There was never a dull moment on the Dallas-Fort Worth restaurant scene in 2014, and for that we mostly have one person to thank: chef John Tesar. Aside from opening the year's most meaningful restaurant, Knife, he kept us entertained with tweets, drama and TV appearances.
But 2014 had other big stories, with some unusual comings and goings and restaurants sprouting up in the unlikeliest of neighborhoods. If you weren't keeping tabs on restaurant news in 2014, here's our pithy summary:
1. Chef John Tesar
Tesar put Dallas' restaurant scene in the national news with a late-night fuck-you tweet, questioning the credibility of the rating system at the Dallas Morning News. In the ensuing imbroglio, he not only dealt a swift kick to restaurant criticism in Dallas, but he also sparked a national debate about the declining role of critics altogether.
2. Cafe Momentum
Chef Chad Houser's restaurant and culinary training facility for nonviolent juvenile offenders found a real home in downtown Dallas at 1510 Pacific Ave. in Thanks-Giving Square. His venture earned accolades and attention from around the country, including an appearance on The Rachael Ray Show in October.
3. Banh Shop
It was just supposed to be an adventurous new direction in Asian fusion by global restaurant company Yum! Brands, which on its own would have been big news. But its logo featuring a red star offended some in the Vietnamese community. Yum! turned it around with a logo redesign and put the spotlight back on the banh mi sandwiches.
4. Tristan Simon's resignation
The longtime restaurateur walked away from the company he founded, resigning as CEO of Consilient Restaurants (Hibiscus, Victor Tangos, CBD Provisions) and selling his stake to partner Tim Headington. Simon has had a profound impact on Dallas' dining scene for the past 15 years, and his absence will be noticed.
5. Proof + Pantry rejects a restaurant review
Picking up the baton from John Tesar, this One Arts Plaza restaurant decided it didn't want a review by the Dallas Morning News and rejected payment from critic Leslie Brenner and her high-profile party of four. Brenner reviewed the restaurant anyway — power of the press! — but the furor ended with her forsaking her anonymity for good.
6. Dallas Farmers Market
Never would have predicted that the Dallas Farmers Market would become a place to open a restaurant. But Green Door is already open; Shannon Wynne's Mudhen is on the way; and five more are coming, including Rex’s Seafood and Market, Stocks & Bondy, Palmieri Cafe, a restaurant from the Nammi folks, and a restaurant from the El Fenix/Meso Maya folks.
Fireside Pies and Cane Rosso paved the way to better pizza. Meanwhile, there's been an explosion on a national level of fast-casual Neapolitan-style restaurant concepts, many making their way to Dallas-Fort Worth. Cumulatively, they're helping raise our pizza standard. Here already or coming soon: Project Pie, Firecrust, Spin, Modmarket, Old Chicago, Pie Tap, Thirteen Pies, Blaze, Pizza Snob — even Pizza Hut.
8. Healthy restaurant wave
Red meat still rules Dallas, but you can see the pushback in the parade of "healthy" concepts that have blossomed. Modmarket, LYFE Kitchen, True Food Kitchen and Seasons 52 join established concepts such as Snappy Salads and Spiral Diner. Ultra-meaty places like Scotch & Sausage or Blind Butcher include a vegetarian something-or-other on their menus, and four-star chef Lanny Lancarte opened health-obsessed Righteous Foods in Fort Worth.
9. Ranch dressing
Thanks to a wicked collusion between Dallas Eater and pizza impresario Jay Jerrier, Dallas became ground zero in a national epidemic of social media commentary about ranch dressing. Jerrier hung a sign inside Cane Rosso saying that he would charge $1,000 for a side of ranch. Which was posted on Reddit. Which was observed by Eater Dallas. Which caught the attention of Eater USA. Which spawned a poll, a ban and a copycat story on NPR.
10. The booming 'burbs
Restaurant development is going bonkers in northern realms, including Plano, Addison and Denton. Plano has Pakpao Thai, Princi Italia, Mi Dia, Eatzi's, Kona Grill, Lockhart Smokehouse and Smoke. Denton has Hickory & Fry, Hypnotic, Cultivar Coffee, Service Industry and craft brewery Audacity. Addison, already rich with restaurants, has Yard House, Lazy Dog, Neighborhood Services, Market Hall and Al's #1 Italian Beef.