Zero Gradi

Award-winning Italian restaurant 400 Gradi, founded in Melbourne, Australia by famed chef Johnny Di Francesco, is expanding its DFW presence with a second location, plus two new locations of its acclaimed dessert shop/gelateria Zero Gradi.

The restaurant will open in McKinney, at District 121, a $250 million mixed-use development at the northeast corner of State Highway 121 and Alma Road, adjacent to Craig Ranch.

The original 400 Gradi is in downtown Dallas. Di Francesco -- a regular on Australian TV shows such as MasterChef Australia, The Mentor, and Everyday Gourmet -- opened the restaurant at the 2000 Ross Ave. building in 2019, also the first in the U.S.

Its authentic, Neapolitan-style ingredients such as San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, and flour imported from Italy, earned not only a loyal following but an award for best pizza in CultureMap's annual Tastemaker Awards in 2022.

I mean, consider the Suprema pizza with fior di latte, pumpkin, arugula, pine nuts, and goat cheese. What is not to like.

Dessert expansion
In 2021, they opened a sweet spinoff next door to their downtown restaurant: Zero Gradi, with espresso, Italian-inspired pastries, and a gelateria with traditional gelato and sorbetto.

Now there will be two more Zero Gradis:

  • McKinney, also at District 121, at 6107 Alma Rd. in McKinney, adjoining 400 Gradi, just like the original in Dallas.
  • Frisco, at the Shops at Starwood, at 6975 Lebanon Rd. #307, in a former jewelry and perfume shop called Trends. This location will be a standalone shop.

400 Gradi principal Igor Stevovic says that the expansion north was prompted by demand from customers. That included David Craig, founder of District 121, who encouraged them to join the lineup at Craig Ranch, his mixed-use development at SH-121 and Alma Road.

"It was a natural expansion because we saw many customers coming from that area," Stevovic says. "These were people traveling 30 minutes to downtown Dallas."

However, their goal is not to have a 400 Gradi on every block.

"We care about producing high quality food from scratch, with hand made pasta and pizza dough that's as authentic as possible," Stevovic says. "That's what is important to us. We're the only restaurant in the U.S. that filtrates its water to achieve same degree of softness as in Napoli."

"But we do feel like there’s an audience for a second Zero Gradi," he says. "Our gelato, pastries, and bakery products are magnificent and people downtown have shown they appreciate that tremendously."

Zero Gradi made CultureMap's list of Best Desserts for Valentine's Day 2022, where it was praised for its ice cream cakes and luscious almond croissant filled with almond custard and blueberry preserves, as well as its propensity for using pistachio nuts (instead of bottled paste) and hazelnuts from Piedmont, Italy, hailed by experts as the best hazelnuts in the world.

The shop also earned a nomination in CultureMap's 2022 Tastemaker Awards for Best Pastry Chef Lizbeth "Lizzie" Ramirez.

Construction on the Frisco shop is just beginning, with a hoped-for opening by the end of the year; McKinney opens in early 2023.

"The population in Dallas is growing exponentially, with an increasingly sophisticated palate awareness," Stevovic says. "For us, that's good, since our food has an imcomparable authenticity."

Photo by Kathy Tran

These are the 8 best food and drink events in Dallas this week

This week in gluttony

Rum is having a moment. There are not one but two rum events this week featuring libations using the island-inspired spirit. This week also offers a three-day chocolate festival and a plant class paired with wine. End the week with high tea celebrating the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, otherwise known as the Moon Festival. Want to look ahead to the best food and drink events of fall? Find that big list here.

Tuesday, September 6

Rum Dinner at Rye
Restaurant on Greenville Avenue will host a seven-course pairing dinner featuring only rum cocktails. Menu highlights include osso bucco, whole fish, braised chicken thighs, and pumpkin flan paired with creative rum cocktails and tastings. Dinner is $150 per person and will begin at 6:30 pm.

Friday, September 9

Dallas Chocolate Festival
Three-day festival will celebrate all things chocolate with multiple events, including a main event tasting, hands-on experiences, and classes. Each event is individually ticketed, and ticket prices range from $35 for the main event general admission on Saturday to $100 for the 21-and-up VIP night on Friday.

