It's hard to say 2009 was a pivotal year in
Dallas dining. The city did, however, tally a surprising number of new restaurants. We also saw a few venerable locations shut down.
If it weren't for the recession, this would all seem unexceptional. Establishments open and close on a regular basis, even during the best of economic times. Therefore if anything stood out about the year just past, it would be that we lost so few--and welcomed so many.
Before we drift too far into the next decade, let's take one more look back at 2009 and the restaurants that entered and departed.
Notable openings of 2009 (and why we think they were important, in no particular order):
Nick & Sam's Grill
It's not the cooking that attracts us, but what they did to a jinxed location--especially opening the big front doors during warm weather, adding a spillover patio for that European feel and spiffing up the existing patio. Besides, downsizing (compared to Nick & Sam's) was the thing to do in '09.
Rathbun's Blue Plate Kitchen
The kitchen tends to roller coaster a bit. But in a year of downsizing, the longing for comfort foods and growing interest in local/seasonal ingredients, Rathbun hit the mark--at least in terms of concept--with his not so down home take on fried chicken, catfish and other once-common items.
One of the best new restaurants of 2009...and (finally) a reason to visit Reunion Tower.
Hully & Mo
We wouldn't recommend dinner at this high end sports bar. We just think it restored some of Mike Modano's nightlife credibility after he endorsed N9NE (which happened just before the Victory steakhouse closed).
Or maybe it's AVA. Doesn't matter--chefs Tate and Copeland rely on the freshest and most local ingredients possible. That they brought this ethic to Rockwall makes the place even more interesting.
Chapman Chile Kitchen
Small time operations that emphasize quality (above all else--even marketing) should always be celebrated.
Small plates are all the rage. But at this spot in Uptown, they are all the menu, as well.
Carolina's Mexican Cuisine
A spin-off from the Mico soap opera. Or call it a saga, if you wish. Following their split and his departure from the restaurant group he helped to build, Mico's wife decided to compete with his Mi Cocina. A spicy story is just as interesting as a spicy dish.
Proof that Plano is becoming cool. Very cool, if you make your way up to the icy rooftop bar and patio. It looks like a loft and serves gourmet pizza. Good stuff.
The return of Marc Cassel has caused traffic to tie up along Henderson Ave. Location matters, too, as Henderson emerged as the city's hot spot.
Urbino Pizza e Pasta
Another big menu trend of 2009 (besides local and seasonal) was flat breads. This Henderson Ave. spot serves impressive versions, without the benefit of a name chef. And using an electric car to deliver still fits into the ethical dining frame.
The crew from Bolsa, a chef from Stephan Pyles and cooking straight from American history. Smoke's emphasis on traditional wood fired techniques makes it a must visit restaurant. They help make the argument that Oak Cliff (and not Henderson) is the real hot spot.
Small plates plus Stephan Pyles equals one of the best new restaurants of 2009
Nobody opens a 10,000 square foot palace in the middle of a recession, do they? Here's to the risk takers and trend breakers.Notable closings of 2009 (and why we think...you know):
They fought hard, hiring Mike Modano as a spokesman at the 11th hour. Ultimately, however, defeat comes to most of those in Victory.
Franki's L'il Europe
It was an institution. Unfortunately, institutions sometimes fade from our memories.
This was such a good spot. And it was supposed to help turn Lower Greenville into a Henderson Ave.-style dining destination. It didn't.
Neither did this place. Nice try, though.
It's one thing when fine dining restaurants abandon Deep Ellum. But when old favorites go, as well...
La Palapa Veracruzana
We think it was one of the best Mexican restaurants in town (outside of a few mom and pop taquerias). Fate is cruel sometimes.
The fusion of French and Mexican cuisine at this Henderson Ave. venue sometimes faltered. But when they hit the mark (as they often did), the results were memorable. Don't know why it never caught on. No nachos, maybe?
After a decade, Van Roberts shuttered the Uptown cottage. At least we have memories.
But those are just the highlights. More than 50 restaurants of note--good and bad--opened during the course of the year. Far fewer closed up shop. So for the more comprehensive-minded folk out there, we present a roll call of those most worthy of mention.
Which means no mention of frozen yogurt places and no mention of the Chili's in Victory.By location, these include:
Hacienda on Henderson--replacing the popular Cuquita's
Park--Former Green Room star Marc Cassel upsizes and downscales
Urbino Pizza e Pasta--Part lounge, part pizza joint
The Soley! space is set to reopen as a second Neighborhood Services.
