Best known for fun and games and a good-time brunch, the folks behind The Social House are broadening their cuisine horizon with Don Chingon, a new restaurant opening on Lower Greenville in early September. Their hope is to redefine Tex-Mex, with novel dishes, a stellar atmosphere, and attentive service.
The restaurant is opening at 2237 Greenville Ave., in the former gas station at the corner of Belmont Avenue, across the street from what used to be the Whole Foods Market. Co-owner Shawn Rao says that with Don Chingon, they hope to offer a Tex-Mex that's different from what is generally found around town.
"We've always wanted to do a Tex-Mex place and hoped to put a fresh spin on the genre, rather than the same old stuff," he says. "And for us as a company, it represents a little more serious step towards food."
The Syn Group oversees a number of concepts, including multiple locations of Social House, its lively bar-restaurant; Sidebar, a lounge in Uptown Dallas; and America Gardens, a restaurant-bar in Fort Worth.
Rao says they went to restaurants in the area and around the country, seeking inspiration for something different from the same-old. That means no combination plates. Menu items include michelada-roasted chicken, Mexican lasagna, a pork chop braised for 18 hours, and enchiladas filled with short rib or smoked chicken.
There are carne asada fries — french fries topped with carne asada, uh huh — plus chicken and brisket tacos, with chicken and brisket that's smoked, not braised. Their lineup of cocktails will include more than 20 margarita options and 10 frozen drinks.
Prices start at $12. Most items will be under $20, with their most expensive dish, sea bass, at $28. But hey that sea bass comes poached in Dos XX and is served with Southwest hash, pickled radishes, and mango vinaigrette.
If you've driven by the space, you already know that they've invested serious dollars on the construction. The building has a cool midcentury flair, with some eye-catching colored shiplap on the exterior. Inside, there's a 40-foot mural with your prototypical sugar skulls, and on the patio is a 9.5-foot piñata.
This is a departure from what they originally planned for the space, which was a restaurant-bar with a bigger patio and more games. The feedback they got from the neighborhood was not in favor of such a concept.
"It's a great location, and fresh Tex-Mex seems like a better fit," Rao says. "When it comes to Tex-Mex, that area is under-served."