Everybody's Favorite Barbecue & Hot Sauce Festival, September 9-11
This three-day festival travels around the country, and it'll make its first Texas stop of the season in The Colony, September 9-11. Its aim is to celebrate the best barbecue in the country and to showcase talented live acts — all with a spirit of diversity, in an outdoor setting. The festival also honors teachers, who can request free admission. Tickets are $20-$75.

Saturday, September 10

Plant. Sip. Vibe.
Find your green thumb during this plant education tutorial that’s paired with wine. Participants will get a pot, custom soil mixture, and houseplant to take home. Enjoy wine and charcuterie while potting. The class is $65 per person and will run from 4-6:30 pm at The Schoolhouse in Dallas.

North Texas Food Bank 40th Birthday Party
Though technically not a "food" event, this party celebrates the tremendous impact that the North Texas Food Bank has had in the community for four decades. Beginning at 11 am at Klyde Warren Park, the free,family-friendly event will feature performances from the Ray Johnston Band, a book reading of NTFB’s children’s book, Hunger Bugs Me, and remarks from their CEO Trisha Cunningham. The first 100 people to arrive will receive a complimentary commemorative T-shirt.

Trucktoberfest at Truck Yard
Free weekend event at Greenville Avenue outdoor venue includes pretzel eating contests, stein hoisting, German rock bands, and special themed fare from participating food trucks. Special Trucktoberfest beer by German brewmaster Dennis Wehrmann is a traditional German Oktoberfest brewed with Munich malt and German Hops, served from a 200-year-old keg. September 10-11, 11 am-12-am.

Sunday, September 11

Moon Tea Festival at The French Room
The Chinese Mid-Autumn festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar as a time for families to get together when the moon is at its fullest. To celebrate, The French Room at The Adolphus Hotel will feature a Moon Festival Tea service experience with traditional Chinese flavors and rare tea pairings. The high tea is $75 for adults, plus tax and gratuity, and $35 for children under 12, plus tax and gratuity. Reservations are available from 11 am-2:45 pm.

Monday, September 12

Bar Wars Rum Punch Rumble
Rum is all the rage lately, and this cocktail competition that will showcase the spirit in tasty fashion. Guests get to the sample and judge at least 10 different rum-based concoctions from McKinney area bars and restaurants. The competition will take place at Heritage Village at Chestnut Square, where there’ll be light bites and live acoustic music. Tickets are $25 per person and include 10 tastes. More tasting tickets will be available for purchase at the event, which will run from 6-9 pm.

Photo courtesy of Joy Macarons

Dessert fans in Allen sure to be filled with Joy over this new macaron shop

Dessert News

A sweet new shop has opened in Allen: Joy Macarons has opened a location in the Watters Creek Village shopping center, at 908 Watters Creek Blvd., previously home to Sublime Chocolate, which sadly closed during the pandemic in 2020.

Joy Macarons is a family-owned, Dallas-based bakery specializing in French macarons, plus macaron ice cream sandwiches and ice cream made in-house which you can get in scoops, sundaes, and Mac-shakes.

The concept made its debut in 2014 with its first store in Oak Cliff, and has since grown slowly and deliberately, with a location that opened on Greenville Avenue in 2016 and another in Fort Worth at the Shops at Clearfork in 2017.

Founder Liz Lanier says they're thrilled to expand their footprint into Collin County, a location that has been in the works since 2021.

They gave the space a bright, fun interior that Lanier says complements the current lineup at Watters Creek.

"It's a perfect environment for introducing Joy to new customers," she says in a statement. "We also have lots of loyal fans nearby and the new store will give them a more convenient way to get their Joy!" She seems excited.

When Joy first opened macarons weren't quite a trend yet. Macarons are doing great these days, says Lanier's partner Jason Lanier.

"Sales were slow during the initial phases of the pandemic, but our stores have stayed very busy since late 2020," he says.

Signature flavors include pistachio, rose berry, chocolate hazelnut, strawberry, lemon fleur de sel, vanilla, and double chocolate.

They also launch at least one new macaron and one new macaron ice cream sandwich each month, as well as a new flavor of scooped ice cream every one to two months.

