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Dallas' busiest chef races in with Baja-style restaurant on Greenville Ave

Dallas' busiest chef races in with Baja restaurant on Greenville Ave

Details on menu are scant but will surely include chips. Photo by Robert Bertholf

There's an exciting new tenant taking over the storied location at 1520 Greenville Ave., from one of Dallas' best known and most prolific restaurateurs.

This is the space that was most recently Haymaker, the Austin gastropub. Now it's in the hands of beloved chef Nick Badovinus, who will open a casual cantina there called Desert Racer.

Badovinus surely has his hands full, what with his Neighborhood Services concept, as well as his Design District steakhouse Town Hearth, his seafood restaurant Montlake Cut, his burger joint Off Site Kitchen, and his recently opened pizzeria Perfect Union Pizza.

But he still has yet to dabble in Mexican food.

With Desert Racer, the inspiration comes from the Baja 1000, the rogue desert racing event held on Mexico's Baja California peninsula since 1967. A "desert racer" is a rough-and-ready off-road vehicle.

This fits in with Badovinus' pattern of applying an automotive component to his restaurant creations. Town Hearth, his swanky Design District restaurant, opened with a 1961 MG and a Ducati sport bike as part of the decor. Perfect Union Pizza boasts a Ducati mountaineer vintage motorcycle.

Dubbed the "continent's last untamed desert race," the Baja 1000 is an unpredictable, even dangerous event that attracts adventurers and unruly spectators, with partying and all-day drinking built-in components, along with nightly visits to the local cantina for beer, seafood, and margaritas.

Too soon for details on the menu at Desert Racer, but fear not, Badovinus has a vision.

"Southwestern U.S. and Baja-inspired cantina is the game," he says. "And it'll feature a live-fire/smoke method of cooking."

It'll be a casual concept with a big indoor-outdoor space — one that capitalizes on the patio Haymaker left behind. Haymaker invested more than a year into prepping the location, which was previously a Flying Saucer, and way before that, the legendary Flip's Wine Bar.

The space where the patio is was once upon a time a Mexican restaurant called La Jaivita, and way back in the day, a location of Sammy's Drive-In.

Dallas generally likes things from Austin, making Haymaker's closure a surprise, especially since it opened with of-the-moment trends such as poutine and craft beer. But the block of Greenville that's below Ross Avenue has not had the same draw as above. For example, Pints & Quarts, the fun hot dog place from Brooke Humphries, left its prime spot at Greenville and Ross and decamped for the Centrum Building in Oak Lawn.

But none of those had a Nick Badovinus, who is also creating two restaurants in downtown Dallas, in the cool, triangular Magnolia Oil building: National Anthem and PMA All Day.

Desert Racer will open before those, and construction has been ongoing since early summer, but Badovinus doesn't an opening date yet.

"No official timetable," he says. "It opens when it's ready."