First Look

Downtown's New Commissary Cafe and Market is a Smart, Cool New Addition to the Neighborhood

Artist Jorge Pardo used 27,857 ceramic tiles to give Commissary an eye-popping interior and exterior.
Artist Jorge Pardo used 27,857 ceramic tiles to give Commissary an eye-popping interior and exterior. Courtesy of Commissary
Even amid the chaos of downtown, Commissary is hard to miss.

The new cafe, bakery, butcher shop and market at 1217 Main St. resides in a five-story building brightly decorated with 27,857 ceramic mosaic tiles, making the building stick out among the grays and browns of downtown architecture. As the array of happy blue tiles might imply, there's a lot going on here.

The latest opening from Headington Companies, the developer behind the Joule two blocks away, Commissary has, for months, been cooking up staples for Headington's increasingly lengthy list of restaurants: Wheelhouse, Sassetta, CBD Provisions, Mirador, Americano. But the company's in-house bakery, butcher shop and all-around commissary kitchen now has its own restaurant to stock for breakfast, lunch, dinner and grab-and-go.

click to enlarge Commissary's French dip ($10) is accented by Vietnamese flavors highlighted by the pho broth served in lieu of au jus. - BETH RANKIN
Commissary's French dip ($10) is accented by Vietnamese flavors highlighted by the pho broth served in lieu of au jus.
Beth Rankin
The 2,500-square-foot ground-floor restaurant is made with busy downtown workers and tourists in mind. There's a menu of fast cafe fare — deli sandwiches, a la carte breakfast items and pastas — along with grab-and-go meals and market amenities such as cured meats, retail wine and gourmet pantry staples. There's a
"5,000-bottle wine cellar, a walk-in dry-aging cooler, and an Empire MecaMATIC 6-deck tunnel oven, which is stuffed to the crust by 4 a.m. each morning with 150 loaves — foccacia, sourdough, rye, baguettes and more," according to a press release.

But for the average diner, most of the experience happens in the market and cafe, which, in classic Headington style, is slick and modern and lets users decide whether they're popping in for a sandwich on the run or lingering for hours over salumi plates and wine. For downtown diners, it's an ideal flexibility.

click to enlarge For $3.50, you can pop in and out with a fresh-baked bagel and cream cheese. - BETH RANKIN
For $3.50, you can pop in and out with a fresh-baked bagel and cream cheese.
Beth Rankin
Visit Commissary during prime hours, and you're likely to encounter some lines, but that's due in no small part to downtown's dearth of similar options. It's a simple idea, really — to open a straightforward but forward-thinking cafe on the ground level of a multistory commissary kitchen — but, considering the location, it's a smart choice.

Headington's food and beverage empire is growing rapidly; the company opened two restaurants in the Design District this spring, with another grab-and-go spot on the way in the same complex, and its presence on Main Street in downtown Dallas continues to expand beyond the Joule's chic, art-filled space growing under the watchful presence of the giant eyeball across the street. The breads, pastas and cured meats coming out of Commissary will populate menus on Headington bars and restaurants across the city, but the cafe is a smart, cool addition for downtown diners who have starkly different needs than diners in other neighborhoods.

Commissary, 1217 Main St. Open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
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Beth Rankin is an Ohio native and Cicerone-certified beer server who specializes in social media, food and drink, travel and news reporting. Her belief system revolves around the significance of Topo Chico, the refusal to eat crawfish out of season and the importance of local and regional foodways.
Contact: Beth Rankin