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."


Dallas earns tragic ranking in list of best and worst ice cream cities

Ice Cream News

Dallas has never had a tradition of great ice cream, and a national survey proves that to be true. Gird thyself: According to a list of of the best (and worst) ice cream cities in America, Dallas is the ninth-worst city in the U.S.

The survey, compiled by real estate brokerage Home Bay, ranks 50 cities using factors such as the number of ice cream shops per capita, the price of a small cup or cone (using Ben & Jerry's as a benchmark), average annual temperature, and Google searches. Data sources include the U.S. Census Bureau, Yelp, and Google Trends.

The best
The best cities for ice cream have more shops (an average of 4.9 ice cream shops per 100,000 people), a high interest in ice cream (Google searches), and better prices, with a small cup of Ben & Jerry's averaging $4.47 versus the $4.50 residents pay in the average city.

Here's a surprise: Oklahoma City is America's best ice cream city, thanks to a high number of ice cream shops per capita as well as affordability.

The top 10 cities in the U.S. for ice cream are as follows:

  1. Oklahoma City
  2. New Orleans
  3. Las Vegas
  4. San Jose
  5. Providence
  6. Raleigh NC
  7. Salt Lake City
  8. Austin
  9. Boston
  10. Philadelphia

Way to go, Austin! At least one Texas city makes the list. This is what they say about Austin's ice cream scene:

Austin excels when it comes to appreciation of different ice cream styles. The city ranks third in our ice cream variety metric thanks to frequent searches for ice cream types and flavors. The slogan "Keep Austin Weird" is appropriate with so many locals going bananas: The city ranks first in online search interest for banana ice cream. Visitors can find two different types of banana ice cream — banana cream pie and strawberry banana — at local chain Amy's Ice Creams. Additionally, Austin has the seventh-warmest average temperature in our study, making ice cream especially appreciated as a sweet treat for relief from the heat.

And as a subset of this ice cream survey, San Antonio wins the No. 1 slot for Best Shaved Ice.

The worst
The bottom 10 cities, including Dallas, have fewer ice cream shops, higher costs, and less ice cream interest in the topic, which they judge by the number of Google searches for topics such as "ice cream near me" and "ice cream flavors."

The 10 worst ice cream cities are as follows:

  1. Memphis
  2. Riverside, California
  3. Washington DC
  4. Miami
  5. Houston
  6. Baltimore
  7. Los Angeles
  8. Sacramento
  9. Dallas
  10. Jacksonville

These cities have only 2.2 ice cream shops per 100,000 people. The average city has 3.4 shops per 100,000 people. And Dallas has only 1.4 ice cream shops per 100,000 people.

But wait! That number is due to rise, with the recent arrival of chains such as Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams and Van Leeuwen, joining stalwart locals such as Botolino Gelato Artigianale on Greenville Avenue and Amorino Gelato which now has three locations in Plano, Dallas' Preston Center, and Fort Worth.

Ice cream in these worst cities is also more expensive. A small cup of ice cream averages $4.80 in the bottom 10 cities, versus $4.50 for the average city in the study.

Ice cream in Missouri and Alabama is the cheapest: $3.99 for a small Ben & Jerry's cone. Washington DC is the most expensive, at $5.35 for a cone.

Dolly Llama

Dessert shop devoted to waffles & ice cream puffs up in Uptown Dallas

Ice Cream News

The Dolly Llama celebrates its grand opening on May 28.


Luscious waffles and ice cream are coming to Uptown Dallas via The Dolly Llama, a waffle-and-ice-cream chain from Southern California making its Texas debut at 2817 Howell St. #210, in a former Smoothie Factory.

According to Trenton McKay Judson, the dessert hero who's bringing the concept to town, it's slated to open in the spring, hopefully by late April.

The Dolly Llama was founded in Los Angeles in 2017 by Eric Shomof and Samuel Baroux, a European restaurateur, who named it for a llama that lives on a farm near Baroux's home in France. Cute llama-based illustrations are key to their branding and decor.

They offer two unique waffle styles: the authentic Belgian Liege waffle and the Hong Kong Bubble Waffle, prepared with a special batter that produces a unique crispy and custard-like texture. (The Hong Kong waffle, AKA the "bubble waffle," is a popular street food with bubble-like rounds that has become popular in the past couple years. DFW has a few places, mostly in Collin County, doing bubble waffles such as Sugababy Canes, Gong Cha, Tea Town, Happy Lemon, and Kirin Court, as well as the Cauldron Ice Cream chain which has locations in Carrollton and Dallas.)

Part of the goal at Dolly Llama is to encourage the idea that you can eat waffles any time of the day, not just for breakfast.

Their waffles figure in an array of desserts, some with toppings such as strawberries & Nutella, or peanut butter & cinnamon toast crunch; and some with toppings plus ice cream.

