Behind the wall of greenery and other Dallas restaurant must-haves
If you're a Dallas restaurant in 2023, you're nowhere without a wall of greenery.
We're talking an entire wall covered in ivy, or else a wall made up entirely of flowers. Also, throw in a neon sign.
Walls covered with greenery are among the features restaurants are deploying these days to lure in diners. Food is still the official reason people go out to eat, but as Restaurant Dive notes, restaurants these days are more visual — more experience-oriented.
It's almost as if the eating part of dining out is an afterthought, a sideshow to the stylish extras restaurants are adding to lure them in.
Here's a few features being rolled out at restaurants around town:
The wall of greenery
This is the trend where a restaurant dedicates one wall to some kind of greenery, be it ivy or flowers, sometimes real, usually fake.
The greenery wall has a transporting effect — you may not be traveling as frequently as you used to, so you can pretend you're at an exotic locale with your friends.
Dining out has always been a social experience, but the social aspect has become a much bigger part. For a lot of people, dining out is what they do for entertainment. Where people in the '90s might have gone to a rock club to see a band, now they go out to a restaurant and make a night of it.
One of the original green walls in Dallas was at Vidorra, the upscale Mexican restaurant in Deep Ellum.
Green wall at Vidorra.Vidorra
"We put the wall up in 2018," says co-owner Imran Sheikh. "What sparked it for us was a trip we made to Guadalajara to source some authentic fixtures from Mexico. We came back with the idea of an oasis of nature in the middle of urban Deep Ellum, to create the illusion that you were in another place."
And just as people like to take photos in scenic vacation spots, they took photos of themselves against the green wall. But the social media aspect was a byproduct, not the origin.
Mexico was also the source of inspiration for Alexa Rodarte, co-founder of Lexy's in Trinity Groves, which boasts fabric and silk flowers on the walls, the ceiling, flowers everywhere. The prime photo-op spot is in front of a unique Champagne vending machine that's stocked with Moet & Chandon splits, set against a wall of flowers.
"I wanted to make Lexy's pretty, and I loved the flower walls at places in Mexico City, like Azul Historico, Ling Ling, Beluga, Artemisia Flower Bar," Rodarte says. "My goal was to create a space that was feminine, to attract women, and they make up 90 percent of our clientele."
Flower wall + neon sign + swing at The Glen in Frisco.The Glen
The ironic neon sign
A cousin to the wall of greenery is the custom-made neon sign, positioned prominently on a photo-ready wall. The sign could be the name of the restaurant, or a clever slogan like "Feed me tacos."
Neon signs have always beguiled, and in the social media world, they're a magnet for photos — especially when the neon sign is elusive. It becomes a secret code where the only people who recognize it have been there and are therefore in the know.
For example, at Zoli's Pizza in Addison, one of the first restaurants in Dallas to install such a neon vignette, their sign is a tongue-in-cheek "Y U No Eat Gluten?"
Restaurants such as Ebb & Flow in Plano double down by combining a wall of greenery with a neon sign ("Don't worry about a thing"). La Comida, the new Mexican restaurant in Oak Cliff, has a wall of green with a neon sign that says "Flock Yeah."
For The Glen in Frisco and XOXO Dining Room & Garden near downtown Dallas, the wall of greenery + a neon sign are not enough. They've added a swing. Boom.
Robots that deliver your order to your table is a trend that first surfaced in DFW at Asian restaurants like Kura Sushi in Plano and Frisco, but has crossed over to non-Asian restaurants like Green Papaya Plant Based vegan restaurant on Oak Lawn, and La Pesca, a seafood restaurant in Oak Cliff.
They look like little roving shelving units. The kitchen stacks your order on the shelves, and the robot moseys over to your table.
Manufacturers like Bear Robotics, who make the most common Servi model, pitch them as a help to restaurants grappling with staff shortages after the pandemic.
The jury is out on whether they pan out as an actual solution, but Robert Sullivan, a Dallas food & beverage veteran who worked for Bear Robotics, says that they still hold an inexorable appeal.
"India Bistro 14 in Arlington had one and got a lot of mileage out of it," he says. "They put an apron on it, and they'd run it to the host stand with to-go orders. You can upload audio so that when the robot gets to the table, it'll say, 'Here's your order.' They're hokey, and their shelf life may be short — but diners, especially those with kids, love them."
On the bright side, the robot won't get your order wrong (that is, unless the staff loads them incorrectly). But robots can't refill your drink. For that, you still need a human.