The March edition of CultureMap's monthly Where to Eat in Dallas considers a quintet of restaurants that have opened surrounded by a puff of hype.
After a year of the pandemic, "hype" feels like a quaint, obsolete thing, a throwback to a time before the virus decimated a bunch of restaurants and businesses, and everything was go-go-go. It's hard not to feel nostalgic for those times, and even despite things like the arrival of vaccines, we're unlikely to go back to "normal" for a while.
In that context, the idea of hype is almost comforting, a reminder of a time of plenty. Here's five restaurants, bathed in hype:
New plant-based restaurant in downtown Dallas has a few things going for it, hype-wise. It's downtown. Vegan has been No. 1 dining trend among trend trackers for at least three years in a row. And it comes with celebrity aura: It's a spinoff from the owners of Little Pine, founded in Los Angeles by electronic musician Moby (who is no longer involved, but still good for name-dropping purposes). Belse has enough hype that it has rankled some in Dallas' vegan community; but its refreshingly matter-of-fact approach with dishes such as a flight of ketchups served with French fries makes it feel like a restaurant that just happens to be vegan.
International brand known for its Korean fried chicken just opened a location in Addison, which on its own is only moderately interesting, but it represents a kind of second coming for the concept. The restaurant is a new smaller fast-casual format, so that's a little buzzy. It's also the first to open in DFW since the 2019 appointment of Flynn Dekker, a former marketing chief for Wingstop, as their new CEO. Dekker lives in Dallas, and the company's headquarters are now based here -> local buzz. Their chicken is double-fried, with a garlicky red sauce that's unique. A pity that with the downsizing, the menu has also been shrunk.
Downtown restaurant with ah-mazing skyline views is located at The National, a confusing constellation of residences-plus-hotel boasting at least three other eateries. Monarch is their only restaurant to feature a chef from out of town on the marquee, the gregarious Danny Grant, who is based in Chicago and has Michelin stars, and will surely drop in once a month to wow the locals with his boyish charm. It's also the latest newcomer to Dallas that vows to change the local Italian scene, via dishes like a $55 lasagna and a $12 side of charred asparagus. Prior suitors have not been lucky, but hope springs eternal.
Flashy steakhouse in downtown Dallas featuring Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe, nicknamed Salt Bae, is the glorious pinnacle of hype. (And this is even without the whole lawsuit thing.) There are Nusr-Et luxury steakhouses in many big cities, and now Dallas has its own. His technique for salting steaks, which involves salt running down his forearm, has become an Internet meme. Does it matter that his steaks, including a tomahawk steak pointlessly coated in 24K golf leaf, costing $1,000 (a bargain $275 without the gold leaf) look greasy and awful? Not a chance. Getting him to do the sprinkle salt routine at your table, then feed you a slice too big to eat in one bite, is the Holy Grail.
The Second Floor at The Exchange
Newly-opened eatery in the AT&T Discovery District has not one but two concepts with two chefs, Peja Krstic and Brian Zenner. Double the chefs, double the hype. People, this is no mere restaurant. Rather, it's a "collaborative space composed of three contributing parts": Ounce, with Zenner at the helm, is tapas-style new American. Ichi Ni San, with Krstic, is "contemporary" Japanese inspired. Hard Shake is the bar with craft cocktails. If you can't pull them in with one, then maybe you can with two, and definitely with three.