Starting September 1, they'll be featuring six State Fair of Texas-themed macarons at all stores: Texas Sheet Cake (with a printed image of Big Tex), Cotton Candy, Caramel Apple, Maple Bacon, Cherry Pie, and Candied Pecan. Clever.

Beyond the innate appeal of any kind of cookie, macarons are also pretty and pastel, making them a popular option for weddings, parties, and holiday celebrations. To that end, Joy will make custom flavors, designs, displays, and packaging to suit your needs.

Their ice cream sandwiches are also available at many partner restaurants, hotels, and retailers throughout DFW, in flavors such as Cereal Milk, with fruity pebbles ice cream in a white chocolate shell, and lavender cookies with lavender-infused ice cream.

Photo courtesy of Texas Tiki Week

These are the 9 best food and drink events in Dallas this week

This week in gluttony

Two bakeries are celebrating big birthdays this week, and customers get to partake in the sweet celebrations. The long holiday weekend will bring opportunity for fair food and one big luau, perfect for last summer hurrahs. Save room for an olive oil tasting, oyster and whiskey pairing, an Italian wine tasting sip-and-shop, and more.

Tuesday, August 30

Cousins Maine Lobster at Elmwood Neighborhood of Oak Cliff
Maine lobster food truck seen on Shark Tank is wrapping up its August with a stop in the Elmwood neighborhood of Oak Cliff, at 1130 Elmwood Blvd., plying lobster rolls, lobster tots, lobster grilled cheese, and more, from 5-8 pm. The truck's September schedule, including stops in Keller, Euless, Carrollton, and Richardson, is listed here.

Artisanal Olive Oil and Premium Wine Pairing Experience at Lone Star Wine Cellars
Partake in a guided wine, gourmet bread, and artisan olive oil tasting at this McKinney wine bar. Participants will receive a wine flight of five wines to be paired with five olive oils from Spice & Tea Merchants in downtown McKinney. Tickets are $42 and the tasting will run from 7-8:30 pm.

Wednesday, August 31

Oceans & Oysters at SER Steak + Spirits
Visit the sky-high Hilton Anatole steakhouse for this whiskey and seafood tasting. Participants will sample three Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea whiskeys paired with raw seafood hors d’oeuvres. The tasting is $75 per person and starts at 6:30 pm.

Thursday, September 1

Free Cake Day at Nothing Bundt Cakes
To celebrate the bundt chain’s 25th birthday, all Nothing Bundt Cake locations will give away free individually wrapped Confetti Bundlets to the first 250 customers. Nothing Bundt Cakes has locations in Dallas, Plano, Arlington, Fort Worth, Frisco, Southlake, Burleson, McKinney, Lewisville, Flower Mound, Allen, Hurst, and Lake Worth.

Fair Fare on the Square in Garland
Festival fare will be featured all month long at participating Garland Square restaurants during Fair Fare on the Square. The themed specials were started by restaurateurs back in 2020 when the State Fair of Texas was canceled due to the pandemic. Now more than a dozen restaurants are participating. Menu highlights include fried elote bites at Dos Banderas, footlong corndogs and fried peach cobbler at Intrinsic Smokehouse & Brewery, and loaded funnel cakes at Churroland. Specials will run through September 30.

Emporium Pies 10th Birthday
The Bishop Arts gourmet pie destination turns 10 years old on September 1, and there’ll be specials at all four DFW locations to celebrate. Visit for a slice of the limited edition Smorgasbord pie — a brownie pie with a graham cracker crust, marshmallow meringue, and festive sprinkles, available all of September. Emporium will also offer a one-day special Chicken Lickin savory pie, made with puff pastry filled with chicken, veggies, and gravy. Emporium also has locations in McKinney, Deep Ellum, and Fort Worth.

Summer Sips & Bites at Eataly
The high-end Italian grocer and dining destination will celebrate the end of summer with a store-wide tasting event. Summer Sips & Bites will let guests sample more than 20 Italian wines paired with cuisine from chef-curated tasting stations. Dishes will include Wagyu arrosticini, handmade pasta and meatballs, artisan salami, and more. Tickets are $65 per person and arrival times include 5:30 pm, 6:30 pm, and 7:30 pm.

