Downtown Dish

Upscale picnic spot City Park Cafe is ready to roll in Main Street Garden

Upscale picnic spot is ready to roll in Main Street Garden downtown

There's a name and a date for the restaurant concept going into the kiosk at Main Street Garden: City Park Cafe. In bigger news, it's opening this weekend. Owner Joe Groves says the cafe will celebrate a soft opening on Saturday, November 9, as part of the festivities surrounding the erecting of the park's Christmas tree.

"The cranes will be out there, and we'll be serving on the patio," Groves says. From there, he plans to be open for real next week.

This space has had its share of hard times. First it was Lily Pad, then Rusty Taco, which lasted less than a year. "The optimist in me says it's because it hasn't been given the love it needs," he says.

He's also uniquely qualified, because he already has a place downtown, Ellen's Southern Kitchen in the West End.

"The beauty is that the kiosk is designed in a way that you cannot have a working kitchen in there," he says. "Everybody that's tried it has had to cater the food from another location. Ellen's is only eight blocks away."

The food will be prepared in Ellen's kitchen and brought over to the kiosk a few times a day. But the menu by Ellen's chef Russell Mertz won't be the same; City Parks Cafe will serve sandwiches, salads, hot dogs, potato salad and an all-day cereal bar.

"I don't really love this phrase, but we're calling it upscale picnic food," Groves says. "The whole concept is to treat it as a backyard for those of us who live downtown. I live across the street. I get up and look at it every morning. You have people walking through. It has a lot of traffic.

"If you view it as downtown's backyard, what do you do in your backyard? You have cookouts, events, friends over, you drink. We're going to have beer and wine. You have food you can handle, you can hold in your hand, but it's still really good, not processed or from some microwave."

It'll have breakfast too, because it will be open from 7:30 am to 10 pm every night. If it does anywhere near as well as Ellen's, it'll do very well.

"We're having great fun at Ellen's," Groves says. "It started as a little diner concept, and we just welcomed our 100,000th guest as of last Sunday. The popularity we're enjoying has been insane. We're grateful for it."

Main Street Garden
Something new is on the menu at Main Street Garden. Photo courtesy of Downtown Dallas, Inc.