Neighborhood Eats 2015
Chef Tre in Plano

Hunky Top Chef concocts classic Southern restaurant in Plano

Hunky Top Chef concocts classic Southern restaurant in Plano

Fried fish at Julia Pearl restaurant in Plano
Southern food is on the menu at Julia Pearl, opening in Plano in early '16. Photo courtesy of Julia Pearl

A new restaurant opening in Plano has a sweet name, a satisfying indigenous menu, and a hot chef.

Called Julia Pearl, it'll feature Southern cuisine under the culinary direction of Top Chef contestant Tre Wilcox.

Think cheese grits with bacon, deviled eggs with crispy chicken skin, fried green tomatoes, pork belly with sweet potato puree, crab cakes, watermelon-tomato salad, fried catfish, and shrimp and grits.

On its website, Julia Pearl describes itself as a celebration of classic Southern cooking, community, and life; about fond memories and being true to your roots. "Of all the memories, the ones that stand out the most are the smell of classic Southern cooking coming from the kitchen, the culture, and hospitality around the dinner table," it says.

The restaurant comes from Darcy Dudley, a former corporate and military guy with managerial experience in the food service industry; opening his own place is a lifelong dream.

He's partnered with Andre Irvin, who has 20 years in the industry and knows all the ins and outs. Chef Tre is doing menu and recipe development, pricing, food cost, staff training, and restaurant operations.

One of the restaurant's goals was to take a building that they called "a bit of an eyesore" and improve the footprint of the community. It's a difficult space at 2301 N. Central Expwy., off 75 and Parker Road, in a space most recently occupied by Allen Wickers Pub, another optimistic venture which closed in 2014.

But Dudley says he's excited about their venture, which opens in early 2016. "We're confident that our concept will resonate with area diners," he says.

The 6,000-square-foot space includes a main dining room, private dining room, and bar. They're also adding an outdoor entertainment area. The progress reports on the restaurant's Facebook page show an open layout and the use of nice materials such as bricks and wood.

The restaurant name is a tribute to and inspired by the lives of two family matriarchs, Julia and Pearl. Those names also help define the menu into categories. the "Julia" side represents traditional Southern food, while the "Pearl" side of the menu is more modern.