Pop-up Down

Asian pop-up restaurant in Uptown Dallas shuts down

Asian pop-up restaurant in Uptown Dallas shuts down

Hot Joy
Hot Joy had chicken wings on the menu, and yet it could not survive. Photo courtesy of Hot Joy

The colorful Asian-themed restaurant from San Antonio called Hot Joy, which opened in Dallas' Uptown neighborhood as a pop-up concept, has closed.

The fun concept that served ramen and wings was met with the kind of feverish adulation that only a millennial can bestow when it opened at 3130 Lemmon Ave., in the former Texas Land & Cattle space. But the adulation turned out to be short-lived.

News of the restaurant's coming, with signature dishes such as shrimp dumplings, Spam fried rice, and twice-fried chicken wings with crab-fat caramel, drew gushing anticipatory press from food blogs such as Eater. But according to Front Burner, the Dallas-based restaurant group that imported it, the restaurant wasn't drawing enough customers, and they closed it on October 28.

Front Burner owns restaurants such as Mexican Sugar, Sixty Vines, and Whiskey Cake. Front Burner CEO Randy DeWitt discovered Hot Joy on a trip to San Antonio, and partnered with the creators of Hot Joy to expand.

Hot Joy burst onto the San Antonio dining scene in 2014 and earned a spot on the Bon Appétit "Hot 10 Restaurant" List of 2014. Owner Chad Carey describes the menu as a mash-up of China, Texas, Vietnam, Japan, Louisiana, Thailand, Mexico, Malaysia, "and anything else that lights up our brain."

San Antonio likes it, one of the biggest food magazines in America liked it — but Dallas did not.

Front Burner president Jack Gibbons was philosophical about the closure, and said that they wouldn't have closed it if it had attracted business.

"Hot Joy was always designed to be a pop-up in that space, and if it had been really successful, we would have kept it running," he says. "But that's the whole idea of a pop-up — if it's not working, you change it."

The staff was offered jobs at other Front Burner properties, and the company will keep the space and transform it into something new.

"Over the holidays, we have the space booked for private parties, and we'll just work on a new pop-up idea, whether it's something we come up with or a collaboration with a chef," Gibbons says. "We're entrepreneurs at heart. For us, coming up with something else to put into a pop-up space is fun."

They've been busy working on nailing down an opening date for Legacy Hall, their mega-food hall opening in Plano at Legacy West. "We've got the food hall and also a restaurant we're opening there called Haywire, so we have plenty on our plate," he says.