On-again, off-again: Willie's Place at Carl's Corner looks like it will actually open. Dallas-based Earth Biofuels—partnering with a group headed by country star Willie Nelson—announced that the much delayed 35,000-square-foot truck stop "township" refurbishment will launch with a VIP private preview concert featuring Nelson on June 30. This will be followed by a full week of grins and twangs with the likes of David Allan Coe, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Merle Haggard and Ray Price. The Willie-fied Carl's Corner—originally founded in 1986 by Carl Cornelius just south of Dallas on Interstate 35—includes a 750-seat theater and concert hall, the Whiskey River Bar, a convenience store and a pair of restaurants—one of which will be called Blue Skies Café. It will also pump BioWillie, Nelson's branded biodiesel fuel, some of which will be blended from the truck stop's restaurant grease.

After securing former Star Canyon partner (and Central Market manager) Michael Cox as its restaurant group vice president, Culinaire is hyper-driving its restaurant development program. In October, the dining and hospitality management company will open a second Nicola's Ristorante Italiano at Preston/Northwest Highway in a former Chase Bank building. Culinaire will follow next year with an as yet unnamed seafood restaurant in the Shops at Legacy expansion project featuring a California touch on the menu and a Paul Draper design in the interior...BLT Steak, the NYC-birthed French bistro-American steakhouse hybrid founded by chef Laurent Tourondel, is gone after just six months in the nascent Terrace on the Green development near the Galleria. "We're perplexed by the lack of reception in the Dallas market," said managing partner Jimmy Haber in a prepared statement. Haber was traveling in Israel and couldn't be reached for further comment. Does this reflect the state of the economy, or the shaky state of NYC importation in the Dallas mind?...Thus it is doubly interesting that chef Tom Fleming (Pappas Bros., Old Hickory Steakhouse in the Gaylord, and the defunct Lobster Ranch, Lombardi Mare and The Riviera) is gone from the kitchen of Central 214 in the Hotel Palomar Dallas to "pursue other opportunities" in this $4-per-gallon, melted mortgage market.

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Mark Stuertz
Contact: Mark Stuertz

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