Openings and Closings

A 'Very Niche' Concept Finds its New Home in an Art Gallery-Esque Deep Ellum Space

When a restaurant you love closes down, you might run in for a last taste of your favorite dish, perhaps armed with the bittersweet feeling that you’ll never twirl that particular pasta and sauce around your fork again.

Unless that restaurant was Kitchen LTO.

After about three months since closing in Trinity Groves, on Tuesday Casie Caldwell reopened Kitchen LTO, this time in Deep Ellum. 

“It wasn’t just about this particular space being available, but the neighborhood, as well,” she says. "I was thinking about our brand and what we’re all about and sort of mirroring it with Deep Ellum in the sense that it really is on the resurgence. It seems like a neighborhood that really encourages independent art and sort of giving independence for a space to really promote their craft. It just seemed to really marry well with our concept.”

The concept of LTO is based on “limited time only,” with a new chef selected every six months to take over the menu and kitchen. In the new space, an artist will be selected to have work displayed on the long wall of the shotgun restaurant.

“We deliberately set this up like a gallery,” Caldwell says.

Right now, chef Josh Harmon is leading the kitchen with globally influenced cuisine and contemporary oil paintings by East Dallas resident Melissa Ellis fill the white wall with vibrant colors.

The rest of the space is light and clean. It’s currently a small dining room with simple decor, small succulents as centerpieces on tables, understated chairs and a bar that will be stocked with liquor as soon as the license comes through.

Aside from feeling like you’re eating in an art gallery, what’s also cool about this space is rather than having a completely open kitchen, guests can walk into what looks like a hallway but is actually a viewing area of the kitchen. Caldwell says the back-of-house staff doesn’t mind this; at the very least, it’s something to look at as you drink a cocktail while waiting for your table.

Phase two, as Caldwell calls it, will take guests beyond that walkway (which now ends at a wall) to another dining space for either private parties or dining room overflow.

Caldwell started crowdfunding with Kickstarter, but quickly learned it wasn’t the most efficient way to receive funds — the cut the site takes didn’t help, she says.

“Talk about a good lesson learned," she says, noting that Kickstarter works for some businesses, just not hers. “We hit our goal through Square and other direct contributions.”

Taking LTO out of Trinity Groves wasn’t your usual location move. After all, LTO was really an incubator within an incubator.

“They were looking for concepts they can scale," she says. "LTO is very niche; we’re not going to end up all over the country. When we departed, it was very amicable. We agreed that they would let me do whatever I’d like with the concept, so that was cool.”

Caldwell didn’t open LTO just because diners liked this concept. For her, it’s more like a calling.

“I’ve just always felt like this concept was needed, in the sense that there's so much talent out there waiting to be discovered, in the shadows, so to speak,” she says. “Maybe they’ve worked under an [executive chef] for some time and ready to get their chance or their start, and then of course on the art side, as well. With the transition, we wanted to kind of give it its equal due.”

Kitchen LTO, 2901 Elm St. 

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Taylor Adams has written about the restaurant industry for the Dallas Observer since 2016. She attended Southern Methodist University before covering local news at The Dallas Morning News.