An indie home-cooking style restaurant across from Love Field has closed. Mockingbird Diner, which opened in December 2017 with a menu featuring Texan dishes such as chicken-fried steak, closed on May 31, per a Facebook post by manager Jack Perkins, with the simple words: "She gone."
Perkins launched the restaurant in collaboration with chef Jeana Johnson, in an odd new build at 3130 W. Mockingbird Ln., on the site of what used to be a motel called the Love Field Inn. Targeted to locals, airport workers, travelers, and hotel guests, it aimed to become the quintessential Dallas place, serving elevated renditions of Texas standards.
The menu included home-cooking favorites like fried chicken, meat loaf, Frito pie, pork chops, and ham steak with the bone in, all executed with the finesse you'd expect from Johnson, whose experience includes opening her own restaurant, Mot Hai Ba, as well as many years working in fine-dining restaurants such as Stephan Pyles.
It also had excellent pies and biscuits, thanks to contributions from pastry chefs Mynetta Cockrell and Sarah Green.
Unfortunately, the original chef team was gone by June 2018.
Perkins was headed to a golf tournament and wasn't available for a conversation, other than to say that Maple & Motor, the popular burger joint he founded in 2009, "is still mine and rolling," and "I already have a couple of new projects in the offing."
The reason he gave to the DMN for the closure was "staffing," stating that he was losing "10 or 12 people a month." This was even after switching to a cafeteria format in March, which allowed for a smaller workforce.
Perkins, who was manager but did not own the restaurant, told the newspaper he was "befuddled" by the process.
Some former employees who asked not to be quoted said that the work environment was unhealthy, sometimes literally: A sign hanging in the kitchen proclaimed "No sick days." Another said that "his disrespectful behavior as a boss is legendary."
Commenters on Facebook, a rock-solid source, note that the staff seemed to be "fairly miserable," and that, once the restaurant went server free, it "tanked in every way," including an inexplicable increase in price and a decline in the quality of the food.
The building is still in the hands of the silent owner-investor. Perkins, who Eater once dubbed "one of the mouthiest restaurateurs in town," says he's OK with the closure, saying, "It was like holding the snake in the middle from the start. Truth is, I'm kind of glad I got to drop her."