Bella--Chef Christopher Short garnered strong reviews, then left for Plano
Geisha House--Another stylish Uptown spot
Hully & Mo--Could say the same for this classy sports bar
Lazare--Its life was brutish, nasty and short
Lemon Bar--Filling in for Lazare
Nick & Sam's Grill--Style is the substance here
Si Tapas--Off Uptown's beaten paths
Split Peas--Most of us never even made it here
The closing of Pescabar and Lazare suggest that corner of Lemmon is jinxed.
Dallas Oak Cliff
Casa Blanca Sabor--in the old Grill 400 space
ConFusion--Maybe the best name ever for a fusion restaurant
Hula Hotties--Unkempt and rickety, but fun Hawaiian cafe
Luckie's Smokehouse--A smokehouse? In Texas?
Smoke--So much more than the name implies
La Palapa Veracruzana
Cliff Cafe is now Smoke. And the other spots have new names lined up, as well.
Vapiano--OK, it's a chain. But it's part of a German chain, so we can mention it here.
Regular old Dallas
Bailey's Prime Plus--The Cedar Hill location didn't resonate, so why not open a second branch?
Bryan Street--From the Barley House guys
Burguesa Burger--Jeff Sinelli's Mexican-style burger stand
Chapman Chile Kitchen--Small and good
Chicken House--One chicken joint closes, another opens
Cretia's on McKinney--In a new location
Dallas Chop House--Fancy protein
Dish--Some big names behind this recently opened space
Five-Sixty--Wolfgang Puck's Dallas operation is worthy of his name
Good 2 Go Taco--Take-away tacos from a gas station, but better than Fuel City
Mario Sabino's--Part Mexican, part Salvadoran
Ocean Prime--Big space with a cool bar
Pizza Lounge--It is what the name implies
Rathbun's Blue Plate Kitchen--Wealthy Park Cities types can eat like po' folk
Samar--By Stephan Pyles, but affordable
Urbano Cafe--Small, surprising spot
Wi Wi Kitchen--Cute name for the SMU crowd
World Piece Cafe--Rene Peeters is back
Zato Thai Cuisine & Sushi Bar--Now they need to add a Tex-Mex menu
Franki's L'il Europe
Mainstream Fish House
Park Cities Prime
On the plus side, some of these are repositioning themselves.
Carolina's Mexican Cuisine--A good patio in Far North Dallas
India West--Is India west or east? Or both?
Los Cabos--An Oklahoma chain comes south
Norma's Cafe--Good old home cookin' in a strip mall
Fish on Fire
Nazar--Takes over for Shish, with much the same menu (only better)
Otaru Sushi--Just opened
Avanti Euro Bistro
Sambuca moved further north to cooler digs. Can never remember if Two Rows was in North Dallas or Addison, so we put it here.
Terra Mediterranean Grill--In Watters Creek
Trinity Hall--The Mockingbird institution branches out
Cobb Switch--Brought to you by names such as Cobb, Griffith and Black
Tea Thyme & Tisane--Cute old town space with great tea
Chez Moi--French, perhaps?
Churchill's--If you're thinking 'pub,' you're right
Sauce on the Square--If you're thinking something Italian...
15th St. Eatery--Location, location, location
Cafe Istanbul--Better than the original...and in Legacy
Fin Sushi & Sake Bar--Supposed to serve good yellowtail
Fish Shack--Predictable name, but good early reputation
Holy Grail Pub--Another Dallas import
RIngo's Pub--The pub's the thing in Legacy
Urban Crust--One of the more interesting spots in Plano
Barcelona Connection--Tapas, as the name would suggest
Russo Coal-Fired Pizza--A favorite of many
Twisted Root--A bit of Deep Ellum in the 'burbs
Ava--One of the better openings of 2009
Catch 22 Seafood--Guess the reservoir needed a seafood place
Primo's--Much better view than their Uptown location
Cereal Bar--Had to include it, for kitsch's sake
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Mid-Cities & elsewhere
Bailey's Prime Plus (Cedar Hill)
Cowboy Chow (Roanoke)
Jessie's Cafe Texas (Mesquite)
Masala Masala (Euless)
Tequila Rain (Hurst)
Las Colinas Prime (Irving)
Here's to a busy (on the plus side) 2010.