DTX Good Eats 2012
Frito bandito

Talking tacos and Frito pie: Chef Stephan Pyles dishes about the menu at Stampede 66

Talking tacos and Frito pie: Chef Stephan Pyles dishes about the menu at Stampede 66

Stephan Pyles has bolstered the management team and is releasing details about the menu at Stampede 66, his new modern Texas restaurant in Uptown slated to open in late October. Can you say Frito pie?

Pyles, who developed the menu with executive chef Jon Thompson and consultation from "pilgrim chef" Najat Kaanache, says the menu is in the final testing stage.

"We're at that point where we're having a whole lot of fun," Pyles says. "It started as an inspiration from Star Canyon. I believe what's missing in Dallas is an in-your-face Texas restaurant.

 "I believe what's missing in Dallas is an in-your-face Texas restaurant," says Pyles.

"I do what I do at Stephan Pyles, Dean Fearing does what he does at Fearing's, but those are upscale concepts," he says. "I was thinking about something that really felt like Texas — the decor, the music, the ambience, the whole thing."

That means tacos, Frito pie and chili. "You have to do something that people know," Pyles says.

"I've got a taco bar, and we'll be making tacos from scratch," he says. "I went to Mexico to get a nixtamal grinder to grind our own corn, with cal viva [limestone used in processing masa]. We're going to do the whole thing. We didn't do that at Star Canyon or Taqueria Canonita. We made tacos from scratch, but we brought in the masa. My sister, who was executive chef at Taqueria Canonita in Las Vegas, just arrived, and she'll be heading up the taco component."

He'll do Frito chili pie — but totally from scratch.

"It's Frito chili pie, but you make your own Fritos," he says. "It's part of a category called bowls — because, how do you not have a bowl of red in the state of Texas? I make pretty good chili. But I asked myself, what is the idea — what are our childhood memories of chili?

"We would make chili in the fall, but most times it was taking the can opener out and opening a can of Wolf brand chile. That was the inspiration for our approach to serving it. We'll put it in a can with a 'Stampede 66' brand label that the waiter opens at the table and pours into the bowl, and we'll serve it with a goat cheese fritter."

 "How do you not have a bowl of red in the state of Texas?" Pyles says. "I make pretty good chili. But I asked myself, what are our childhood memories of chili?"

He's doing chicken and dumplings — "you gotta do chicken and dumplings," he says — but with a gastronomy spin: smoked chicken and sweet potato dumplings that are a cross between a dumpling and a sphere.

He's way into CVap ovens, those trendy old-new steaming machines that have become a staple in five-star kitchens, as a result of his experience developing a viable menu for Sky Canyon Wine Bar, the airport concept in which he's partnered with La Bodega Winery owner Gina Puente, and at Sustenio, the restaurant at the Eilan hotel in San Antonio. Pyles consulted on that menu.

"When I opened Sustenio, it was with a whole bunch of CVaps, and I got to know them well," he says. "At Stampede 66, we have six CVaps — two on the line, one for hot appetizers, one for sauté and grill, and we have a bank of thermal circulators and a wood-burning grill. Imagine a modern, digital Star Canyon."

That new technology will get used in his huevos rancheros, one of the items in the bowl category. Pyles says they'll do the dish "with sous vide eggs and refried black beans and a salsa roja crisp that pops in your mouth — a new kind of crisp."

If you can't wait until the doors open, Pyles will preview his menu at a charity event benefiting the North Texas Food Bank October 22. Courses will be paired with wines from Hall and Walt Wines.

On the staffing front, joining general manager Shawn Horne is Linda Mazzei, a gifted manager with a long resume who worked with Alberto Lombardi for many years. Pyles confirmed that Mazzei will oversee private parties and special events. Jon Thompson, former chef at Samar, moved into the executive chef slot. He has been replaced at Samar by chef Ji Kang.

"We worked together before," Pyles says. "Shawn, we hired as a waiter at Star Canyon. Linda was at AquaKnox and managed Fishbowl. We go back years. With Jon coming over from Samar as executive chef, it's a good group. We're finding that the team is like family. It's like coming back home."

Stampede 66 Stephan Pyles
Stampede 66 team Jon Thompson, Stephan Pyles and Najat Kaanache. Courtesy of Stephan Pyles
Stampede 66 Stephan Pyles
Inspiration for Stampede 66. Courtesy of Stephan Pyles