Three big names are coming together to open an exciting new Mexican restaurant in the Cedars. The names are familiar to anyone who's followed Mexican food in Dallas: restaurateur Monica Greene, chef Anastasia Quinones, and cocktail specialist Leann Berry.
The "three amigas," as Greene calls them, are taking over Cedars Social, the restaurant-bar at 1326 S. Lamar Blvd., turning it into an entirely new concept with authentic Mexican food devised by Quinones, and a new cocktail program from Berry that includes not just whiskeys and scotches — for which Cedars Social has become known — but also tequila, mezcal, and an updated wine list. The restaurant will open in mid-February.
Greene's Dallas restaurants resume is long and storied, beginning with Monica's Aca y Alla (now Maracas) which she opened in Deep Ellum in the early '90s. Ciudad was her ground-breaking restaurant on Oak Lawn Avenue which she opened with chef Joanne Bondy. Other restaurants have included BEE, an enchilada-centric place in Bishop Arts and Pegaso Diner in Fort Worth.
She says this restaurant takes her to her best place. "It bring things back to what I'm in love, with which is authentic Mexican food," she says. "Ciudad was my biggest achievement, introducing Mexican food that people never expected at the time."
Cedars Social also renews a collaboration with Berry, who was a bartender at Ciudad, making drinks with fresh fruit long before the mixology trend hit Dallas big in 2008.
Meanwhile, Quinones recalls first sending Greene a letter in 2001, hoping to stage at Ciudad. "Now, 16 years later, Monica called me and asked me to be her chef," Quinones says. "I say, better late than never."
Quinones is still working on the menu, one that will summon Mexico City-style food, along with other influences she's accumulated on her journey as chef as restaurants such as Alma on Henderson Avenue and Komali in the Knox-Henderson district — where bar manager Berry also worked for many years.
Greene is happy to be an early settler in another neighborhood on the rise.
"I was early in Deep Ellum, and my commitment to downtown Dallas began before it became the vibrant downtown it is now," she says. "I feel like I've always been a visionary on emerging neighborhoods, but I love this city. This gives us the opportunity to add something new to the neighborhood and be part of the growth of the Cedars in the future."
Greene is also being assisted by her longtime associate Frankie Jiminez, without whom she says this would not be happening.
The restaurant space itself has had a rocky road, but it has endless potential with its proximity to downtown Dallas, and a patio with views of the skyline that are without compare.
"Cedars Social has gone through a lot of reincarnations, starting with John Tesar, then American food, then nouvelle," she says. "We're the latest incarnation and hope to be the longest."
The name will remain the same, but with a a little Spanish makeover. "There's a new accent on the 'i' — "so-see-AL," she says.