When some restaurant owners take on the challenge of launching a new venue, they have the daunting task of determining its theme. But when 30-year-old restaurant owner Chad Willis walked into the sprawling loft-style site that was once the Scene Restaurant and Lounge, now defunct, he was seized by an unconventional vision. "We saw it as a place that could be classy during the day, and at night, become really sexy," says Willis who is counting on downtown's chic urban crowd to buy into his concept.
Part lunch spot, part upscale bar, part sexy night club, AMPM in The Mosaic is a design triad. The massive 8,000 square foot space is literally divided into thirds, a unique concept that harbors the potential for disaster. Other restaurants have tried to pull off this balancing act, but couldn't find harmony between discotheque and dining experience--making guests feeling like they're eating a steak at a strip joint. Save that for Spearmint Rhino. But this place has gotten it right.
AMPM's three distinct spaces can function independently or as one unified venue. In the upscale bar, a motley collection of chandeliers hang above the elongated marble bar, which catch daylight shining in through the space's floor-to-ceiling windows. Continue walking through the space, and guests enter the lunch spot--full of suits during the day and svelte Dallas well-to-dos in the evening. Overhead, a herd of disco balls spin slowly and creates a dynamic addition--which transform from an interesting design choice by day to a glitzy, sizzling focal point when the sun sets. A private dining area sits beyond the lunch turned dinner spot, which multitasks as a stage, party room and patio. In the evening hours, the entire space morphs into a swanky club and remains that way until far into the night.
With this much going on, one would assume the food must bedazzle to compete. But in fact, it's surprisingly simple. A concept executive chef and general manager Tommy Simpson--who's got a stellar track record at restaurants like N9NE Steakhouse, Nobu, The Mansion, and Firefly in Hotel Zaza--calls AMPM an Upscale Diner. By paring attractive plating with expertly crafted comfort food, the dishes take the edge off the overwhelming atmosphere. Swift service from an attentive staff doesn't hurt either.
So expect Las Vegas bar meets an LA lunch spot meets an Old Hollywood private dining area with a vibe only downtown Dallas could provide. Add to that the downright heartwarming dishes that ground the space's unorthodox décor. It's an unpredictable partnership that can keep you guessing and coming back for more, and just may give this venue some real staying power.
AMPM Restaurant and Lounge
300 N. Akard St.