu offerings. Deason, who owns a restaurant with Cook in Palm Desert, California, and was NorthSouth's major backer, grew weary of propping up the Quadrangle venue and decided without warning to pull the plug.

Just two days before NorthSouth went south, Coco Pazzo bit the dust. The move came just a couple of months after Coco Pazzo's New York parent, Toscorp, shuttered Coco Pazzo Cafe in Addison. "It wasn't meeting up to our [financial] expectations," says Toscorp director of marketing Marco Protano of the McKinney restaurant. "So we decided to close the facility." Protano says the company has no plans to come back to Dallas in the near future.

A rumor also is circulating that Clive & Stuart's Island Seafood on McKinney is taking on serious water and might be sunk by midsummer. Nonsense, says manager Sam Benoikken. "I just spent $2,000 on interior design and I'm spending money on some other stuff," he says. "How the hell has this happened? These people are just talking." Clive & Stuart's also has hired a new chef: El Salvador native and seafood specialist Mario Melger.

Meanwhile, Truluck's tenacious pursuit of Fog City Diner has finally been consummated. The McKinney version of Truluck's Steak and Stone Crab should open sometime in July.

Chef shuffles
Culinary Institute of America grad Cliff Ostrowski recently joined Cedar Street as executive chef and general manager and is creating an American regional menu with Asian undertones. Ostrowski's previous stints include the Four Seasons Hotel and the Red Light Restaurant in Chicago, and the Maui Marriott Hotel Resort.

--Mark Stuertz

E-mail Mark Stuertz at markstz@juno.com


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