If flashy West Dallas development isn't your thing, then maybe you're more of a New East Elm person. Centered around the intersection of Peak and Elm streets, this emerging neighborhood on the eastern edge of Deep Ellum already boasts a few artists and the It'll Do Club, a newly renovated bar run by the Barcadia folks.
Opening date is February 8, which just so happens to be Jesse Jr.'s birthday.
Father-son owners Jesse Moreno and Jesse Moreno Jr. don't have a finished menu yet, but they know it will include tamale pie as a signature dish.
La Popular, which includes the original at 5004 Columbia Ave. and a branch at shed #2 in the Dallas Farmers Market, has been serving some of Dallas' best tamales since 1984. Jesse Sr. was "buying local" and going artisanal long before they became foodie trends.
But Jesse Jr. had a vision for a sit-down restaurant and a neighborhood destination.
"I wanted to have a place where you can sit down and have a drink," he says. "This is not just about us; it's about the neighborhood."
Jesse Sr. says he just wants to help his son realize his dream.
"My satisfaction is seeing people happy," he says. "I cook from the heart, and that's something I like about the current generation of foodies. Their appreciation hits me deep down."
Father and son worked on a menu, then found this unpolished diamond at 132 N. Peak St. with a vintage sign out front. Dating back to the early 1900s, the building has been a record store, office supply place and, most recently, a restaurant called Victor's Cafe, says Jesse Jr.
He and his father tore away decades' worth of sheet rock and grime to unearth a glass brick front wall and a surprisingly intact green-tiled floor, which they'll happily keep. They share a reverence for the building's history and have done a careful renovation to capitalize on what they have.
They're especially tickled by the fact that the restaurant sits across the street from the East Dallas railroad barn, a depot for Dallas' old street car line.
The restaurant comprises about 1,500 square feet and will seat 75, with a narrow adjoining bar which they've clad with weather-beaten strips of wood. The talker is the series of recycled doorknobs, some recovered from the building, which are nailed to the bar as thoughtful catch-alls for purses.
The Morenos don't have a finished menu yet, but they know that it will be Mexican. It will have small and large plates, including tamale pie as a signature dish. In addition to a full bar, there'll be aguas frescas and a house sangria.
What Peak & Elm will not offer is tamales.
"We're going to do an authentic tamale pie, and we'll have one La Popular-style tamale plate," Jesse Jr. says. "But no takeaway tamales. I think it's important not to crowd what we already have and to reinforce that this is something different and special."