Nick Badovinus Discusses Desert Racer: The Inspiration, the Timeline and the Solid Start

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For months, we’ve known Nick Badovinus was going to open a place on Lowest Greenville.

That neighborhood description might be off, though. We’re talking “lower” than that, closer to Palapas: a place our critic Brian Reinhart isn’t dying to visit, but one I personally love, TBH.

Restaurateur and chef Nick Badovinus’ Desert Racer on Lowest GreenvilleEXPAND
Restaurateur and chef Nick Badovinus’ Desert Racer on Lowest Greenville
Taylor Adams

This is trendier than the seafood spot, honestly, one that could bring Lowest and Lower Greenville traffic a bit farther down.

So here comes Nick Badovinus’ Desert Racer, something we’ve all been awaiting for a while and finally opened its doors last week.

I stopped in last week, instantly knew a former elected official in the waiting area (another sign besides the crowd that this was *the* place to be) then was quickly recognized by some staff members. But we got a look at the menu, and that’s what we’re here to talk about. That, and to share a few words from Badovinus himself.

Just a portion of the patio space, with school desk chairs many of us remember so well.EXPAND
Just a portion of the patio space, with school desk chairs many of us remember so well.
Taylor Adams

It’s a large interior with a large patio and a large format of a menu, and we’re here for all of it. Walking up to the exterior, you can feel vibes of Marfa. Inside, you see palettes you’d see in Santa Fe. They’ve nailed aesthetics with cool tones and enough color to provide personality throughout.

“What we were trying to capture was a multitude of places, nothing specific but specific generalities that created a space that allows you to get a three-hour vacation you can Uber to,” Badovinus says.

Menu-wise, you see a lot: enchiladas, tots (of course), burgers (with crinkle cuts!), entrees such as half chicken al carbon and a whole lot more. It’s a physically big menu dense with food.

The crisp edges on the side may be the best part of fundido, and there's plenty of it at Desert Racer.EXPAND
The crisp edges on the side may be the best part of fundido, and there's plenty of it at Desert Racer.
Taylor Adams

Chorizo fundido comes out heavy and sticky, with the proper crisping edges along every side. Elotes come with a nice flavor due in part to red Fresno aioli, cotija and lime. Though the serving was the greasiest we’ve ever had. Asada tots come with your choice of meat — all of which come with salsa and crema, with the base of the tots swimming in queso. We like queso, we don’t like soggy-inducing cheese, though; if crispness isn’t a requirement for you, you’re fine here.

As for cocktails, the Tucson is essentially an Old-Fashioned, though utilizing Aztec mole bitters ($12). There’s a sangria section — something we wouldn’t mind seeing in more restaurants — with white, rose and red options ($10). The red is fine, though rather spritzy, with pomegranate, rhubarb bitters, brandy, lemon and (lots of) soda.

“I don’t know that I did a bunch of research necessarily, it’s a style of eating that I’ve kind of enjoyed my whole adult life from parts of the country that I'm super familiar and from a style of cooking, in terms of dry chile and smoke, and over open fire. ... It’s what brought me here,” Badovinus says, pointing to Dean Fearing. “That style of food has always been really near and dear to my heart.”

Tots on queso, piled high with brisketEXPAND
Tots on queso, piled high with brisket
Taylor Adams

While some of us love East Dallas because we’re loyal to that part of town, Badovinus also saw a space with opportunity.

“It was available and had kind of a large footprint, it had kind of a freestanding identity to it, the parking situation was great especially for East Dallas, the Greenville area, but really it offered the opportunity to do something as the compound,” he says. “I wanted to have a huge indoor space and a lot of outdoor space and [where we] could create something that could live both indoor and outdoor with an expression for each.”

Physically, there’s no question this beyond-Lowest Greenville spot has that down.

It just took a long time: Word was this spot was to open months ago and many anxiously awaited the next Badovinus venture.

“We never really set a timetable, we leave that more for other people to determine. We had a time that we would’ve preferred. But the project, in terms of the physical characters, really evolved, and it’s a big space, and that stuff takes time,” Badovinus says.

A soda-filled sangriaEXPAND
A soda-filled sangria
Taylor Adams

But now it is finally here, it’s already packed (and considering the size, that’s not a small statement).

“The effort it takes to get a place open, obviously, is quite sizable and immersive and stressful and all of those things, then the hard part starts,” he says. “It’s nice to have crossed the Rubicon and to the taking care of customers and working for the ergonomics of a big space and kind of figuring it all out, it’s certainly the biggest thing we’ve tried to take on, and that’s the fun of it.”

Desert Racer, 1520 Greenville Ave. (East Dallas)

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