Food News

Salt Bae’s Dallas Steakhouse Nears its Debut as Controversy Engulfs His Brand

The future home of Nusr-Et Dallas at 1900 N. Pearl St. in downtown Dallas.
The future home of Nusr-Et Dallas at 1900 N. Pearl St. in downtown Dallas. Taylor Adams
Nusr-Et, the high-dollar chain steakhouse run by Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe, is on track to open this fall in Dallas, even though other locations are facing increasing legal setbacks.

Gökçe, who goes by the nickname “Salt Bae,” became famous on social media for viral videos in which he throws steaks, spanks them suggestively, topples them like dominoes or, most famously, flicks salt off his elbow in the general direction of the plate.

The Dallas location of Nusr-Et has been in the works for more than a year, and an Eater article says it advertised on Craigslist for an executive chef earlier this summer.

According to documents filed with the city of Dallas, contractors are fixing plumbing issues and installing signage on the front of the space at 1900 N. Pearl St. across from Klyde Warren Park.

The steakhouse has also applied for, but not yet received, its liquor license.

But the rest of Gökçe’s empire is in trouble. In Miami, multiple former servers are suing in a collective action, alleging the Miami restaurant illegally used their tips to pay non-tipped employees. Eight current and former servers are already plaintiffs; they claim that around 200 colleagues were affected and are eligible to join the suit.

Nusr-Et’s parent company, Dogus Holdings, also faces considerable financial difficulty. Dogus, a global conglomerate involved in an assortment of businesses, had amassed more than $5 billion in debt by the start of 2018. Among Dogus’ businesses are the Turkish edition of Vogue, dozens of hotels and resorts, car dealerships and two restaurants in Frisco — Da Mario and Zaytinya, the latter which is co-owned with chef José Andrés.
click to enlarge A digital rendering of the future front doors of Nusr-Et, near Klyde Warren Park. - RENDERING BY CASTEEL SIGN, VIA DALLAS CITY HALL PUBLIC RECORDS
A digital rendering of the future front doors of Nusr-Et, near Klyde Warren Park.
Rendering by Casteel Sign, via Dallas City Hall public records
According to Bloomberg, many of Dogus’ loans are due this year, and the company has been selling luxury hotels to pay its bills.

Salt Bae himself has faced controversy recently for personally entertaining widely disliked political leaders, including Donald Trump Jr. and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who has overseen that country’s collapse into chaos. Shortly before the Miami restaurant opened, Gökçe compared himself to Fidel Castro, which did not endear him to locals.

The Nusr-Et website boasts a “Star Diamond Award” from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences.

The academy, comprising close associates of Donald Trump, mainly appears to exist to bestow awards on Trump-affiliated properties. The Chicago Tribune reports that two of the president’s sons and the president’s personal butler have served on the award-conferring board. Two lawsuits and one former employee allege that the academy frequently bestows awards in exchange for cash payments.

Despite all the turmoil, and despite the lawsuit alleging improper tip-sharing in Miami, Nusr-Et’s Dallas location appears to be slowly, and secretively, moving forward.

It's unclear whether Dallas diners have any interest in a critically mocked chain steakhouse with Trump family ties, from a chef whose main claim to fame is a 2017 viral video, and whose menu in Miami boasts a $30 burger and $275 tomahawk steak.
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Brian Reinhart has been the Dallas Observer's food critic since spring 2016. In addition, he writes baseball analysis for the Hardball Times and covers classical music for the Observer and MusicWeb International.
Contact: Brian Reinhart