There are ice cream waffle sandwiches, and a Build-Your-Own option, where customers can pile on unlimited toppings such as cookies, marshmallows, M&Ms, plus an assortment of sauces including Nutella, caramel, maple syrup, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, peanut butter, white chocolate matcha, and sweetened condensed milk.

Ice cream flavors include vanilla, chocolate, salted caramel, matcha green tea, pistachio, horchata, plus vegan flavors including mint chip. They also do creative shakes.

The Dolly Llama currently operates three locations in the L.A. area, but is expanding in 2022 to Northern California, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Dallas.

Judson has a "day job" as dean at a small school in East Texas and is also a writer, but has extensive food & beverage experience.

"I worked in the service industry in college, putting myself through school and grad school, which I really enjoyed, and wanted to get back into it," he says.

But possibly his more relevant qualification is that he love sweets?

"I love baking and always wanted to start my own sweets business," he says. "I wanted to work with a company that had good marketing and people, and great desserts, and was blown away by Dolly Llama."

He's currently awaiting delivery of a patented waffle press, coming from Belgium. "It creates these beautiful pockets, perfect for ice cream and sauce," he says.

For location, he considered the usuals — Deep Ellum, Lower Greenville, downtown Dallas — before discovering the Uptown address, which became available in October after Smoothie Factory closed.

"I liked the character of the spot, and they're building up the Quadrangle right down the street," he says. "It seemed like a good fit. There's not anything like Dolly Llama in the area, nor in Dallas. I feel like this is something people in the neighborhood will love."

Dallas juice shop hosts new weekly pop-up with vegan sushi & ice cream

Vegan News

A vegan food truck from Houston is going to start coming to Dallas on a regular basis: Called Uncle Otis' Earthy Goodness, the truck will be on-site at Roots Market and Juicery, at 4164 N. Central Expy., along with a companion truck specializing in vegan sushi called The Vegan Sushi Spot.

The two trucks will serve buzzed-about vegan options including ice cream and vegan sushi every Saturday from 12-7 pm.

As an introduction, the trucks will make a special appearance on Friday March 25, from 1-7 pm.

Earthy Goodness was founded by Otis Ross, a New Jersey native, and has been popping up all over Texas with a menu of plant-based ice cream and milkshakes.

Ross formed a relationship with Roots Market, a concept founded by ex-stockbroker Brent Rodgers with juices, smoothies, CBD items, vegan meals, produce, and "clean" wines. (In addition to this location on Fitzhugh, there's a Roots in Lakewood at 1906 Abrams Pkwy. and another in the faraway city of Atlanta.)

"The Vegan Sushi Spot and Uncle Otis' Earthy Goodness are two of my favorite food trucks," Rodgers says. "We previously hosted a few pop-ups and they were a big success, so we knew we had to establish a lasting partnership, and both food trucks will now be at our Fitzhugh storefront every Saturday."

Menu items at the pop-up will include plant-based ice cream, as follows:

  • Milkshakes blended with oat milk with fruits and toppings
  • Waffle ice cream cones
  • Banana splits
  • Artic Blast, with choice of red velvet, lemon, strawberry, or pecan cake ice cream

There'll also be the following sushi items:

  • Hot Mama Roll with cucumber, asparagus, sweet potato, topped with avocado, vegan spicy tuna, cilantro, spicy mayo, and sweet sauce
  • Crunchy Potato Roll with vegan shrimp, avocado, cucumber, and jalapenos, topped with crunchy potato strings and drizzled with spicy mayo and sweet sauce
  • Pineapple Express Roll with cream cheese, avocado, jalapenos, and pineapple, rolled in crushed taki chips, topped with vegan spicy tuna, green onions, and drizzled with spicy mayo, sweet sauce, and sweet wasabi sauce.

For the Friday March 25 event, The Vegan Sushi spot has also created a special: The Roots Roll with avocado, cucumber, mango, spicy watermelon tuna, wasabi micro greens with spicy truffle, sweet wasabi sauce, and yuzu lemon vegan roe.

Their pop-up will dovetail with a complimentary wine tasting that Roots hosts every Friday night from 5-7 pm. This week's wine tasting will feature pours of The Simple Grape’s Chardonnay, Cabernet Savignon, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Grigio.


Parlor's Ice Creams in buzzy Dallas center will take old-fashioned route

Ice Cream News

It can no longer be said, as it once could, that Dallas has no ice cream, and here's another shop to put that to rest: Called Parlor's Ice Creams, it's a mom-and-pop coming to Lakewood, or more specifically to the buzzy Hillside Village Shopping Center at the intersection of Mockingbird Lane and Abrams Road.

