There are new plans underfoot for a space that was home to one of Dallas' most legendary restaurants. Called Encina, it's taking over the old Bolsa space at 614 W. Davis St., where it will be a neighborhood restaurant with New American cuisine, cocktails, wine and beer with influences from Texas, California and the South.
The restaurant will open in the fall and is from chef Matt Balke, Bolsa's former executive chef. Front of the house will be Corey McCombs, formerly FOH at Stephan Pyles, FT33, and Flora Street. The restaurant will feature what a release calls "an uncomplicated yet adventurous menu with a focus on seasonality and fresh ingredients in a comfortable interior and large patio design described as homey Southern charm."
Bolsa closed in January 2020, after 12 years. It was one of the most significant restaurants in Dallas and was the city's first intentional "farm-to-table" restaurant that helped changed the standards of what Dallas restaurants were about. It had an amazing bar program with epic bartenders such as Eddie "Lucky" Campbell and Kyle Hilla, and a killer patio.
Balke and McCombs, who are a couple, took over the lease once Bolsa closed and have been working on creating their own restaurant.
In a statement, Balke says, "I've spent many years in this building and now incredibly proud to bring my version of a neighborhood restaurant to the beloved and revitalized space. There is a lot of history here. I set out to honor that history, but also make it my own."
Balke and McCombs are in the process of renovating the space, adding their own personality, creating a new atmosphere, menu, and concept that will not simply be a replica of Bolsa. Although doing a replica of Bolsa would not be a bad thing either.
"We fell in love with the neighborhood, the regulars, and the quirkiness of the space many years ago," Balke says. "Even the limitations in the kitchen pushed me to try different things than I previously had in my chef career before."
The interior has the same basic structure but is in the process of being updated. They'll also add climate-controlled patio is also under construction and will offer expanded table and bar space as well as a raised roof, added walls, casement windows and dining year-round.
Encina is Spanish for Holm Oak, a tree and the original name of Balke's hometown of Uvalde, Texas. He had degrees in business marketing and hotel restaurant management from Texas Tech when he pursued his love for the kitchen and attended the Culinary Institute of America, where he graduated as salutatorian in 2007.
After graduation, he apprenticed with chef Sharon Hage at York Street, where he gained insights to local and seasonal food. He credits his success to Hage and says that despite a college education and formal training, his real culinary education came from her.
He spent more than two years at Bolsa, then worked at The Rustic and Smoke before returning to Bolsa as executive chef.