A restaurant has arrived in Lake Highlands that's for the people, by the people. Called Cedar & Vine, it opened softly on December 4 at 9661 Audelia Rd., in the space previously occupied by a short-lived restaurant called Neighbors.
Cedar & Vine's owners are Jimmy Cannon, Brandon Carter, and Sam Howard, three Lake Highlands natives and friends who want to give the community something good.
"My two partners and I are from this area, we all graduated from Lake Highland High School in 2002," Cannon says. "We wanted to give back and create a place for the community where we all grew up, and where we live now with our families. My generation is moving back to the area, we're in our 30s, we have decent jobs, and we also want to have something in Lake Highlands."
Neighbors was opened in 2014 by Peter Touris of the Chubby's restaurant family; Touris sold out in 2016. At one point, it was home to La Francaise Bakery, which has since relocated to Garland.
"And now we're using bread from La Francaise, so it's kind of come full circle," Cannon says. He runs the day-to-day operations. He was previously a franchisee with Palio Pizza Cafe and Taverna Rossa. Carter worked on the concept design. Howard, a former chef, created the menu. Their chef is Chris Marolda, who attended the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone and was most recently at Gleneagles Country Club in Plano.
Entrees include pork, Parmesan crusted chicken, salmon, and a 44 Farms flat iron steak. Appetizers include savory lamb meatballs, while sandwiches run from a BLT with avocado and egg to a cheeseburger to a veggie sandwich with portabella mushroom, havarti cheese, and arugula on a whole wheat bun.
A wide selection of salads includes a Cobb; a salad with carrots and avocado; mixed greens with apple and grapes; and a chopped Thai salad with peanut dressing.
"The food is excellent," Cannon says. "We're using fresh seafood, thick-cut bacon, and local beer including three from Oak Highlands Brewery. We've got a draft wine program, with wine on tap, and great cocktails."
In the week they've been open, the fried salt and pepper shrimp has been their top seller, along with their spicy Nashville hot chicken sandwich. Their Caesar salad is a little different, combining kale and Romaine with butternut squash, and an ingredient that's popular among vegan chefs: cashews.
Instead of the traditional dressing, it's tossed in a creamy cashew dressing that tastes just like a Caesar. "It has no anchovies," Cannon says. "It's nutty and Parmesan-y and really very good. We definitely wanted to have a strong salad program and some lighter fare. But we also have a steak and a burger on the menu."
The renovation was by design and building team Feild and Natalie Patten. The owners wanted to establish the atmosphere as family-friendly enough to bring the kids, but with the emphasis squarely on adults.
"We did want to keep it more muted and controlled," he says. "One thing that helps is that we're full-service. You don't have a situation where kids are helping themselves to sodas and creating a traffic flow, and customers are saying they're happy we're doing this."
For seemingly forever, Lake Highlands had no restaurants, but Cannon is optimistic that's about to change.
"With the Lake Highlands Town Center getting finished, and the Alamo Drafthouse opening at Skillman and Abrams, I think we're going to see a big explosion in the area in the next two years," he says. "Our parents' generation liked it here fine with what they had — but things are changing."