Saturday, September 3

Lakewood Brewing Company presents Punktoberfest
Lakewood Brewing Co will highlight the end of summer and the start of Pumpkin Spice season with its annual Punktoberfest, featuring the seasonal debut of its most popular seasonal lager, Punkel. Events at the Dallas brewery, taproom and beergarden — which just opened a kitchen — will include stein-hoisting, beer poking, lager drinking, and pretzel noshing. Festivities will run 11 am-9 pm.

Sunday, September 4

Labor Day Weekend Luau at Legacy Hall
Enjoy live hula and fire dancers, Jimmy Buffet and Kenny Chesney cover bands, a family-friendly limbo competition, tiki cocktails, and poke bowls during this afternoon beach-themed party at Legacy Hall. Tickets range from $15 to general admission to $60 for VIP, which includes a specialty poke bowl by Horu Sushi (pick up from 4-7 pm) and one tiki drink in a collectible cup. Or book a balcony lounge ($300 for six guests), which comes with prime viewing of the stage and dedicated cocktail service. Doors open at 2 pm.

Luscious customizable cinnamon rolls restaurant headed for Mesquite

Pizza News

A concept that specializes in cinnamon rolls is opening in Mesquite: Cinnaholic, an innovative chain based in Atlanta and one of the fastest growing plant-based concepts in the country, will open at 1300 N. Town East Blvd., at the intersection of Independence Drive, where it will serve their famous customizable cinnamon rolls and other desserts seven days a week.

According to a release, it'll open on September 2.

Cinnaholic is the only concept where customers can completely customize their cinnamon rolls, with more than 20 frosting flavors and 20-plus topping choices. Each cinnamon roll is 100% plant-based and free of dairy, lactose, eggs or cholesterol, without worry about dietary or allergy restrictions.

Cinnaholic–Mesquite will feature the same menu as other locations, including cinnamon rolls, edible cookie dough, brownies, cookies, Baby Buns, and Cinnacakes.

Most popular Cinnamon Roll flavors include:

  • Old Skool – classic cinnamon roll with vanilla frosting
  • Cookie Monster – cream cheese frosting, cookie dough, chocolate chips and chocolate sauce
  • Caramel Apple Pie – caramel frosting, homemade pie crumble, fresh apples, caramel sauce
  • Campfire S'mores – marshmallow frosting, graham cookies, marshmallows, chocolate sauce

Seasonal menu items are anticipated including the rollout of Pumpkin products for fall

The company was founded in 2010 and became famous after an appearance on Shark Tank in 2014. They opened their first DFW location in Southlake in 2015. There are currently seven locations in the area with another set to open in Murphy in 2022. They've enjoyed tremendous growth in the past two years, with more than 70 locations in the U.S. and Canada, and many more anticipated for 2023.

All Cinnaholic stores are locally owned and operated. Mesquite is from Donovon K. Ridley, Jr., a Dallas native who attended Skyline High School and Keller Grad School of Business where he received his Master's Degree in accounting.

He became a Cinnaholic fan after first trying the product, and knew he wanted to open a location.

"The quality of Cinnaholic is unlike anything I've tried in the Mesquite area, and I knew I wanted to blend my professional accounting experience with a lifelong goal of being a small business owner by opening a Cinnaholic and building upon their success across the country," Ridley says in a statement. "I'm especially excited and proud to open a business in Mesquite, and bring this amazing plant-based product to the community."

Cinnaholic–Mesquite will offer catering and large-size ordering as well for events, meetings and more. The store will host a grand opening party on September 2 from 10 am-2 pm with discounts and festivities.

Photo courtesy of H-E-B

Longtime Dallas BBQ joint smokes the competition in H-E-B's quest for Texas' best

Fired up

A Dallas-based maker of restaurant-quality barbecue rub earned some extra sizzle as the third-place winner in this year’s H‑E‑B Quest for Texas Best competition. Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que tied for third place in the contest, snagging a $10,000 prize and the opportunity to have its barbecue rub sold in H-E-B stores.