The shop is literally a mom-and-pop, from husband-and-wife Brandon and Kellie Stoll, who are hoping to be open by late April, joining a growing number of ice cream shops that have opened around Dallas in recent years.

We're talking Azucar Ice Cream Company in Bishop Arts, Baldo's Ice Cream in Casa Linda, Ked's Artisan Ice Cream in Frisco, and Miruku Creamery in McKinney, plus chains such as Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams and Van Leeuwen's, and that's not even getting into gelato.

Parlor's philosophy is to focus on classic nostalgic ice cream flavors, made from scratch and in-house, using milk, eggs, and cream from Dallas-Fort Worth farms.

The Stolls started the business in October 2019 as a mobile scoop cart, selling pints and scoops at local farmers markets and pop-ups, which they'll continue to do. Hillside Village represents their first brick-and-mortar shop.

"We wanted to have a permanent spot in our own neighborhood where people can find us seven days a week," Kellie says.

The couple both moved to Dallas to attend SMU. After they graduated, they went to work in the corporate/business world, but wanted to do something entrepreneurial together.

"We first thought of doing a restaurant, but we didn't have the background," she says. "We both grew up eating ice cream, and wanted to do what we thought was a better version, with as much local sourcing as possible. Some ice cream companies that deem themselves 'homemade' just buy a big-dairy base and freeze it themselves. We truly make ours from scratch and this is what makes us different. We crack our eggs, we pour milk from local farms."

And when it comes to flavors, they're taking a classic approach.

"In a lot of modern ice cream shops, people have gotten wild on flavors, and we want to bring it back to how it used to be," she says.

So that means that, once they open, they'll definitely be featuring vanilla, chocolate, and cookies & cream among their 14-or-so flavors offered, with almost half of those flavors rotating, plus seasonal options such as strawberries & cream.

"Milk & Cookies is our best seller — it's like chocolate chip cookie dough, but we use pieces of locally baked chocolate chip cookies," Kellie says.

They're probably one of the few start-ups that actually benefited in some way from COVID-19.

"It helped us get the space at Hillside Village, that we were looking for a space during that time," she says.

Launching during that time gave them a chance to build the business and learn some lessons.

"We were originally doing cups, but when we couldn't scoop at the Dallas Farmers Market during the pandemic, we found a different way to get our ice cream to the Dallas community by doing $1 pint deliveries," Kellie says. "It sky-rocketed our business. We'll keep doing pints at the shop as well."

"During COVID-19, we heard from people who said they were refocusing on supporting more local industries, and that's something we have going for us," she says.

Photo courtesy of Van Leeuwen

Organic tacos, artisan ice cream, and farm-to-fork dining coming to Dallas' West Village

Nom Nom Nom

It's time for fresh air and fresh eats, especially at Dallas' West Village. A whole slew of new restaurants are either open now or coming soon, but it's never too early to start planning your meals.

Here are four brand-new tasty spots to check out this spring:

Honest Taco
It's hard to improve on tacos, but this organic eatery's fresh take on street tacos, bowls, breakfast, and barcraft is as appetizing as it is accommodating. The facility is completely gluten, nut, and soy-free, and has a variety of dairy-free, egg-free, vegetarian, vegan, paleo, and keto options right on the menu.

Hugo's Invitados
Opening later this spring, Hugo's Invitados will bring "Mexican-influenced, guest-inspired" cuisine and cocktails to West Village. This second, flagship location of the "always fresh, never fried" restaurant will invite guests to explore Chef Natalio's expertly crafted Latin menu, which includes shared plates like red snapper ceviche and Australian lamb meatballs, mains such as wagyu carne asada and pan-seared diver scallops, and organic cocktails including the cucumber-serrano and grilled pineapple margaritas.

Mendocino Farms
Founded in Southern California in 2005 by husband-and-wife team Mario Del Pero and Ellen Chen, Mendocino Farms has grown to 44 locations and counting in California and Texas. Mendo takes guests on a culinary adventure with its diverse menu of chef-driven, seasonal sandwiches and salads made from fresh, high-quality ingredients. Want to enjoy a free entree when Mendo opens this summer? Sign up for a My Mendo account and select DFW-WestVillage as your favorite store, and the reward will be added to your account on grand opening day.

Van Leeuwen
This Brooklyn-based, cult-favorite ice cream shop is opening its first Dallas location in May, with more than 30 flavors of dairy and vegan made-from-scratch ice cream. They use only fresh milk and cream, cane sugar, egg yolks, and the finest flavors ingredients from small producers locally and around the world. The vegan/nondairy selection is made from a variety of milks including coconut, cashew, and oats.

Van Leeuwen ice cream is opening its first Dallas location in May.

Photo courtesy of Van Leeuwen
Van Leeuwen ice cream is opening its first Dallas location in May.
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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.