Wheel Inventing

Investor Steve Hartnett is thinking in the round. And he's thinking Grapevine. After all, Grapevine is equidistant between Dallas and Fort Worth. It has the Gaylord Texan resort. It's accessible by steam locomotive (its name is Puffy). That's why Hartnett, former partner in Consolidated Restaurant Operations (Cool River Café, III Forks, El Chico, etc.), is plunking a restaurant cul-de-sac in a parched piece of prairie on Main Street just off Highway 114. Actually, he calls it a wagon wheel hubbed with a fountain supporting five spokes making imaginary beelines to the doors of five different restaurants. "They'll all be unique and complementary to each other, to round out the palate if you would," Hartnett says.

The $15 million project will have a signature steak and seafood house with things like Italian and Mexican restaurants taking over the other spokes. Hartnett hopes it will be a build-it-and-they-will-come sort of wheel. If no one comes, he says he'll develop the concepts himself. "I'd rather get other people in there, so I don't have to work as hard," Hartnett says. Dirt will start moving in about six weeks and the first restaurant should be open by next summer. But why did Hartnett, founder of Fox and Hound English Pub & Grille restaurants and Cool River Café, ditch Consolidated? He says the restaurants were drawing his attention away from his main focus: speculation in the futures markets. So his partners, including Gene Street, bought him out, though he still has a stake in the Austin and Denver Cool River Cafés and is a major shareholder in Fox and Hound. So then what's with the wheel? "I guess I'll keep coming back to the well--as long as it's got water in it," he says.

Cascades, the near $4 million, 400-seat restaurant and rooftop garden lumbering its way into existence in the long-abandoned circa-1960s glass building on Main Street downtown, is no longer. At least not in name. "None of us liked Cascades," says restaurant manager Kyle Kepner. "It didn't have any mystery or sex appeal." Kepner, former III Forks cellar master, says the name's been changed to Luqa Restaurant & Petrus Lounge. Look for an early November opening... Sage Sikiri, former owner of Café Panache in Hurst, is taking over the former Hamburger Mary's/Thirty-Six Degrees space on Lemmon Avenue to open the 200-seat Aqua Italian Bistro & Bar in October...The Four Seasons Resort and Club in Las Colinas hosted a Texas Sommelier Conference that brutalized a host of contestants last weekend in a quest for Texas' best sommelier. Winner: Kim Wallace, Brenner's Steakhouse, Houston; followed by Dave Poss, Vic & Anthony's, Houston; and Rudy Mikula, Nana Grill, Dallas.

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