Food News

Rapscallions Brooks and Bradley Anderson Grow a Restaurant Empire

Sometimes new restaurants just strike gold. For all the hard work that goes into opening a restaurant, some are luckier than others. In Dallas, Boulevardier in Bishop Arts has quickly developed a reputation for serving incredible food, mixing great cocktails and shucking the freshest $1 oysters in town. Now, brothers and owners Brooks Anderson and Bradley Anderson are ready to start their next culinary adventure — modern Texan cuisine.

The Anderson brothers will open Rapscallion, their fourth restaurant together, on July 7. We sat down to talk with the brothers about their experience opening Rapscallion, what they’ve learned from running Boulevardier and what to expect on the menu of this highly anticipated Lower Greenville spot.

Now that you’re well into running Boulevardier, what made this summer the right time to open Rapscallion?

Brooks: Our contractor turned the space over to us. Not to be a smart-ass, but, yeah. The landlord finished the shell of the building and turned it over to our contractor in December. As we worked our way through the permitting process and construction of the restaurant, that took about six months. We’re excited about opening, but the season isn’t really something we can control. When you find your space, you’ve gotta get going.

Bradley: That was the main thing. We found a space. Prior to signing the lease here, we looked at dozens of spaces over the course of 12-18 months or so, and nothing really worked for us. When this became available, we knew it was the right spot, so we got started.

Rapscallion seems to have opened its much faster than other highly anticipated restaurants, like Uchi or Luscher’s Red Hots. Did the process went smoothly and quickly?

Brooks: I can assure you that nobody here thinks that it has gone smoothly at all. We thought that we would be opening by mid-May. We’d already built in extra delay time at that point, so we’re fully seven or eight weeks behind. That means we’ve been paying our staff, paying for the electric bill, and paying rent for that long without being open. It’s been a difficult, arduous process. There are so many variables and things that happen when you’re opening a restaurant, and the process here has been a lot of fun, it always is, but it’s also really stressful. You wait, wait, and wait, then go, go and go.

Bradley: In the grand scheme of things, we’re not too far behind. We really couldn’t afford to open up much later. We’re excited to open, and we feel like we’re ready.

Do you feel like you’re just about there, ready to open in a few days?

Bradley: Absolutely. The wine list is done, the cocktail menu is done, the chef’s menu is done. We’re just finalizing some things in the interior and in the structure as well, but that’s really it.

What made you decide to stick with chef Nathan Tate for this second concept?

Brooks: That all started years ago, literally. We met Nate through Randall Copeland, where they were partners at Ava out in Rockwall. They were looking for some exposure to Dallas, and we had a little wine bar called Veritas Wine Room on Henderson, which is still there and doing quite well thanks to Gemma. They’ve been great for us. We love those guys. Randall had the great idea that he could come and cook at Veritas so our regulars could get to know him.

That was the first installment of the Veritas Supper Series, and the first time you do anything, it’s not going to be particularly good. We had no clue what we were doing, but we figured it out. That series came to include Bruno Davaillon, John Tesar, Matt McCallister. As we went through that process we decided to join up with Randall and Nate to do Boulevardier. Through an incredibly tragic turn of events, Randall passed in April of 2013, and Ava closed. We certainly went through some tough times, but the good thing about Nate is that we’re not just business partners, we’re also friends. We go to his family farm to shoot guns and travel all over.

Bradley: We went to Kentucky and bought a bottle of bourbon from Jim Beam together in the middle of a blizzard.

Brooks: We all have a great time together. Bradley and I both think that Nate is brilliant at what he does, and there was never any thought of working with anybody else after our experience at Boulevardier. I can’t speak for Nate, but I assume he was happy with us, and the three of us wanted to do a second restaurant. If this one works, we’ll be doing another one, whether that’s a neighborhood bistro or a gastropub bar kind of concept. We’ve had lots of conversations about what the next concept might be, even if they are totally premature at this point.

In the opening of Rapscallion, what are the most important restaurant opening lessons you brought from Boulevardier to here?

Brooks: Yes. We learned that a raw bar has to have dedicated refrigeration. When you run out of oysters in the middle of Saturday service and you’ve got a line of tickets, it’s a big mess in the middle of service. That refrigeration also allows us to do more composed dishes off the raw bar, which is hard to do at Boulevardier. Now we can do cured fishes and mixed shellfish cocktails because we can keep the things we need at temperature.

Even though we sell more oysters at Boulevardier in a week than I ever thought we would in a month — no joke, we sell 1,500 oysters a week there — we think that we can do this better here. We’ll still have the focus on oysters, but we’ll be able to have a lot more fun dishes.

Bradley: The construction process was also much smoother. We knew what to expect, and how to budget for the restaurant. Boulevardier was much of a guessing game for us.

Brooks: We’ve done it once. The first time you do something, you’re probably not going to be very good at it. The second time, you get a little better, and hopefully on the third or fourth time you’ve got it figured out. In no way do I feel that we know totally what we’re doing — you’re guessing as to what your crowd is going to be, what they’re going to like. You put together what you think is good and what you think is cool, but you have to listen to your customers. That’s the biggest lesson. You’ve got to tweak your thing into what they want to you to be without losing sight of who you are and what your concept is.

What is it like working with your brother, especially in a business as stressful as a new restaurant?

Bradley: If we fight, we make up quickly. We’re married together with four businesses.

Brooks: We don’t even make up. Tempers flare and you get a little chirpy, but we’re brothers and best friends. I’ll hang up on him and be pissy, and then call him back 10 minutes later. We try to be as easy going and respectful as we can be, and Nate fits into that dynamic really well. We’re all reasonable people and communication is key. We really never argue.

Bradley: Oh we argue, but we never argue with Nate.

That seems pretty rare, too — chefs and restaurateurs having really close relationships and a relatively drama-free workplace. Do you think that’s true?

Bradley: Everyone tells us that it is pretty rare. I get asked all the time how you work with your brother, but it works well together. We even spend our vacations together. My wife refers to him as my second wife.

Brooks: True story. We go to the wine country or bourbon country, just get away for a few days. Hell, sometimes we stay in the same king bed!

What style of cuisine can we expect from Rapscallion?

Brooks: Nathan Tate was born on a multi-generational family farm in Rockwall County, and he loves Southern food. He loves New Orleans and South Louisiana and loves the food of the historical South. That is the foundation of what we’re doing here, but Nate is a modern chef and a modern dude. He likes Japanese and North African cuisines, and he’s got an incredible palate.

The menu is rooted in the culinary traditions in the South. He cherry-picks global high points of flavor and works those into the Southern foundations in a way that I think is totally unexpected, but it just works. He has a bit of a test kitchen back there, so we were running specials at Boulevardier a year ago to test things out for this restaurant. I don’t think anyone would call Nathan Tate’s food subtle. He’s all about layering flavor at every turn.

He loves salt, smoke, acid, spice, and finding the balance between all those. It’s all big, bold flavors, but they’re never overwrought. People really seem to like what he does. Boulevardier is as busy as its ever been, and we’re three years into it. He just has a knack for food that tastes mind-blowingly good. Most of the food here on the menu is going to see a little bit of smoke, and plenty of big, bold flavors.  
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Amy McCarthy