How the First Weekend of In-House Dining Went in Dallas

Susie Oszustowicz
You can have a real margarita at a real restaurant now.
You could see it all over social media over the weekend: People went to restaurants.

It’s hard to tell in straight-on photos if people are social distancing from other households, but whether or not they were, there were restaurants certainly operating right at that 25% capacity limit.

Downtown resident Renee Steele headed to Ebb and Flow in Deep Ellum with her husband Friday.

"I went to show support, physically and financially, to those who were back at work and because I incredibly missed being in a social setting," she says. "I was pleasantly surprised with the social distancing precautions taken. Every other booth/table had signage to show it was not to be used, there had to be three empty barstools between each bar patron, and we were given disposable menus. I felt more than comfortable and am excited to venture back again soon."

Ka-Tip Thai Street Food in the Dallas Farmers Market opened just its patio for its fast-casual concept serving excellent Thai food.

“We just opened our patio space and not the dining room. We only have three at the patio,” owner George Kaiho said. “Since opening, we have been using disposable plates, so we simply have a trash can outside. So basically once the food goes out, nothing really comes back in.”

"Nobody wants to be that guy or that girl that's disregarding the social responsibility." – Kyle Noonan, The Rustic

tweet this

The Rustic, a huge restaurant and music venue in Uptown, opened up Friday, too, but at 15% capacity. Their real estate allows them to do that and still have a good number of people in, owner Kyle Noonan says, and they've put measures in place to keep contact at a minimum.

In addition to masks, cleaning and everything else all are (or should be) doing, the Rustic's bar is closed, tables are distanced at 8 to 12 feet apart from each other, and there are "guides" in the restaurant reminding people to social distance. Tables are maxed at six people each, and if someone goes to another table, that's where the guide can show up.

"It's not a difficult situation, they know they have a responsibility to act accordingly. Frankly, nobody wants to be that guy or that girl that's disregarding the social responsibility and expectations that we have all of each other," Noonan says.

There are also QR codes at each table: You throw your phone's camera on it, get a menu, order and pay from it. Noonan says they handed out five menus in the Uptown location over the weekend.

"The restaurant industry is so hyper-criticized right now, we're under the microscope," he says. "We have to do it the right way because we don't want to be the reason that things go sideways."

As we previously reported, Consolidated Restaurant Operations reopened its locations throughout Dallas-Fort Worth.

“We were pleasantly surprised we had a very good turnout of guests in many of our restaurants, most notably Lucky and III Forks. The Silver Fox in Frisco had a great turnout all weekend,” says Bill Watson, vice president of marketing for CRO.

They, like others, are taking precautions to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“For better or for worse, we had six weeks to thoroughly clean and sanitize our restaurants,” he says. “Subsequent to reopening for curbside just a few days after we shut down mid March, we had all staff wearing face masks and gloves, and they continue to do that with our dine-in guests as well.”

Gloves are sanitized or changed after each transaction: So for delivering a plate to a table, gloves are changed before taking a check to another, for example.

click to enlarge
Renee (right) and Jonathan Steele return to Ebb & Flow as it reopened May 1 (with their masks around their necks).
Renee Steele
While restaurants that had been closed reopened to the capacity they were permitted, other restaurants that stuck to takeout and had previously had steady business saw dips this weekend.

Just a few that experienced that include Mot Hai Ba in East Dallas, Trompo in North Oak Cliff, José in North Dallas and Ka-Tip. Even John Tesar — who’s been selling steak curbside for people to cook at home — saw a sudden slump as restaurants all over town opened their doors and patios.

“We have been open normal hours the whole time doing takeouts, so we were not as busy once other restaurants that were not open opened,” Kaiho says.

Online, people are posting about how they are eager to support restaurants: Some are posting with pictures inside restaurants, others are vowing not even to be a patron in the future to those who have opened.

As we go through this week of Dallas reopening, we’ll bring you more in-depth looks. Today’s Cinco de Mayo; it will be interesting to see how people follow guidelines after a few margaritas on a hot patio.

For now, in whatever way you support restaurants, keep keeping your distance.

"If you're one of those individuals that's still unsure about going out to restaurant, then my recommendation would be, go to the restaurant, see if it's safe, see if you feel OK. If you don't, place a to-go order," Noonan says. "If you feel safe, then stay and eat and enjoy yourself. It's a good way to put your toe in the water."