A beloved downtown Dallas eatery is taking some of its hip urban vibe north. Ellen's, the chipper restaurant in the West End, is opening its first spinoff in Allen at US-75 and McDermott, where it will strive to recreate the magic that has made it a hit in the Central Business District.
Ellen's is known for its home-cooking cuisine, all-day hours, diligent staff, and the brash congeniality of owner Joe Groves, who named the restaurant for his mom.
The cuisine is comfort food, which Groves developed with chef/co-owner Russell Mertz. They've created a menu of familiar dishes rendered with style and panache, be it bountiful breakfasts, standout meatloaf, or epic chicken-fried steak.
Groves says that they'd been looking to expand and took what was an irresistible location.
"Allen wasn’t on our radar," he says. "Fort Worth was going to be our next one. I'm from Fort Worth, and I have a soft spot. That's definitely in the cards — we're looking at a couple properties right now."
The Allen location is also in a shopping center, another thing they hadn't considered.
"But once we looked at the space, we said, 'We've got to do this,'" Groves says. "That area has a lot of national chains, but we saw that there was a dearth of independent restaurants of our scale and size. There are lots of small, 1,200-square-foot restaurants with 30 seats, but nothing like us."
With room for 200 diners, the Allen restaurant will be even bigger than the Dallas original, which seats 96.
The space was previously home to a Chinese buffet, which Groves and his team had to basically gut. "They left everything — we've cleaned and cleaned, and every day it's, 'Why is there a bottle of soy sauce here?'" he says.
One cool thing they'll do is something a little old-school: They're delineating the bar into a completely separate space. "It's like a bar-room, so if you want to sequester yourself and drink and watch TV," he says.
They'll open with the same customer-friendly hours, seven days a week, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
"Right now, at our downtown location, we close at 2 pm on Sundays," he says. "I wanted a night where the staff could take off, and on Sundays, we weren't seeing that much business after 3 pm. In Allen, we will probably stay open later on Sundays, it's a big football game day."
The menu will be the same, but the decor at the Allen location will feel modern and light, versus the woodsy masculinity of the downtown original.
"I'm a firm believer in the idea that each restaurant has its own unique personality," he says. "That'll be true of this location, because the interior has some unusual angles, and that helped define how to approach the space."
They've spent a good portion of the summer working on the space, and are shooting for an opening in the fall. "If everything goes well, we'd love to be open before the holidays," Groves says.