Veteran restaurateur opens chef-driven steakhouse in Dallas' Design District
There's steak and sushi coming to Dallas' Design District: Called Wits, it's a new restaurant concept focused on steaks, seafood, and sushi from Dallas hospitality group Apheleia Restaurant Group, home to concepts such as El Bolero, Hawthorn, and Pakpao Thai.
The restaurant will open at 1628 Oak Lawn Ave., in the space previously occupied by Oak, with an acclaimed chef in the house: Aaron Redlitz, who has worked at a variety of restaurants on the West Coast. According to a release, it'll open in early November.
In a statement, owner Richard Ellman says that, following the pandemic, it seemed like a good time to re-conceive a restaurant he first opened in 2012.
"We want to keep it simple and focus on striving for flawless execution with high quality ingredients," Ellman says. "The space, which showcases a variety of provocative and interesting art and design elements, is dynamic and high energy and the goal is to create a fun, social and uplifting dining and drinking experience."
Redlitz' pedigree includes culinary roles at Los Angeles-based Boa and Katana, and he's also worked with notable chefs such as Eric Ripert and Roland Passot La Folie in San Francisco.
"I'm looking forward to leveraging my background to build a world class steakhouse that delivers on the classics but also offers plenty of surprises," he says. "My goal is for each and every guest to have a positive and memorable experience."
Ellman opened Oak at a time when the Design District was not yet on the restaurant radar, followed by restaurants such as FT33, Sassetta, and WheelHouse, all of which have since closed. The neighborhood is seeing a new wave of concepts move in such as Carbone, the Italian-American restaurant from New York, which is slated to open in the fall.
Over the years, Oak has been home to many highly regarded chefs, including opening chef Jason Maddy, Richard Gras, Brian Zenner, pastry queen Lucia Merino, and even John Tesar, who briefly consulted.
But Apheleia has endured the same travails facing every restaurant in Dallas since COVID-19, particularly difficulty finding reliable employees. Ellman previously tried to shift Oak in the steakhouse direction, but ended up having to shut it down in July.
Wits is named after The University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, South Africa, often referred to as Wits University.
"I was born in South Africa, and my mother went to school there," Ellman says. "Witwatersrand is site of one of biggest gold mines in history and that plays a role in the concept's theme and decor."
Ellman also recently opened Hawthorn Sushi, Seafood & Steak in the AT&T Discovery District in downtown Dallas.