Like summer itself, times are hot in Dallas-Fort Worth for restaurant openings. There's something new coming down the pike nearly every day. Right now, there's an abundance of openings of a high-profile nature, be it a favorite chef back in play or a topical entry from out of town.
These are the five biggest openings of summer 2016:
Burgers are so passé, but there's still anticipation for Shake Shack, because it is, after all, from New York. Restaurateur Danny Meyer was among the first to give fast-food burgers a gourmet spin when he launched this concept in 2004. There's not much to the menu: burgers, shakes, fries, and frozen custard.
The Dallas branch, opening late summer at The Crescent's new park area at the corner of McKinney Avenue and Pearl Street, will have indoor and outdoor seating overlooking landscaped grounds. It will also serve beer and wine, plus three tailor-made frozen custard "concretes."
Shake Shack has become known for their crinkle-cut french fries, and they offer a silly though elaborate explainer for why having a frozen product is better than fresh. But in the end, Shake Shack is just another burger chain, with a cult appeal tied to the fact that we can't get it. Dallas has been through this already with the overwrought entry of In-N-Out Burger.
Flora Street Cafe
Another season, another restaurant from famed chef Stephan Pyles, a whiz at reinvention who is able to generate excitement every time he opens something new. He's like a Broadway producer. His latest epic opened in the Arts District on May 31, replacing his previous restaurant in the Arts District — but this time with a name and mien inspired by Routh Street Cafe, his groundbreaking restaurant from the '80s.
New cast members include Peter Barlow, a chef from Tennessee, and pastry chef Ricardo Sanchez, who worked at Nobu and Twist by Pierre Gagnaire in Las Vegas. They join former Stephan Pyles executive chef J Chastain and chef Ryan Barnett in spinning magical culinary feats.
The Halal Guys
Once a lowly though popular New York food cart serving gyros and chicken and rice, the Halal Guys is now a franchised concept with branches in Houston, Chicago, Southern California, and now in Dallas. They say they're going to open 10 branches in the Dallas area. This first one opens on July 23 at 5444 Lemmon Ave., in the former Top Cat space.
Part of the appeal of the Halal Guys is their usefulness as a late-night munchie destination. More eateries with midnight hours are something Dallas could use, even if it doesn't know it. And like Shake Shack, the Halal Guys' menu includes frozen crinkle-cut fries. Yay for crinkle-cut fries. Which they make even better by sprinkling them with diced tomato and green pepper and dousing them with sauce.
They also serve falafel, the crunchy Mediterranean chickpea "meatball," brought to us first by Amsterdam Falafelshop and now the Halal Guys. We could definitely use more falafel.
This isn't so much an opening as it is a re-opening, after Cattleack Barbecue briefly shut down to double its capacity. Considered by some — okay, BBQ Snob Daniel Vaughn — to be among Dallas' best barbecue, Cattleack has had a life of expanding to meet the need. Once a catering service, it expanded to offer takeout on Friday nights. That wasn't enough, so it extended its hours to Thursdays, and now it expands its physical space to accommodate 50 diners inside and picnic tables for another 50 diners outside. "We're trying to keep that backyard feel and image," owner Todd David tells Eater.
Monkey King Noodle Company
After three years as a walk-up stand in Deep Ellum, Monkey King Noodle Company reopened on July 7 in a larger space with seating, a patio, and an expanded menu. Once focused mostly on noodles, it's now doing stir-fries, beer, and wine. There are seasonal Asian vegetables and a wider variety of noodles.
The new location is a brick building that was once an auto-body shop at the corner of Main and North Walton streets, across from Allgood Cafe, and about 100 yards from their previous address. There's a spacious kitchen and a sweet patio with seats for miles.