Changing a name from "grille" to "gastropub" may not seem like much, but for Vernon's Gastropub, it represents a leap of faith and an investment in the future. For 28 years, this family-run spot in Addison was known as Vernon's Grille, until owner Angie Garcia decided it was time to reset.
Vernon was her husband, who passed away two years ago.
"One of our dreams was always to remodel Vernon's," she says. "After 28 years, it felt outdated. But we never had the finances to do that. So one of the things I did when he passed away was I took the life insurance money and did a renovation."
In addition to new carpets and hardwood flooring, she put a new focus on connecting the interior to the outdoors, including sliding windows and a spacious patio. She and chef Colton Benedetti also refreshed the menu.
"We added some things that would go with the idea of it being a gastropub," she says. "We have sushi-grade ahi tuna, shrimp cocktail, and '50-50' burgers that are half burger and half bacon."
They do French fries in a Belgian-style cone made of newsprint-style paper. One appetizer, dubbed "chickels & pips," consists of house-made potato chips and deep-fried pickles served with choice of dip from a list of 27 options, ranging from original Buffalo to teriyaki. They have that many because they also do wings.
The list of appetizers and bar snacks has some memorable novelties. One, called the ABC roll, is an egg roll with an American twist: It has avocado, bacon and chicken, all diced up and rolled in a rice paper roll. There are also "martini olives," which are large green Queen Ann olives wrapped with bacon, deep fried and served on skewers in a martini glass.
This being Addison, Vernon's allows smoking, but Garcia made a big change there too.
"We switched to non-smoking at lunch," she says. "You can go out and smoke on the patio. Most of our customers were smokers. In the short term, it affected lunch quite a bit.
It's a scary move, but I'm hoping it will be a good thing. People don't want to go back to work smelling like cigarettes."
But she sees the writing on the wall. "I think smoking is shrinking," she says. "That's one of the reasons we worked so hard to do the patio.
"I am convinced that at one point, Texas will move toward banning all smoking. Last year, the legislature went into special session. They didn't pass the law, but I think it will be passed next time.
"The other day, I walked out into the dining room, and a gentleman said, 'You are on my bad list.' I said, 'I know. Get in line.'"