The annual Quest for Texas Best competition seeks to find the best Texas-made food products, with the big winners being sold at H-E-B grocery stores around the state. Five winning brands, narrowed down from more than 500 entries, were announced Wednesday, August 24.

Brent and Juan Reaves, the brothers who own Smokey John’s, say the H-E-B recognition means their dad’s dream has been realized. Their father founded the Smokey John’s barbecue joint, originally known as Big John’s, in 1976.

“He always believed that he had a quality product, but he didn’t live to see it validated,” the Reaves brothers say. “H-E-B believing in us today was really them believing in our dad. And today we are so proud that he was validated by a retail giant.”

The brothers say some of the prize money will be shared with the company’s employees at their West Mockingbird Lane restaurant and catering operation. The remainder will go toward product marketing and expansion of retail sales.

Smokey John's tied for third place with Guthrie-based Burnett Ranches, which produces Four Sixes Ranch Chuck Wagon Chili Mix.

Claiming the $25,000 grand prize in the H-E-B contest was McAllen-based I Love Chamoy, which makes a sugar-free version of the sweet, tangy, spicy Mexican sauce.

Creator Annie Leal "made it her mission to make this traditional staple of Mexican candy more accessible to people with different dietary needs," following her father's diabetes diagnosis, the H-E-B website says.

Grabbing first place (not the same as grand prize) was Love & Cookies, a maker of frozen gourmet cookie dough based in Lakeway (a suburb of Austin). The company received $20,000 as the first-place winner.

Ashley Cameron founded Love & Cookies in 2019 after her 5-year-old son was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, a common heart ailment among children. After returning home from a stay at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, all her son wanted to do was “bake cookies with Mommy.”

After that experience, Cameron kept making cookies, sharing them with friends and family. She subsequently opened a store baking and selling 14 gourmet flavors of cookies. She followed that up by introducing a line of four varieties of frozen gourmet cookie dough.

Reacting to the H-E-B victory, Cameron says part of the winnings will be donated to the Kawasaki Kids Foundation and the rest will be invested in Love & Cookies. “We can’t wait to share our product with the rest of Texas,” Cameron says.

Rounding out the list is Houston-based Zwita, which produces harissa, a traditional Mediterranean chile sauce that originated in Tunisia. The company’s owners, Karim and Mansour Arem, take home $15,000 for their second-place finish.

“This is a monumental achievement for us because it confirms that there is indeed interest in our Tunisian stories and culture,” the Arem brothers say. “It is also a testament to how multiculturally rich our beautiful state is and how there is not just one meaning to being Texan. We are humbled that H-E-B wholeheartedly supports us in our mission of preserving our Tunisian ancestry by helping us share it with our fellow Texans.”

The Arems say their prize money will be earmarked for marketing and advertising campaigns.

“Each year we are amazed by the submissions,” James Harris, senior director of diversity and inclusion and supplier diversity at San Antonio-based H-E-B, says of Quest for Texas Best. “The creativity, passion, and determination is truly impressive and inspiring.”

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Top-ranked high schools make the grade in this week's 5 hottest Dallas headlines

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines. Looking for the best things to do this weekend? Find that list here.

1. 2 distinguished Dallas high schools sit at head of the class as Texas' best in 2022. Two campuses in Dallas have earned extra credit as the best high schools in Texas. In the latest rankings from education review website Niche, Dallas ISD’s School for the Talented & Gifted tops the list of the state’s best public high schools, and St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas leads the list of the state’s best private high schools.

2. NFL legend Terry Bradshaw's ranch north of Dallas listed for $22.5 million. An Oklahoma ranch around 70 miles north of Dallas-Fort Worth that’s owned by NFL Hall of Famer and Fox Sports analyst Terry Bradshaw is back on the market for $22.5 million. The 744-acre ranch was relisted after a deal with a would-be buyer fell through.

3. Dallas grilled cheese restaurant abruptly closes location in Oak Cliff. A Bishop Arts restaurant dedicated to making grilled cheese sandwiches has closed: The aptly named Dallas Grilled Cheese Co. closed its original location at 310 W. 7th St., after nearly eight years. According to co-owner Diana Ezzell, the closure was prompted by problems with the location.

