When some companies need a facelift, its owners may feel less than confident about the effort. But not Christine and Jonaton Erdeljac. For the husband-and-wife restaurateurs, they knew the time was right for expansion.
Walk into Jonathon’s Oak Cliff for breakfast and you know you’ve walked into a popular place. The small dining room isn’t even big enough for the people waiting for tables to maneuver easily. Brunch wait times can be an hour or more on days when the weather is nice.
But down the road, the Erdeljacs have another restaurant just a half-mile away: Kessler Park Eating House, and despite serving food of the same caliber, it never found its audience. So last Friday, Kessler Park Eating House, which Jonathon calls his "passion project," got a new sign — one that reads "Jonathon's Diner."
“Some of it was really well received, but there’s a bottom line,” he says. “We took everything we wanted to do and realized it’s not the right time and place.”
Kessler Park Eating House served stellar food, including a mouth-watering, perfectly cooked burger. But the restaurant had a hard time finding the same fame as Jonathon's.
It was well received by Jonathon's regulars at first, Jonathon says, but it wasn’t what they expected. They wanted another Jonathon’s, he says, and when they spotted a different menu with higher prices, things quieted down.
“Some people didn’t get it; the price point was a little higher," Jonathon says. So he brought the Jonathon's menu to Kessler Park Eating House, and things started to change.
“All of a sudden, we can breathe again," he says.
The Kessler Park sign only recently turned to a colorful sign advertising Jonathon's Diner, but this diner has actually been serving Jonathon's menu since last August, and crowds have finally noticed.
“We laugh about it. We haven’t done anything but change the menu,” Jonathon says.
While Jonathon’s Oak Cliff sits in an older house dripping with antique charm, Jonathon’s Diner is in a midcentury building that has always been a diner, according to Erdeljac.
The feel is different, but for now the menu is completely the same as what you get at the original location.
Erdeljac says the new menu is “right around the corner” and will include favorites from Jonathon’s as well as some extras.
They made a from-scratch chicken pot pie at Jonathon’s for a while, but quickly learned the labor and time involved didn’t work with the kitchen.
“My philosophy is if we can’t do it right, we’re not going to do it,” he says. “So we’re bringing back the chicken pot pie here.”
The house-made pasta will return to the lunch menu, he says, along with a few specials.
“On the weekends, I have two full parking lots. I’m proud of that,” he says.
He’s already talking about looking north to expand Jonathon’s further. They live in North Dallas, have worked there and see plan to open another Jonathon's location there in the next year or two.
Both Christine and Jonathon worked in the restaurant industry all their professional lives; before Jonathon’s, they worked at Bread Winners, another Dallas brunch favorite.
Today, he’s focused on the kitchen in both restaurants, and she’s covering everything else. At a recent trip to Jonathon’s Diner, she was greeting and serving people as they filled the tables midmorning.
“A lot of people don’t realize this is a two-man show,” he says. “I’m just an artist.
Right now, his art involves creating some of Dallas' most sought-after brunch food. But now that Kessler Park Eating House has become Jonathon's Diner, the location is seeing similar success.
“This is a tough business," Jonathon says. "We do it because we have the ability to do it.”
Jonathon's Diner, 1619 N. Beckley Ave.
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