By now you've perhaps heard the news: Village Kitchen and Toko V are done at the end of the week. The closure, paired with the recent demise of The Greek and Cafe des Artistes in One Arts Plaza, has local restaurant cognoscenti debating the state of Dallas' dining scene. Each of these restaurants tended to cling to clichéd, uninventive menus that have historically pulled in big profits, so does that fact that they're not working now suggest Dallas' dining palate is evolving?
It certainly could. Restaurants like FT33, Tei-An and Lucia are demonstrating that a growing number of Dallasites are ready for more than wedge salads and overcooked steaks, and they're doing strong business. And it's not just fine dining that's taking a turn. Ten Bells Tavern, Blind Butcher and other bars shun everyday bar food for handcrafted pub fare and hand-cranked sausages, while casual places like Mot Hai Ba are expanding our expectations for neighborhood restaurants.
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Big-picture wise, these closures are a good thing. They show a city ready to move forward, and they incentivize new restaurants to innovate when they design their menus or potentially end up in the grease trap. You only wish the process would proceed more quickly.
Except with regards to Village Kitchen's burger. I reviewed the restaurant last year and coined chef Andre Natera's creation the slumpy burger because of its short stature and floppy, condiment-saturated bun that made it an enjoyable mess to eat. With Village Kitchen gone, that hot mess of a burger might be gone forever. It's a bummer.
There's a glimmer of hope, though. Twomey Concepts, the company that owns Village Kitchen and The Common Table, among others, says they're hanging onto Natera after the closure. With any luck, a similar burger will show up somewhere else in Dallas soon, and maybe this time with an upgrade from those crappy freezer-bag fries.
If Natera and Twomey Concepts don't pull it off, we'll all still be OK. There's a solid chance the next awesome burger riff is right around the corner, and if legacy restaurants don't want to build it for us, one of these new innovative and passionate restaurateurs surely will.