4. Best vegan grocer in Denton relocates to market-deli space. An acclaimed market in Denton specializing in all things vegan is making a move: Mashup Market, the plant-based specialty grocer that debuted at 316 Oak St. in 2020, is closing that original location and making its new headquarters at 1302 W. Hickory St., its second location that opened in 2021.

5. Dallas man allegedly scammed $26M from Chinese real estate investors. A Dallas-area man has been charged for allegedly scamming Chinese investors out of more than $26 million in a real estate scheme. Timothy Lynch Barton, the 59-year-old president of real estate development firm JMJ and CEO of real estate investment firm Carnegie Development, has been indicted on seven counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and one count of securities fraud.

Beto to visit Dallas college campuses following debate on TV with Abbott

Campaign News

On November 8, Texas will vote for its next governor — choosing from either incumbent Republican Greg Abbott or Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke.

In anticipation, the two will participate in a debate on September 30, which takes place at 7 pm at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg. It's hosted by KXAN news anchor Britt Moreno and will feature questions from a panel of journalists.

The debate will air on Nexstar television stations which in Dallas is KDAF Channel 33; the Texas Tribune will also livestream.

It's their only scheduled debate and according to the Associated Press, Abbott conditioned his participation on the debate taking place without an audience.

"Sources tell me Abbott would only agree to face Beto with no audience in the room," said journalist Scott Braddock, in a tweet which is right here:

This will be first time Abbott and O'Rourke meet since the May 25 press conference where O’Rourke confronted Abbott after the shooting in Uvalde.

O'Rourke, who previously undertook a summer tour across Texas, holding 70 public events in more than 65 counties, is now launching a College Tour focused on young voters. It includes visits to two Dallas-area campuses, with only one open to the public, as follows:

  • Monday October 3, 10 am: Town Hall at University of North Texas, at the University of North Texas - Gateway Center Ballroom, 801 N. Texas Blvd., Denton. Open to UNT students only.
  • Monday October 3, 12:30 pm: College Tour Town Hall at Dallas College El Centro Campus, 801 Main St., Dallas. Open to the public.

During the College Tour, he'll hold more than a dozen public events at colleges and universities around the state, affording an opportunity not only for him to share his platform — reproductive freedom, reducing gun violence, raising minimum wage, legalizing marijuana — but also an opportunity to get students and young people registered before the October 11 deadline.

'Wide-awake' Dallas neighbor is 2nd best U.S city for families, says Fortune

No place like home

Fortune advises readers to not let Wylie’s “picturesque, historic downtown fool you.” And for good reason. The magazine hails the North Texas city as “a fast-growing, modern community that doesn’t skimp on the amenities.”

Thanks in large part to those amenities, Fortune puts Wylie at No. 2 on its list of the 25 best places in the U.S. for families to live. Ann Arbor, Michigan, takes the top spot.

In recognizing Wylie, the magazine cites the city’s well-above-average public schools, numerous facilities for older residents, and events such as the Bluegrass on Ballard festival and Wylie 500 Pedal Car Race.

"With its start as a stop on the Santa Fe Railway in the 1880s, Wylie has always been a gathering place," the magazine writes. "In fact, because shops stayed open late to accommodate the railway visitors and business, one of the town’s nicknames became 'Wide-Awake Wylie.' The historic downtown continues that tradition of community today..."

Fortune lists the median home price in Wylie as $399,838 and the median household income as $96,845. The booming suburb is home to nearly 60,000 residents. It now stretches across Dallas, Collin, and Rockwall counties.

To come up with its ranking, Fortune combed through mounds of data for almost 2,000 communities in the U.S.

The only other Texas city in the top 25 is the Houston suburb of Sugar Land, ranked 17th.

“Residents have a sweet spot for this Houston suburb that brings the community together through its lively downtown hub, local events, and even a ball game or two,” Fortune says.

Among other highlights, Fortune notes Sugar Land’s “outstanding schools,” the Sugar Land Space Cowboys minor-league baseball team, Sugar Land Town Square, and high-quality health care at Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital.

In Sugar Land, the median home price is $399,250 and the median household income is $121,665, according to Fortune. The suburb is home to around 110,000 people.