UPDATE: Belly & Trumpet opens February 14.
Just when you post an update on what’s happening on the Dallas dining scene, another news release lands in your inbox. Belly & Trumpet, a new restaurant that replaces the short-lived haute hot dog joint The Bowery, opens later this week for dinner service.
Co-owners Tiffanee and Richard Ellman of Oak, along with fellow co-owner John Paul Valverde of Coeval Studio — and the recently opened Outpost American Tavern, which replaced Campo Modern Bistro — revamped the the little house on McKinney Avenue. Then they tapped Oak chef de cuisine Brian Zenner to create the menu of “very elegant and simple food,” as Richard describes it. “We want the ingredients to speak for themselves.”
But the man actually manning the stove is sous chef Rudy Mendoza, a Dallas native and Zenner’s former colleague from the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek. Speaking of the Mansion, general manager Adam Karpf also did time there, although most recently he was the manager at the Michelin-rated Spiaggia in Chicago.
“Social” goes beyond simply sharing plates. Owner Richard Ellman expects Belly & Trumpet’s vibe to be more high energy than its subdued sibling, Oak.
“We’re taking a more social approach,” Richard says of Belly & Trumpet’s shared-plate concept, which suits the intimate-house setting. Price points start at about $7 and run up into the $20s, to encourage exploration of a rotating selection of dishes, which may include yellowfin tuna with chayote squash and long beans or Niman Ranch pork belly with kimchee, daikon and chicharrón.
“It’s not a place where you order an appetizer, entrée and dessert,” he says.
But “social” goes beyond simply sharing plates. Richard expects Belly & Trumpet’s vibe to be more high energy than its subdued sibling, Oak. He describes the décor as progressive, maybe even a little avant-garde. “There’s lots of emotion in the color,” he says. “It’s definitely not conservative. Your eyes open a little wider when you’re in there.”
Ellman calls Belly & Trumpet a destination place, one that transports diners away from its McKinney Avenue address. “Hopefully you’re not going to feel like you’re on McKinney Avenue. Anyone who lives in Dallas knows what McKinney Avenue is all about. [Belly & Trumpet] is a total experience. It’s about the décor, the music, how you’re treated by the servers.”
Speaking of the location, Ellman admits that The Bowery wasn’t suited to the neighborhood, where there was pressure to build up the bar business, and a low price point plus high rent made little financial sense. Oh, and there was that pesky problem that people thought it was only a hot dog joint.
“We almost branded it too well as a hot dog place,” he says. “You can’t get away with a very targeted offering like that in Dallas. This is not New York. This is not LA.”
Eventually they had broadened the menu to include a “great Wagyu burger” and “some nice salads,” he says. “We had really killer food. We had the menu and the concept where we wanted it to be, but it wasn’t the best spot for it.”
So they packed up everything and put it away, to be dusted off when the right real estate comes along. Richard says they are looking at more family-friendly locations in areas like Frisco and Plano.
When asked if he thinks Dallas is a hot dog town, he says, “I think there is a place for hot dogs. But there’s not a place for hot dog-only offerings.”