In the corner pocket
C.J. Wiley scanned the landscape, saw the roaring success of joints such as Cool River Café and Fox & Hound, and decided he needed to get in on the action. And who is C.J. Wiley? He's the former ESPN world-champion pool player who owns C.J.'s Billiard Palace in Lakewood. "I've had more ESPN exposure than anyone in the history of the sport," he boasts. Now, the stickmaster wants to parlay that TV currency into upscale shots and grub at Carson's Palace, a hall he's slowly erecting near Trinity Mills and Dallas North Tollway. This 16,000-square-foot spot will offer 20 billiard tables, a 450-seat casual fine-dining room, a private banquet room, and live music. While the outer shell of the $2.8-million cue-ball project has been erected, Wiley says he doesn't expect to open before May 1. "I've had construction hold-ups, I've had material hold-ups, and I've had bank hold-ups," he laments. Partnered with Fox & Hound founder Mark Lee, Wiley says he's put up more than half the funds for the pool hall that will serve cuisine he describes as somewhere between that of Dakota's and Houston's. Sans the steak.
Sambuca founder Holly Forsythe described the bar-restaurant she and her brother Kim are planning for the former Dragonfly space on Lower Greenville as "Phillipe Stark meets Austin Powers meets the milkbar in A Clockwork Orange." Indeed, it seems she took the last part literally and decided to name the venue Milkbar -- which doesn't mean they'll be crafting a menu with Ovaltine highballs or half-and-half sours. But it does mean the outside will be painted white, the inside will feature plenty of mirrors, and the rooftop patio will have a wooden deck and some kind of retractable overhead covering. They're also planning to keep the Dragonfly's granite waterwall that once dribbled above the bar. But one of the designers says the Forsythes are toying with the idea of tinting the water opaque white.
Cuba Libre, the fast and casual Caribbean taqueria rising out of the triangular rubble bound by Henderson and Willis, certainly isn't coming together in a fast or casual way. The spot originally had a late July-early August 1999 opening, which was subsequently pushed to December 1999. Now, the ETA is set for February 13, come "hell or high water," as the sign out front says. And high it is: The dramatic two-story, shocking yellow bar-café has a 45-foot cupola made of one-inch steel tubing that pops out of the roofline, like a beacon for the bar-lorn. Will the Henderson neighborhood swallow this little piece of Island Oz without choking?
— Mark Stuertz
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.