Restaurant Reviews

Hash Over

FoodStar stir
Just last summer, FoodStar Restaurant Group was gushing over ambitious plans to launch as many as 40 PoPoLos, Mediterraneo, and Toscana restaurants across the country. Now, the recipe at FoodStar Restaurant Group seems a little hashed. Rumors point to two spots indicating tumult: a struggling Mediterraneo at the Quadrangle, which is headed for some kind of makeover; and PoPoLos, which is on the block. Are the rumors true? Not exactly, says David Holben, chef and partner in FoodStar along with Michael Caolo Jr. and Franco Bertolasi, the trio that launched The Riviera. He says the Quadrangle isn't getting the volume the company had hoped for, but he couldn't confirm specific makeover plans. And PoPoLos? "There have been people making offers on it, yeah. Two or three different groups." One of those, he says, is former PoPoLos chef Los Akins. Akins bolted from the Moonshine Cafe, tucked below the Palace nightclub, a couple of weeks ago after its dining-room tables and flatware suddenly morphed into billiard tables and cue sticks while Atkins' adventurous "new Creole" menu jigged into burgers, fries, and po' boys.

FoodStar, meanwhile, has seen its own share of employees heading for the exits. First, Michael Costa split as director of operations to start his own hospitality consulting firm. Shortly afterward, chef de cuisine Gilbert Garza checked out of the chichi Toscana to take over Mother Pearl's Seafood House and Oyster Bar on Lemmon Avenue, which he plans to revamp by September. Now I'm certainly not saying that's a downscale move, but is there something fishy going on here?

Daddy drops Dallas
Has he gone lobster-insanity loco, or is he just a closet damn Yankee? Whatever the mental dysfunction, Jack Chaplain, founder of four Daddy Jacks restaurants and wood grills plus a pair of Dallas bars, is pulling up his metroplex stakes and sinking roots in Woodstock, Connecticut, as early as June. Chaplain says he's heading east to give his kids a New England experience and be near family. And he insists his restaurants won't want for his touch. He'll keep his Dallas operations, moving his partner Cary Ray up on Daddy's corporate totem pole and popping into town once every few weeks. While he has plans to open a Daddy Jack's in Colorado, Chaplain says he won't do Daddy back east. "I've got a few other concepts in my head that I'd like to develop," he says. "Maybe a wood grill of some kind." Must be damn hard to get that grill smoke out of your head.

--Mark Stuertz

E-mail Dish at [email protected].