First Look

First Look: Café Duro on Greenville Has the Bob Ross of Sandwiches

The design here is inspired by the famous restaurant Giacomo in Milan, Italy.
The design here is inspired by the famous restaurant Giacomo in Milan, Italy. Lauren Drewes Daniels
Café Duro is a new spot along Greenville right next to its sister restaurant, aptly called Sister, which was previously The Grape. Duro Hospitality has taken over both spaces and is, according to a recent press release, embarking on a "rapid expansion" of concepts "unlike any other in Dallas," which is a bold statement because we certainly have a bevy of concepts.

Other parcels of real estate under the Duro Hospitality umbrella include the swank Design District spot The Charles. They also own the space that was previously Highland Park Soda Fountain, which they plan to reopen this fall. And Cole and Riverfront is a more recently acquired property in the Design District that will open later this year.
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Cafe Duro has parking but no in-house dining at this time. But they're working on that, and for now you can have lunch next door at Sister.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
This stretch along Greenville Avenue where Café Duro now lives retains old-Dallas charm compared with the more glitzy newer stretch just half a mile south anchored by a Trader Joe's. If you squint, Café Duro has an Italian vibe — heavily tiled and marbled — which is by design as it was inspired by the famed restaurant Giacomo in Milan.

But it's basically a small coffee and sandwich shop with some prepackaged house-made pasta, sauces, meats, cheese, pastries, bottles of wine and home goods.

For parking, which is always a giant eye roll for Greenville Avenue, there are two 15-minute spots in front of the café and more around the back. There was no problem grabbing a spot at lunch recently.

Longtime Dallas chef J Chastain explained that they're working through some code issues and don't have tables inside just yet. Instead, diners are offered tables on the enclosed patio at Sister. It's a short jaunt and a nice airy space. Framed photos of famous Italians are handed out as "numbers" for the table. Servers bring food over; service is on the doting side and quick.

Behind the counter and bar where guests place orders are three tap handles. One is red, for red wine, one white, for the house white wine, and in the middle is Illy nitro for cold brews.
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The muffuletta at Cafe Duro is made with a wagyu pastrami and mortadella.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
Café Duro has a simple menu with pizzettas and sandwiches. The muffuletta ($12.50) is served toasted and has thick slices of fall-apart tender wagyu pastrami that is borderline criminal. Chastain, who has manned the kitchen at The Charles and now at Cafe Duro and Sister, says he uses A Bar N Ranch pastrami, a house-made olive tapenade and an Empire Baking Co. ciabatta.

Provolone cheese is melted and then firms to slight crispiness, giving the bread a tasty outer snap with each bite. The bread allows for a perfect meat-to-cheese-to-bread ratio with a bit more protein than carbs. There's also a slice of mortadella in there. The only problem here was a guy at a table behind me who kept answering his phone, talking loudly on business calls. It was hard not to shush him for disturbing this wonderful sandwich. This is a peaceful sandwich. A Bob Ross sandwich. And at just $12.50 it feels like a steal.

"It [Cafe Duro] has been a different pull for us after doing higher-end restaurants in Dallas, and this is pretty much the other end of the spectrum. Even since starting The Charles, me and my partners have a lot of discussions about trying to make things chefie but still approachable to people," Chastain said.

With this spot, he says they want a place where the menu is easy to understand and to establish a customer base who will appreciate the value.
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An olive oil cake and Illy cold brew, while Enzo Ferrari smiles on.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
A nitro cold brew ($5) along with a piece of a dense olive oil cake ($4.50) was a perfect end cap to lunch here.

Café Duro also has a trio of pizzettas on the menu, all $8.50: a spicy pepperoni with burnt honey and peppers; wild mushroom with goat cheese and chili flake; and a meatball with jalapeños. A few other sandwiches are also on offer including a "pickle chicken," a vegetarian with artichoke and hummus and a smoked salmon sandwich.

But how someone is within a mile of that space and doesn't get the cheesy wagyu pastrami muffuletta is hard to imagine.

Café Duro opens for breakfast at 7 a.m. and stays through dinner until 10 p.m. They have a coffee bar (no syrups on the menu, just coffee, Topo Chico and Nutella) with house-made pastries. The sandwiches and pizzettas are available the rest of the day, plus one could easily build a great dinner from their pre-packaged section along with a bottle of wine.

Café Duro, 2804 Greenville Avenue, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday - Sunday
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.