More than a decade ago, former Duke University English and law professor Stanley Fish published a biting critique of academia titled "The Unbearable Ugliness of Volvos." But potential automotive unsightliness is not why Van Roberts, owner of Lola the Restaurant, unloaded his Point West Volvo dealership to Park Place last month for an undisclosed loot load after operating it for more than 20 years. It was tread wear from working two full-time jobs for the last six years. So what does this mean? Will Lola expand? "I'm going to wait and see how everything shakes out," he says. "There's so many new restaurants that have opened up, I'm just going to kind of let some other guys do some stuff for a while." The thing that really flabbergasts Roberts is the torrent of luxury condos and townhouses washing through Dallas: speculator flypaper. "Everywhere you look you see those cranes," he says in bewilderment.
So Roberts is keeping his focus fixed on Lola for the time being. Lola has weathered changes over the last few months, what with the departures of chefs Matthew Bresnan, who decamped for Iris, and David Uygur, who left to head up the kitchen at Seventeen Seventeen. Now Lola's kitchen is headed by chef Gray Henry, a Lola sous chef for the past year who is taking on the menus for both the restaurant and the Lola tasting room. So while he bides his time observing how the Downtown/Uptown lux living shakes out, Roberts says he's laying out plans for a wine bar that will be unlike any currently pouring in Dallas, meaning he will focus on eclectic splashes. And with the goodwill Roberts has earned assembling a fine list at great prices at Lola, he should have no problem generating rows of bellies.
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Pappas Bros. Steakhouse has named James Johnson executive chef of its Dallas dry-aged, prime-beef tabernacle. Johnson has done time at some fairly noteworthy kitchens over the recent years including the Platinum Club in the American Airlines Center, The Mansion, the defunct Paris Vendome and Hibiscus. Plus, he was voted one of "13 Chefs to Watch" in 2003 by Esquire magazine, which also publishes the much more pawed over "Women We Love" issue ("It is not that Britney Spears denies that she is a sexual icon, or that she disputes that American men are fascinated with the concept of the wet-hot virgin..." It's not?)...Also at Pappas: Wine director Drew Hendricks is among 12 sommeliers who will be competing in the National Chaine des Rotisseurs Young Sommelier Competition next month in Sonoma after he scored second place in Super Regional Competition in Denver last month, a rigorous exam of wine theory and blind tastings. Hendricks, 29, co-founded the Texas Sommelier Association last year with Four Seasons (Las Colinas) Sommelier James Tidwell.