Sister on Greenville Avenue Steps in Where The Grape Left Off | Dallas Observer

Sister Stakes Its Claim as Greenville Avenue's Next Iconic Bistro

For 47 years, The Grape was a Lower Greenville institution in Dallas' dining scene. Brian and Courtney Luscher helmed The Grape for its final dozen years in its role
Sister serves "loosely Italian-inspired neighborhood fare" and "lightly Mediterranean-inspired cuisine."
Sister serves "loosely Italian-inspired neighborhood fare" and "lightly Mediterranean-inspired cuisine." Alison McLean
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For 47 years, The Grape was a Lower Greenville institution. Brian and Courtney Luscher's neighborhood bistro was your old friend, where dishes like the pommes frites or mushroom soup stood as shining examples of food cooked and served with style, not pretension. When the Luschers closed The Grape after owning it for a dozen years in 2019, the heartbreak across Dallas was palpable.
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Culinary director and operating partner J. Chastain says that while the neighborhood "doesn't let them forget" the space was once The Grape, they have been warmly welcomed as the new tenants.
Alison McLean
When Duro Hospitality (the group behind The Charles and Bar Charles) grabbed the space and opened Sister last September, the question was whether the neighborhood would embrace it as they had The Grape.

"The neighborhood doesn't let us forget it," says Duro culinary director and operating partner J. Chastain when asked if their patrons make comparisons to the former tenant. "But honestly, the entire neighborhood has been nothing but welcoming."

It's a heady responsibility to take over the same space as a Dallas dining icon, and Chastain and his partners didn't take it lightly.
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Sister maintains a neighborhood bistro feel in terms of both the space and food.
Alison McLean
"Honestly, the initial draw of the space was because it used to be The Grape," Chastain says. "Everyone I talk to has a great story about The Grape. Given the historic nature of the building, we were pretty excited to develop it."

Sister (so named because of the relation to The Charles) describes itself as serving "loosely Italian-inspired neighborhood fare" and "lightly Mediterranean-inspired cuisine." The Italian influences come from Chastain's and his partner Chas Martin's love of the cuisine, but the Mediterranean touches are a nod to fellow Duro partner Benji Homsey's Lebanese roots. But the "loose" allows Chastain and his teams to avoid being bound by the rules of one particular style.

"I encourage our culinary teams to develop things that suit them," Chastain says. "Nothing about Sister is stereotypical to a specific region."

Much work has gone into transforming the space to suit Sister's needs, and the result is a dining room that feels brighter than The Grape but no less cozy and lived in. On our first visit, without a reservation, we snagged the last two seats at the bar on a busy Thursday night. The bar is a magnificent slab of pink and white marble, the ideal spot to take in a full meal or grab a glass of wine or a cocktail before your table is ready.
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Grilled zaatar focaccia
Alison McLean
Sister's menu is designed for sharing dishes, hopscotching across both Mediterranean and Italian themes. On our first visit, we started with the grilled za'atar focaccia ($10), charred fingers of bread served with a sweet fig mostarda and slices of mortadella. A second visit had us yearning to sample the charred octopus ($21), served with a harissa chili sauce, artichokes and crisped shallots.

Either dish is a perfect primer as to what to expect from Sister's kitchen, where layers of flavors are expertly balanced across each dish. The focaccia lets the diner choose if they want their bites sweet (the fig mostarda) or savory (by laying a slab of mortadella on top), neither strong enough to hide the charred flavor of the bread. The octopus on our second visit was perfectly tender, each brined bite leaving us longing for another, with just a touch of heat from the harissa.
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Gnocchi Romano
Alison McLean
The vegetable section of the menu is full of standouts. We found playful touches of spiciness in the gnocchi Romano, served as a trio of fried disks in an eggplant and soppressata ragout. Another visit had us ordering both the crispy Brussels sprouts with shishito peppers and green goddess dressing, as well as the charred carrots served with spiced cashews, whipped feta and a touch of apricot. Any vegetable dish from that section of the menu is $12, with generous portions and complex flavors that should be considered to accompany your meal.

Pasta dishes are perfect portions for pairing with a vegetable and sharing with the table in true Italian family-style dining. The Calabrian chili ravioli ($21) speaks fluent Italian, with delicate pasta encasing a light spinach and ricotta filling. Perhaps the better choice was pesto fusilli ($21), dotted with smoked almonds and nodules of fennel sausage, topped with a dollop of goat cheese. There's a touch of DIY involved for the best experience, but mix the goat cheese around the pasta, and the al dente fusilli is the perfect shape to collect the melted cheese.

On our second visit, we tried some of the larger main dishes. A plate of pork secreto ($29) is generous in the sheer quantity of sliced pork shoulder that comes to an order, and equally generous with juicy and rich pork flavor. The slabs of pork are laid on a bed of polenta that serves as a classic mild foil to the richness of the fatty meat, with charred tomatoes providing a touch of acid. We also ordered a more traditional chicken Marsala ($32), which nails the classic marks. Once again, the serving was more than plentiful, and two people could easily share one of the larger dishes.
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Banana budino
Alison McLean
Sharing dishes means leaving room for dessert, and Sister's trio of selections are each smartly executed. In addition to the dense olive oil cake you can get with your cold brew next door from Cafe Duro, the flourless double chocolate bar ($14) topped with toasted meringue and a sphere of frozen mousse is a solid pick. Don't sleep on the banana budino ($12), either. Our bartender from the first visit recommended it as his favorite without hesitation, and he wasn't wrong. It's a concoction of banana bread-like halva, chocolate, caramel and frozen raspberry served in a chilled marble bowl that's big enough to share, but you'll get no fault from us if you order it just for yourself.

Recommendations from the staff never steered us astray, and when dishes arrived, the staff took the time to highlight the dish and some of the key ingredients. Service was always prompt even as Sister was doing a bustling business on both of our weeknight visits. The level of service and product knowledge is a focus for Chastain and the Duro team, as they looked to create a restaurant with fine-dining fare without the stuffiness.

"We like to think of it as coming to a dinner party at our house," Chastain says. "It's food we want to cook, and it's like you're our friends."

Chastain mentioned sitting down with Brian and Courtney Luscher while developing Sister's menu. Aware of the history, Chastain considered adding The Grape's mushroom soup to the menu, but in talking with the Luschers, decided against it.

"We decided we should really try to be ourselves," Chastain says.

Sister is not The Grape. And that's OK. But Sister holds to the same ideals as the former tenant, where the locals can come every day for a meal made with passion and aplomb at a true casual neighborhood bistro.

Sister, 2804 Greenville Ave., 4:30 - 10 p.m. Sunday - Thursday; 4:30 - 11 p.m. Friday - Saturday
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