Deep Ellum Goes French

Deep Ellum kisses BBQ short-timer goodbye to welcome new French bistro

Deep Ellum swaps out barbecue short-timer for new French bistro

French onion soup
Cepage, the new bistro in Deep Ellum, will feature dishes such as French onion soup. Photo by Catherine Walsh

EZ Dude BBQ restaurant, which opened in a prime address at 2713 Elm St. in March, has closed. But these days, nothing sits empty in Deep Ellum, and so there is already a replacement, a French bistro called Cepage.

EZ Dude was shut down by owner Rob Eichelberger on October 31. A former caterer, he opened the restaurant in March as a way to expand his catering business. But he had no experience running a restaurant, and says he's returning to his previous business model of catering only.

"Restaurants and bars cost too much to own," he says.

Cepage comes from Jean-Michel Sakouhi, a familiar name to longtime Dallas diners, since he's been floating around the DFW restaurant scene for more than 20 years, dating back to his days as a server at the Mansion on Turtle Creek. You could say that he's been to Dallas and Fort Worth and back again, and you would not be wrong.

He had Tramontana in Preston Center. He had Le Paris Bistrot in Uptown, in the space on McKinney Avenue that went on to house the now-closed Sfuzzi; it will open in 2015 as Fat Rabbit.

He then moved his energies to Tarrant County, where he had numerous restaurants: Severine's in Southlake; the Vault in downtown Fort Worth; and So7 Bistro in Fort Worth, which got remade into So 7 Bar & Grill, then closed. It's currently home to Asian restaurant Pho District.

In 2009, Sakouhi was supposed to open a restaurant at Mercantile Place in downtown Dallas, until that concept got shifted to the Il Sole space at Travis Walk, before it got scuttled entirely. (Travis Walk got its French restaurant with Le Bilboquet.)

Sakouhi was drafted to run City Hall Restaurant at ArtHouse in Keller in 2011; that spot has since become FNG Eats. Sakouhi also ran a place in north Fort Worth called Cowboy Burger Taco Bar.

Does it seem tedious to list all of his many previous ventures? Perhaps they paint a portrait. But hope springs eternal. And on the plus side, none of the various openings in Deep Ellum so far is French.

This space at 2713 Elm is the one nestled next-door to the Green Room. This particular section of Deep Ellum has seen many recent or imminent openings: from the Green Room in June 2013, to Glazed Donuts, Three Links, Fuzzy's Taco and Off The Record, with Armory D.E. slated to open in early 2015.

Cepage is the French word for grape, and the restaurant will center on the foods of Sakouhi's homeland, which is to say French: rabbit, French onion soup and croque madame, the recently resurgent ham-and-cheese sandwich with béchamel sauce.

Cepage is slated to open "very soon," says a spokesperson for the landlord. "[Sakouhi] is aiming to be open by the holidays."

UPDATE: According to a post on the restaurant's Facebook page, Cepage hopes to be open by January 2015.