Just a few hundred feet from Shinsei, Tracy Rathbun and Lynae Fearing’s sushi bar and Asian fusion restaurant on Inwood, the duo has opened a new concept in what used to be Rex’s Seafood. Lovers Seafood and Market opened for lunch today, with plans to expand into dinner on Monday and to launch a market and raw bar on Wednesday.
The intimate space seats 79, giving this 3,000-square-foot restaurant a much smaller footprint than many of its newcomer contemporaries on the Dallas dining scene. Chef Kent Rathbun, AKA Tracy’s husband and the Chef With No Name, helped launch the restaurant and refine the menu with Lovers’ executive chef, Aaron Staudenmaier, who worked with Kent to open and run concepts like Abacus and Jasper’s. Much of the kitchen team at Lovers comes from Kent’s former projects: Pastry chef Ty Bohoney, who worked with Kent Rathbun Concepts (with which Kent himself is no longer affiliated) and general manager Max Heidenreich, who helped launch Abacus and Jasper’s in Plano.
The menu, which you can see in full below, features plenty of expected dishes for a seafood spot — crab cakes, fried oysters, gumbo, a lobster roll — but the day-to-day menu at the restaurant will be largely dictated by whatever catch Staudenmaier is able to get his hands on in the moment.
“Part of our world is we get to call someone on a boat and say hey, what are you pulling out of the water right now?” Staudenmaier said during a media event at the restaurant on Tuesday night. “It might be cod, it might be octopus; this allows us to kind of do anything we want.”
The daily catch could come from a number of places: New Zealand, Honolulu, Louisiana, the Florida Gulf and, in an unexpected twist, the occasional catch from the Great Lakes. At Tuesday night’s dinner, Staudenmaier, a native of Minnesota, presented the room with crispy-skinned, beautifully flaky walleye that exhibited the fish’s characteristically clean, bright flavor.
“Great Lakes walleye; beautiful fish,” Staudenmaier said. “It is one of the greatest things in the world.”
There are also a few fun touches on the menu like fresh, rustic herbed bread baked into flower pots and dill pickle popcorn made with fresh dill, clarified butter and dehydrated, powdered dill pickles. There’s a poke bowl, of course, along with a straightforward but fun dessert menu. The Elvis, a peanut butter-banana pie with the world’s flakiest crust, comes on a plate swiped with salted caramel, and the chocolate s’more pie was about as rich, dense and chocolatey as a piece of pie can get. Lovers being a seafood spot and all, don’t skip the velvety key lime pie with vanilla anglaise dipping sauce.
Once the raw bar and market launches next week, customers will be able to buy chef-grade cuts to cook at home, and Kent and Staudenmaier plan to shoot short “how-to” videos that will play above the raw bar, giving diners and market customers brief tutorials on how to cook less traditional cuts.
With a small footprint and seasoned talent at the helm, Lovers Seafood could do well in this corner of North Dallas, situated near Inwood Theatre with plenty of retail nearby. If nothing else, it could prove to be the one seafood restaurant in this city that treats a Great Lakes catch with the reverence it deserves.
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Lovers Seafood and Market, 5200 W. Lovers Lane. Currently open 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily; starting March 6, the restaurant will be open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.