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John Tesar on Shelving Spoon: "I Created One of the Best Restaurants Dallas Has Ever Seen"

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Spoon Bar and Kitchen shuttered December 31, 2014. The restaurant concluded its two-year run in the Preston Center with a packed dinner service that turned 144 covers, according to chef and co-owner John Tesar. The closure is primarily being blamed on diverging business objectives between Tesar and his partners at Chanticleer Holdings, Inc., a group that also owns Hooters, American Burger Co. and other food businesses, but Tesar admits that sales had recently slowed at the popular seafood restaurant.

"It has nothing to do with the success of Knife," Tesar said, referring to his recently opened steakhouse at the Highland Dallas on Mockingbird Lane. The coming of Knife was announced with Spoon at the height of its popularity, and Tesar did his best to squelch concerns that his first restaurant would be neglected or forgotten. He pointed to an eight-year lease with impossibly low rent in an interview with the Observer, calling the space "the deal of a lifetime."

There was comfort in that statement because Spoon had pushed into new frontiers for Dallas seafood restaurants. Tesar earned consistent accolades from local media as well as national publications that praised his refined and careful treatment of fresh ingredients: "I created one of the best restaurants Dallas has ever seen," he said.

Best restaurant or not, sales at Spoon began to falter as Knife grabbed the spotlight. "It became a three or four night a week restaurant," Tesar said of Spoon at the time, noting sales on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday had taken a downward turn.

It could be that Dallas diners aren't that hot for seafood restaurants that feature inventive cooking. Driftwood boasted a creative seafood menu. The Oak Cliff restaurant closed after just three years of service, though it also weathered both a chef and ownership change. Oceanaire, Ocean Prime and Dallas Fish Market are examples of seafood restaurants that have done well in Dallas, all with formulaic seafood cooking.

Regardless of what works and what doesn't, there's a tiny glimmer of hope on the horizon for Dallasites who already miss Spoon. Tesar is adamant that the restaurant will reopen at a new address, but that's not until he's opened up a third restaurant concept, and even then he doesn't know where. Fork, Tesar's new Italian restaurant, is set to open in the Design District but the timeline is still vague.

When Fork opens, Tesar says he'll return his focus to Spoon, though the new location could be a bit of a hike. Among the business deals that tore him away from Chanticleer Holdings, Inc. is a hotel development in Wilmington, North Carolina. If Tesar can't find a suitable location in Dallas, Spoon is headed to the east coast, where seafood restaurants make a bit more sense.

Besides, Dallas has always been a steakhouse town anyway. "What do you see when you walk outside your door?" Tesar asked. While there are plenty of cattle ranches within hours of the city, there aren't any beaches. "There's no geoduck," Tesar said, referring to one of his favorite ingredients. And for the foreseeable future, there's no Spoon, either.

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