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Influx of new restaurants and shops shows how much Miami loves Dallas

Influx of new restaurants and shops shows how much Miami loves Dallas

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Good times, Miami-style. Photo courtesy of Villa Azur

Dallas is a hot relo destination for people and businesses, most recently from California. But there's another influx of out-of-towners in the food & beverage realm and it's from the East Coast, not the West. Namely, Miami, with half a dozen businesses from The 305 setting up shop in DFW, including restaurants, celebrity nightspots, ice cream and doughnut shops, and even a renowned art gallery.

It's the "Miami-fication" of Dallas, with these businesses either open already or coming soon:

  • Yardbird Southern Table & Bar. Buzzy restaurant with a bourbon bar, serving classic and Southern food, opened near Klyde Warren Park in early 2020.
  • Villa Azur. Super-glitzy Mediterranean restaurant from international operator Azur Hospitality is about to open on the lobby level of the W Hotel in Dallas.
  • Komodo. Over-the-top restaurant that draws celebs is penciled in for the ground floor of the office tower at 2550 Pacific Ave. near Deep Ellum, opening in 2022.
  • Salty Donut. Gourmet doughnut shop pioneered the idea of artisanal doughnuts in Miami before opening in Dallas' Bishop Arts in 2020.
  • Azucar Ice Cream. Artisanal scoop shop from Miami's Little Havana opened a location in Bishop Arts in 2018.
  • Markowicz Gallery. American contemporary art gallery owned by the French art dealer Bernard Markowicz opened in the Design District in 2020.

These operators recognize, like many others, that Dallas is a top market for expansion. But they also are drawn to Dallas' appetite for new things and its combination of youthfulness and sophistication — traits they're more than familiar with, thanks to their Miami experience.

Azucar Ice Cream was an early settler from Miami when it opened in Bishop Arts in 2018. This acclaimed shop first debuted in 2011 in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, serving gourmet ice cream and sorbet in Cuban and tropical flavors.

Owner Suzy Batlle, a former banker, was initially drawn to expand to Dallas because her mother moved here, but recognized commonalities between the two cities.

"The idea was that, if I opened a location here, I would see my mother more often," Batlle says. "But I saw parallels. The climate in Dallas and Miami is the same, and the customer is the same. That made it easier for us to understand our customers."

"The way that people in Dallas get excited for the next new thing — that's very Miami," she says. "You want to be at the newest place, the opening of a restaurant, that interest in chasing the next new hot thing, that's a Miami trend, and Dallas is that way, too."

John Kunkel, founder and CEO of 50 Eggs Hospitality Group, the parent group of Yardbird Southern Bistro, says they were playing against type when they opened the first Yardbird in Miami in 2011. They opened the Dallas location at 2121 N. Pearl St. in spring 2020.

"It was the idea of opening a Southern food restaurant in Miami when Miami is the farthest thing from the South," Kunkel says. "And we got skepticism when we first opened in Dallas: Here comes another Southern restaurant."

"But Miami and Dallas both know their food," he says. "The two cities have a similarity in that it's a buzzy crowd looking for fun hospitality experiences. Miami is young, Dallas is sophisticated — the best restaurant operators have their eye on Dallas."

Markowicz Fine Art
French art dealer Bernard Markowicz started thinking about Dallas after selling Babyfoot, a high-profile piece by French-Israeli sculptor Idan Zareski, to Dallas developer Bill Hutchinson, who installed it in the Design District.

As Markowicz made trips back and forth to help with the installation, he saw a market in Dallas for art, and opened a gallery at 1700 Oak Lawn Ave. Business at the Dallas gallery now surpasses his original gallery in Miami.

Miami may have its beaches and Art Deco buildings, but Dallas has a stronger sense of community, Markowicz says.

"Miami is a big vacation spot — it's a place where a lot of people have a secondary home," he says. "I'm thankful to have a gallery there, but you often don't see collectors for more than two to three weeks a year. In Dallas, I felt really welcome and quickly part of something here."

Villa Azur
It was Markowicz who introduced Hutchinson to Villa Azur, the Mediterranean restaurant and supper club from Azur Hospitality.

Villa Azur debuted in Miami's South Beach in 2012, where its over-the-top combination of restaurant, lounge, eclectic entertainment, performers, and themed decor became a draw for Miami's party people and visiting celebs.

"It's a restaurant style you see in the south of France, with good quality food and a French ambience, but this was with a Miami twist," Markowicz says.

Hutchinson and his company Dunhill Partners, where he formerly served as president, were renovating the W Hotel and seeking a replacement for Cook Hall, the restaurant off the hotel lobby. After a few scouting trips to Dallas, Villa Azur Restaurant and Hospitality Group founder Jean Philippe Bernard signed on. Villa Azur will open at the W in late September.

Salty Donut
For its first location outside of Florida, this Miami shop famous for fancy gourmet doughnuts chose Dallas, and opened in Bishop Arts in 2020. They just opened a location in Austin and are looking at other neighborhoods around Dallas.

"The biggest factor with Dallas was seeing this renaissance, like one we had seen recently in Miami, with Dallas' food & beverage industry growing and expanding," says Salty Donut spokesperson Danny Pizarro. "Not just expanding in size, but also in creativity. It seems like an exciting time in Dallas right now, and that innovation makes the city attractive."