After 15 months near Inwood Village, The Gem opens May 13 in its new space on Luther Lane in Preston Center, which has not only become the hottest restaurant zone in Dallas but maybe the healthiest too.
The neighborhood already has raw food restaurant Be Raw and this summer will get the first Dallas branch of True Food Kitchen, the restaurant chain whose healthy gourmet menu is overseen by nutrition author Andrew Weil, M.D.
"We're real excited about the space," says owner Leslie Needleman. "Tracy Rathbun and Lynae Fearing gave us such an incredible opportunity to get off the ground at Duo. It was a very sophisticated space. We took the sophisticated aspect but added little pops of humor and happy."
"Of course we have a disco ball. I can't have a work environment without it," says co-owner Leslie Needleman.
That includes a bar, communal table, and a hip color scheme with charcoal gray walls, accented with aqua and hot pink. A 60-foot-long wall installation lists Gem's various ingredients and why they're important.
"If you're looking for what helps with allergies, it helps you find that information more easily," Needleman says.
And then there is the disco ball. "Of course we have a disco ball. I can't have a work environment without it," she says. "It's my own personal disco ball, and it turns.
"I really should have been born in the Studio 54 era. We play happy disco music. The whole thing is, we want it to be approachable and fun. You can learn something along the way if you want. But we can tell you about Donna Summer too."
The menu includes new smoothies and power shots in flavors such as ginger and turmeric served in little glass bottles. A chopped veggie salad that started out as a special developed a cult following, so now it's on the permanent menu. The Gem also does kale salad and soups, plus hummus with jalapeño-cilantro pesto.
They may add a wrap sandwich down the road. But they're keeping it pretty simple, with the focus on juicing.
"I think the juicing trend is only going to get hotter," Needleman says. "Dallas still has a lot of room for growth, once people see the benefits and how they feel. We have such strict parameters for what we do and what we provide.
"My partner Mary Kathryn [Bass] and I don't serve anything that we wouldn't eat at home. Our friends know this, but we observe high standards. That's a place of comfort for me. I went through an illness, [and] I couldn't find a place where I felt comfortable with what they were serving. What we say is what we are."