First Look

First Look: Wits, a South African-Inspired Restaurant, Enters the League of Dallas Steakhouses

Wits Steakhouse is a stunning space with plenty of gold and opulence.
Wits Steakhouse is a stunning space with plenty of gold and opulence. Courtesy of Wits Steakhouse, photo by Kathy Tran
Like pickup trucks and chili, steak is synonymous with the Lone Star State. Although Texas didn’t invent the idea of cooking a large slab of beef on an open flame, it has definitely helped perfect the art form.

One great thing about Dallas is not only can you get fresh cuts of beef curated from within Texas, but you can also indulge in various other steakhouses inspired by other countries. Almost everyone by now has wandered into a Brazilian steakhouse to almost blissfully perish in an avalanche of unlimited morsels of meat. Dallas is also home to Argentine-style steakhouses. Now there is a new kid on the fancy-steakhouse block, Wits Steakhouse.

Wits Steakhouse is a South African-inspired restaurant nestled in the Design District, a stone’s throw away from Markowicz Fine Art studio. This spot fits perfectly in this plush area of Dallas known for its salient aesthetics and hefty price tags.

Wits' décor is sleek and sophisticated. From first sight, the place is a glittery bomb of gold, from the continuous golden carpets all the way to the shimmering gold light fixtures. It gives off a Casino Royale vibe. From looks alone, it’s the type of place that would impress business associates or possibly an object of affection.

After being seated, we quickly placed our drink orders and began to review the menu. The menu has typical steakhouse fare, but my heart was set on something influenced specifically from "The Rainbow Nation.”
My table ordered the New Zealand rack of lamb ($42), Peri-Peri Prawns ($37), Brussels sprouts ($10) and bone marrow. We scanned the menu for quite a while and when we were ready to place our order, the server said we had the wrong menus. Some of the items that we were salivating for weren’t on the new menu, including the bone marrow. After all of that, I finished my drink and realized I was the only one who received a drink.
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New Zealand chops from Wits Steakhouse
Like anything new, there are almost always growing pains. Wits opened its doors to the public less than a month before we made reservations for a Saturday night. Although we had a fairly large party attending dinner, we thought that the restaurant would make necessary arrangements to accommodate. I want to preface this by saying everyone that we spoke with was extremely nice and professional. Within all the chaos that would ensue over the evening, our servers always managed to keep a smile on their faces.

It took around 30 minutes for the rest of the party to receive their drinks. By the time they received their first round, I was the sole individual to receive food. After discussing with others, I was persuaded to go ahead eat before it got cold and was promised I wouldn’t be considered an impolite ass-hat for starting my meal without the others. The New Zealand chops were cooked brilliantly at medium rare with a glistening pink center. The dish was gently seasoned so as not to overpower the natural savoriness of the lamb.
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Brussels sprouts at Wits are a meal in themselves.
The large bowl of charred Brussels sprouts with a sweet and vinegary glaze is almost a meal by itself. These aren’t the sprouts that were forced down our gullets as kids.

Next were the Peri-Peri Prawns. Peri-peri is a fiery blend of chilis with a dash of sweetness. The firm, buttery prawns were slathered in a chunky sauce with a handful of greens hiding in the background. Each bite was better than the last.

But it was difficult to enjoy because some never received their food or food was sent to other tables, which wasn’t realized until after it was already tampered with. At one point a server put down a bowl of Brussels sprouts and told the table they were the grilled asparagus.
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Peri-Peri Prawns
One of the guests complained that the calamari was already cold and the miso cod was very salty. Plates were shuffling around the room from table to table like a disturbing game of musical chairs. People became visibly upset from the lack of food. After a long bout with the servers trying to figure out what was ordered and what was actually received, we all decided to cut our losses, pay our bills and leave.

Once the servers get more training, Wits Steakhouse could be the South African gem we never knew we needed. If you break it down to three components of a diner’s experience — aesthetics, food and service — two out of three isn’t too bad for a beginner. And while this concept is new, the ownership group, ARG Concepts, has plenty of experience including Oak, which was the previous occupant of the space, as well as El Bolero, Pakpao and Hawthorne.

With that said, this spot deserves another try in the future. Just hope they have the bone marrow.
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