One of the most significant restaurants in Dallas has closed: Bolsa, the city's first intentional "farm-to-table" restaurant which opened in Oak Cliff 12 years ago, closed its doors on January 22.
Co-owner Chris Zielke confirmed that the restaurant was closing, saying that he was heartbroken to see it go.
"Bolsa is shut today," he said. "I know I'm biased because it was my restaurant, but we felt like it did some important things, and after 12 years, it's a difficult decision."
Zielke and his partners in Turn the Tables Hospitality have been staring down legal troubles, including lawsuits and unpaid tax bills from Dallas County, the state of Texas, and the Internal Revenue Service.
Zielke is working with benevolent landlord David Spence, who says he's made it a priority to keep the space home for another equally good restaurant.
"I'm a bit wistful about the change," Spence says. "Bolsa was a transitional tenant for Good Space. It pre-dates Lucia and Dude Sweet, it was my introduction to restaurant leasing, and also my highest profile tenant for a long time. But I'm determined to make sure that the party will continue at 614 W. Davis. Just give us a couple months."
Bolsa was not only the first farm-to-table restaurant, it was also affordable.
"Bolsa was at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement in our city when the regular consumer didn’t quite know what those words meant yet," Zielke says. "It was always our goal to make it not a 'fine-dining' experience but genuinely accessible."
Bolsa opened in 2008 with chef Graham Dodds at the helm and single-handedly changed the standards of what Dallas restaurants were about. They opened not only without a freezer but also without a walk-in refrigerator.
Their menu was a revelation, with signature dishes such as their flatbreads topped with ingredients such as arugula, Texas goat cheese, and roasted grapes. They elevated every category, from salads such as local greens with Texas pecans and fried shallots, to inventive twists on dishes such as shrimp & grits, with BBQ shrimp, homestead heritage grits, trinity slaw, and pickled shishitos.
It helped turn Dodds into the farm-to-table prophet he is today, and also launched the careers of many other important chefs and bar personnel in town, including current chef Matt Balke, who came from York Street and has been chef at the restaurant since 2011. Balke also helped open Bolsa Mercado, the restaurant's market spinoff.
Other chefs who've worked at Bolsa include Jeffrey Harris, Andrew Bell, Erik Wolf, and Joel Harrington, not to mention "Chuy," a line cook who worked at Bolsa nearly throughout its existence.
The bar program was equally spectacular — "it was the first 'cocktail restaurant' outside of the Mansion," Zielke says — launching careers for many bartenders who've gone on to fame and fortune including Eddie "Lucky" Campbell, "Dub" Davis, Jason Kosmos, Kyle Hilla, Jones Long, and Spencer Shelton.
Bolsa also put Oak Cliff on the map, helping set the stage for the neighborhood's ensuing gentrification, and it was a design showpiece, thanks to the innovative work of Royce Ring and Alex Urrunaga at Plan B Group.