After Lakewood’s Legal Grounds changed ownership last year, the doors closed, the sign came down, and long-time customers were less than thrilled.
But since then, The Heights has taken over, still serving coffee but also three meals a day.
“A lot of people were very upset about it; they were not pleased,” says Heights executive chef Karin Porter, 38. “There are people who were just upset about the whole remodel in general and just losing the whole idea of Legal Grounds, but I think for the most part, we’ve won everybody over.”
The second week of July will mark the one-year anniversary since The Heights opened. One reason customers might have kept coming to the new place is because the Heights wisely retained the granola pancakes from the old menu – with a bit of tweaking.
While the menu won’t surprise anyone — bagel and lox at breakfast, pot roast at dinner — the kitchen might: Everyone working in The Heights kitchen is a woman.
“That just kind of happened actually," Porter says. "It wasn’t planned at all, but we laugh about it all the time. And honestly, it is the most badass kitchen staff I have ever had in my life. And several of them had never even worked in a professional kitchen before, so that was kind of cool because then you can keep them from developing bad habits or bringing in mistakes or bad habits from other jobs."
Porter, a Bryan Adams High School graduate who lives in East Dallas with her husband and 11-year old son, went to culinary school in Chicago. She returned to Dallas and landed her first restaurant job at The Grape, where chef Brian Luscher pushed her to grow in the kitchen.
“When Brian told me to start working the grill, I had never done it before, and I was terrified, and he said, ‘You’re doing it,’” she says. “And in two months, I had it.”
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In a way, that’s how she’s leading her small kitchen now.
“I cross-train everybody, so everybody knows a little bit on how to do everything, so if there’s fewer staff one day and somebody's getting in trouble on the grill or they need some help, somebody can hop over. So they always feel like they have support,” she says. “And that’s really important because when you’re in a job and feel like you don’t have any support and you’re just doing the same thing all along, that’s when you start being complacent, and you get a bad attitude, and you start not liking it, and it shows in the food.”
The Heights' food: American, mostly Southern dishes, nothing terribly unexpected — and that’s kind of the point.
“There’s nothing complicated about what we do. We’re not trying to be groundbreaking, we’re not trying to do anything new or different. We’re just trying to present pretty simple, tasty food that people understand,” she says. “The food here is really, really, really simple. So in order to execute it well, we have to pay attention to every detail."
The Heights, 2015 Abrams Road