Closure News

Fun downtown Dallas restaurant from chef Stephan Pyles closes down

Fun downtown Dallas restaurant from chef Stephan Pyles closes down

Frito pie, Stampede 66 Freeto Pie
Bye bye to the chef-driven Frito pie.  Photo courtesy of Stampede 66

It's the end of the line for Frito pie, with the closure of a signature restaurant from chef Stephan Pyles.

After six years, Stampede 66 in downtown Dallas, Pyles' nostalgic ode to Texas, closed on October 13.

Customers were told on Saturday that the kitchen was out of many entrees and that it was the restaurant's final night.

"We felt so bad because everything we ordered they were out of, but it made sense when they told us it was their last night," says Eva Parks Cunningham, who dined there with her husband and friends. "Even though they were out of a lot of stuff, we enjoyed our meal and had a good time. The staff was super nice and apologetic."

Similar shortages on prime weekend nights were noted as far back as August.

Pyles, who was in Las Vegas with the James Beard Foundation's celebrity chef tour, was unavailable for comment.

Stampede 66 chef John Thogerson discreetly telegraphed the closure with a Facebook post, saying, "With a bang!"

Named for an iconic dance hall in Pyles' hometown Big Spring, Stampede 66 opened in October 2012 on the ground floor of the newly built 1717 McKinney Ave. building. Its combination of fun and kitschy menu including Frito pie, and luxuriously appointed Western-themed furnishings, made the restaurant a destination for locals and visitors alike.

"It started as an inspiration from Star Canyon," Pyles said. "I believe what's missing in Dallas is an in-your-face Texas restaurant. I was thinking about something that really felt like Texas — the decor, the music, the ambience, the whole thing. That means tacos, Frito pie, and chili."

But that Frito pie had house-made Fritos, and the fried chicken — the dish that became the restaurant's signature — was injected with honey and had a thick, crunchy crust.

Pyles also incorporated trademarks from past restaurants such as Star Canyon's prickly pear margarita, which he updated by using liquid nitrogen to create the frozen drink table-side rather than mixing in an old-school blender. That liquid nitrogen came at a cost: The drink was a pricey $18.

The restaurant's decor included conceptual art, visual puns, and sentimental homages to Pyles' formative years in West Texas, with longhorns over the bar, sculptures of wild mustangs, and a wall of branded wood squares listing names of small towns in Texas. A customer favorite was the row of flat-screen TVs showcased video footage of a ranch in Yoakum.

While the downtown location is no more, Stampede 66 is being developed as a franchise concept, in partnership with Benchmark Hotels. A "Stampede 66 Express," which also served barbecue, opened at DFW Airport in 2016, and a Stampede 66 restaurant will be the signature eatery at the new Delta Marriott hotel at Watters Creek Convention Center in Allen, set to open in December 2018.

But for now, as a downtown destination, its days are over.

"Stampede 66 was my go to place to take out-of-towners," says Parks-Cunningham. "It never disappointed. Sad to see them close."