A big chunk of real estate on the eastern edge of downtown Dallas' Central Business District is being acquired by a development group that plans to renovate vintage buildings and create new office and retail — including a new restaurant from chef Nick Badovinus.
The acquisitions are by Todd Interests, and located between Deep Ellum on the east side and Commerce Street and Cesar Chavez Boulevard on the west. Shawn Todd, whose past projects include downtown's historic post office at 400 N. Ervay St., says that the neighborhood is "one of the best kept secrets" downtown.
He's buying 22 buildings from four owners that include: the distinctive triangular Magnolia Oil building at the intersection of Jackson and Chavez; the former Munger Cadillac showroom at 2211 Commerce St.; the Meletio Electric Supply buildings, at 315-325 S. Cesar Chavez Blvd. (where they unfortunately removed the rooftop sign back in 2014); and the Scottish Rite Temple, a historic landmark at 500 S. Harwood St.
The project already in the works is a restaurant going into Magnolia building from restaurateur-chef Nick Badovinus, who says that the unique charm of the building itself was a primary factor in his signing on.
"Shawn has been a customer for years, and we've talked in the past about developing something," he says. "If you're a chef, you get tons of calls. But a building like this is unparalleled. It's a singular opportunity, a piece of clay with a built-in story, and its location serves as a bridge between downtown Dallas and Deep Ellum that I think would bring a sense of discovery for customers."
The concept is still in development, and the chef isn't ready to share. But that shouldn't stop one from speculating about its cuisine and name.
Based on his body of work, Badovinus has a wordsmith's flair for restaurant names. He likes to take staple words and idiomatic phrases like "kitchen" and "neighborhood" and give them an insider-y spin; or else reference a location such as Montlake Cut, named for a neighborhood in Seattle.
He likes two words.
With the location of this restaurant being such a significant element, the name will almost certainly incorporate something geographic or historical. Something such as the word "Magnolia" — not only because of the building's background, but also because the word "magnolia" is emblematic in Dallas.
There are already a few Magnolia-named businesses, so he'll have to find a twist that brings a sense of surprise. Magnolia Triangle is cute, like Bermuda Triangle, but it has no connection food. You need a food word. Magnolia Nosh. Magnolia Chow.
He's already done steak (Town Hearth), seafood (Montlake Cut), American (Neighborhood Services), burgers (Off-Site Kitchen), and pizza (Fireside Pies and the coming-soon Perfect Union).
Being in downtown Dallas, this restaurant begs for something indigenous. That means either Tex-Mex or home cooking. Does anyone see Nick Badovinus doing cheese enchiladas? Comfort food for the win. Hello, chef-driven CFS.
In a perfect world, Badovinus decides to make the restaurant for the people with everything on the menu priced under $10, and open 24-7. Nick's All-Day Diner — yes.