People Issue

In Goodfriend and Blind Butcher, Josh Yingling and Matt Tobin Have Built Far More Than Bars

In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 20 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Can Turkyilmaz. See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.

After a decade-plus in the service industry, Matt Tobin and Josh Yingling had seen plenty of bartenders pour drinks into their forties and fifties, chain-smoking cigarettes and slugging whiskey shots until dawn. The future didn't look bright, especially for Yingling, who often upended an entire bottle of Jameson during a shift catering to other industry workers while working with Tobin at Vickery Park on Henderson Avenue. The two wanted to open up their own bar, if only to keep from being consumed.

Their Goodfriend Beer Garden and Burger House wasn't supposed to be much more than a beer and whiskey bar, initially. They even turned over the food preparation to neighboring taquería Good 2 Go Taco. But it quickly ballooned into something more, shaping the neighborhood that desperately needed a place where people could meet and hang out. For enthusiasts, Goodfriend quickly became a go-to spot for an incredible burger, and for Tobin, 39 and Yingling, 37, it provided a source of transformation. They were no longer bartenders, but successful business owners.

So successful, in fact, that investors lined up with money to open a second location. "We could have done another Goodfriend anywhere," Yingling says. Partners proposed locations in Richardson, Oak Cliff and Fort Worth, any of which could have been wildly successful and easy to permit, but Yingling says they wouldn't have learned anything new by stamping out a carbon copy. "And it takes away from the original," Tobin adds. Besides that, they wanted to live and work in East Dallas exclusively.

So they locked down a lease with new partners on Lower Greenville Avenue and set out to do something new, not just for themselves but for the community, too. After a recent crackdown by the city on rowdy bars and nightclubs, Lower Greenville was desperate for both some nightlife and some decent food. It took more than a year of meetings and planning, trying to convince the neighborhood and the city that they were responsible business owners -- a process Yingling likened to going 12 rounds in the ring. When it was over, Blind Butcher was born, and Lower Greenville Avenue had a new meat mecca and beer bar unlike anything else in the city.

Not to mention the jobs and even health insurance that they provide even though they're not required to. They've became more involved with their community, holding fundraisers for a friend who was involved in a motorcycle accident and an employee who wanted to go on a mission to Haiti, and working to form a neighborhood business association. Tobin and Yingling got into the bar business to keep themselves from sinking permanently into the well, but in the process of providing for themselves, they've provided for a lot of people. In trying to avoid becoming aged and crusty bartenders, they became role models for the next generation of drink pourers instead.

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Scott Reitz
Contact: Scott Reitz