Movie Theater Nosh
Dallas restaurant with downtown views debuts in urban Cedars district
Although the opening of an Alamo Drafthouse in the urban Cedars district is massive, there's an accompanying dining component whose arrival is just as big: a separate rooftop restaurant and bar called Vetted Well.
The restaurant shares an entrance with the movie theater, but it's a separate entity — a venture of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema DFW COO and owner Bill DiGaetano, working with Alamo DFW chef Dustin Patek.
Vetted Well, which celebrates its grand opening on March 9, will do brunch, lunch, dinner, and happy hour. It also will have entertainment options that include private karaoke rooms, live music, and a large outdoor screen — all with prime views of the downtown Dallas skyline.
DiGaetano says that the idea for a separate restaurant emerged from the location's assets.
"We wanted take advantage of the great unobstructed views of downtown," he says. "I'd always liked the idea of having a restaurant and bar in the theater spaces, but we needed the right circumstance.
"This is brand new," he says. "It's really a restaurant bar concept that doesn't have anything to do with Alamo Drafthouse, other than it shares a building. We went off the reservation to take this from the ground up."
He wanted something that felt truly comfortable. "I wanted a place that felt warm and welcoming, with incredible cocktails and food, but also with a good feeling to the establishment and the people," he says.
For the food, he and Patek came up with priorities: good quality, locally sourced, and not too trendy. The menu has about 15 items — three small plates, three appetizers, three salads, four entrees, and five sandwiches — with almost everything made onsite, from the Cuban sandwich to the pickles that go with it.
Entrees include their spin on chicken and waffles, with a brined pork chop standing in for the fried chicken, and a bacon-cheddar waffle with maple syrup-infused white gravy. But they also do fried chicken, breaded with Ritz crackers and drizzled with honey, served with a German-style potato salad.
A turkey sandwich comes with Brie, peach preserves, and garlic tarragon aioli. The burger sounds wild, topped as it is with pork belly and baked beans, on an Empire Baking Co. bun.
There's a "PB&J," but it's not what you think: The PB stands for pork belly, and the J is Jarlsberg cheese. A Cobb salad follows the tradition of the original from the Brown Derby in Los Angeles, with the ingredients — bacon, tomato, egg white, ham — neatly sectioned off.
"I'm a big fan of composed salads," Patek says. "I liked the idea of a Cobb salad because you don't typically see it at a lot of restaurants, but it's a classic, and ours is very filling."
The drink program includes a set of boilermakers with a Dallas twist.
"All of the boilermakers are named after classic buildings and locations in Dallas," DiGaetano says. "We started looking at all the buildings that you can see from our patio.
"One is called the Pegasus, another is called the Big Green Building; we have one called the Grassy Knoll that has Mellow Corn whiskey with a Miller High Life 7-ounce pony bottle. We took a lot of care with them. We wanted them to pair well."
There's a 30-foot bar, and overhead garage doors that open onto the front patio, which boasts a fire pit, couch, and comfy chairs. Four private karaoke rooms with space for 10 to 20 people each boast themes such as Lego, Space Invaders, and one that feels like you're inside a pinball machine.
The back patio is where you'll find a 2,000-square-foot outdoor movie screen and custom-made Adirondack chairs. Some nights it'll be music; other nights it'll be screenings.
DiGaetano says he wants to fit into the grand scheme of other neighborhood bars. "There are two great concepts in the Cedars: You have the great cocktails and menu of Cedars Social, and the feeling of being at a comfortable bar, which is what I think Lee Harvey's is.
"I hope we can give people something in between."