Move over, Grandma, this ain’t your kind of comfort food. At least not anymore.
Sugarbacon Proper Kitchen opened earlier this week in Lakewood Shopping Center, replacing the long-standing Dixie House that occupied the space at the corner of Gaston Avenue and Abrams Road for more than 35 years. After Dixie House closed at the beginning of the year, Sugarbacon’s managing partner Johnny Carros announced he and chef Jon Thompson, who teamed up last year to open the original Sugarbacon in McKinney, would be opening a second location deep in the heart of Lakewood. Crews spent the last several months gutting and remodeling the space. Jason Ferraro came on board as the corporate chef partner in the venture, and they hired Andrea Maricich as the executive chef. On Monday the location officially opened. Although the windows look out at the same intersection that Dixie House once did, the contrast between the two restaurants is stark.
The footprint is the same, but the interior has been transformed from a closed, dark space to an open, bright area in the last several months. Sugarbacon used the same industrial style for the Lakewood location as it did for its McKinney location. It’s clean, modern, very pretty and very cool.
Dixie House was owned and operated by the same parent company as The Black-Eyed Pea, which filed for bankruptcy in December, and it was a neighborhood icon. It was the place your grandparents walked to for some home-style chicken-fried steak, and they’d go there every night because the prices were dirt cheap. But Sugarbacon isn’t that kind of place, and that might be a good thing. Sure, Grandma might not be keen on spending $12 on collard greens (no joke, that’s the actual price of the collard green salad), but Grandma also doesn’t eat collard greens like the kind they serve at Sugarbacon.
Like Dixie House, Sugarbacon serves American food, but it’s what chef Maricich calls “elevated comfort food.” It won’t stick to your gut in quite the same way, but it won’t be spooned onto cafeteria-style ceramic plates and make you feel bloated for three days either. It’s part of the new wave of American food, aimed at the young families moving to the Lakewood area in droves, who are looking for more chef-driven, health-conscious restaurant options and don’t mind paying for it. Take the collard green salad, for example.
“It’s atypical,” Maricich explains. “Most people know collard greens as being a cooked thing, but when you prepare them right they’re really freaking delicious raw, but it has to be cut right and seasoned right. I think it’s a special dish and it has been really popular.”
The greens are cut into long strands, which are molded into a tight pile on a plate. The sorghum vinigarette is light and perfectly sweet enough to balance out the bitterness of the greens. It’s topped with bacon, blue cheese, pickled apples and candied pecans, which give it a nice kick.
It’s the same story with the smoked Berkshire pork chop. It’s $26, but the meat is tender, the sauce is strong, and it’s so flavorful that the price doesn't seem unreasonable. The $20 Scottish salmon is tender and comes with a delicious chermoula sauce.
Oddly, the sugarbacon appetizer, the restaurant’s namesake dish, is dry and tough. They add a slice of pickle for some tang, but all other flavors – including the meat – are hard to detect under the sticky-sweet barbecue sauce.
Overall, however, the menu is full of thoughtfully prepared items. It’s the new generation of American food, and Carros and Ferraro are happy to play a part in ushering it into the Dallas dining scene, but Carros hasn’t forgotten his roots. Actually, things have come full circle for him.
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Carros credits Gene Street, the founder of the Dixie House, The Black-Eyed Pea and the Good Eats restaurant chain, with giving him his first managing job. He also credits Alberto Lombardi, the founder of the Penne Pomodoro right next door to Sugarbacon, with giving him his first general manager job. And of course just a couple more doors down is Liberty Burger, which Mariel Street, Gene Street’s daughter, runs.
As a nod to Dixie House, Carros invited Gene Street to Sugarbacon’s soft opening last week and was pleasantly surprised by Street’s warm reception to the new restaurant on the block.
“Looking at him, knowing what Dixie House looked like and now seeing what Sugarbacon looks like was really cool,” Carros says. “Our hope is that we serve this community, much like he did for as long as he did for 30 to 40 years with Sugarbacon. He built a sustainable brand, and we can only hope we serve this community that well.”
Street says he was thoroughly impressed by everything about the restaurant: the décor, the state of the art kitchen equipment and, of course, the food.
“It could be the nicest place in Lakewood that I’ve been to in a long time,” Street says. “They really did a magnificent job. I’m really proud for the old lady, the old Dixie House, to be replaced by [Sugarbacon]. It’s good for Lakewood. I’ve always thought of Lakewood as being the kind of community that’s special. I think this has the potential to be a good dining spot for Lakewood.”
So go wild, get that $12 collard green salad. Heck, even Gene Street says it’s worth it.