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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.

Mashup Market

Best vegan grocer in Denton relocates to market-deli space

Vegan News


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.

Owner Cherie Reed says that the new location offers a better platform and resources for the kinds of expansion she wants to undertake.

"We are moving all our products and resources to 1302 W. Hickory to focus on continued product additions and a new deli we have in the works," she says. "We've loved developing a following with our original location at 316 E. Oak but that will be closed after Sunday September 25."

She anticipates that all of the products currently carried at Oak Street will be available at the Hickory location by Wednesday September 28.

Reed opened Mashup Market as a place to stock vegan provisions from local, Texas, and small U.S. businesses, including jerky by It's Jerky Y'all, Spread Happiness Nut Butters by UNT grad Yesika Horton, and delectable vegan meats by vendors such as ribs by Dallas-based The Boneless Butcher and a vegan stuffed turkey by acclaimed The Herbivorous Butcher based in Minneapolis.

She's one of two DFW vendors, along with Lucky Mouth Grocery in Oak Cliff, who's stocking the wildly popular vegan cheeses by Rebel Cheese, an artisanal maker in Austin. Her vegan cheese selection is broad, with vendors from across the U.S.

The store sells dry goods, snacks, cooking kits, dressings, vegan caramel sauce, great wines, and a big selection of gluten-free goods.

It's also become a destination for vegan pop-ups such as Vuture Foods, and exciting product introductions such as the recent demo of vegan bacon by Thrilling Foods. When the store started serving deli sandwiches last year, they saw a robust response.

The new location is close to Pepita's, the family-owned vegan Mexican restaurant at 1115 W. Hickory St. that opened in 2021 — with the proximity creating yet more vegan synergy.

In fact, Pepitas is allowing Mashup customers to park in their lot, behind the restaurant.

"Great opportunity to grab something from Pepitas and shop!," Reed says.

Meanwhile, there are sales: Mashup will be selling many items at the Oak Street location at 25 percent off — "so we don't have to move them," she says.

TLC Vegan Kitchen

Top vegan Dallas chef to open restaurant in space with A+ vegan karma

Vegan News

One of Dallas' top vegan chefs is debuting a new restaurant in Richardson: Chef Troy Gardner will open TLC Vegan Cafe, a cozy, casual vegan restaurant with dine-in service and a small market for a grab & go items like sandwiches, desserts, and more.

It's going into a space with great vegan karma: the former home of Reverie Bakeshop, at 1930 Coit Rd., well known for its vegan and gluten-free treats. (Reverie relocated to 980 Coit Rd. in June.)

Gardner and his partner Sherry Copeland have applied for their Certificate of Occupancy, and construction on the space is already underway. They're planning to open in the fall.

The cafe is a spinoff of TLC Vegan Kitchen, a ghost kitchen concept Gardner founded in 2020 during the height of the pandemic.

Gardner is one of Dallas' most enduring figures in the local vegan scene, dating back to 2013 when he opened Samson's Hot Dogs with numerous vegan options on the menu. He went on to open the more formal V-Eats Modern Vegan at Trinity Groves in 2016, serving comfort food including vegan Salisbury steak, sushi, and more, for which he earned a nomination for Best New Restaurant in CultureMap's 2017 Tastemaker Awards.

He opened TLC as a ghost kitchen in response to the pandemic, operating out of Revolving Kitchen in Garland, and has been prospering as a thriving take-out business. TLC was selected as one of the four Dallas restaurants to serve Tindle, a buzzy plant-based chicken, and more impressively, it won a CultureMap Tastemaker Award in 2021 for Best Ghost Kitchen.

But the opportunity to return to serving his food in a sit-down setting was hard to resist.

He's opening it in partnership with Copeland, owner of Jai Meals, a food service featuring vegan meals from different chefs for pick-up or home delivery, operating at the Shops at Willow Bend in Plano.

"Sherry and I began working together in 2020, when we were providing meals for her operation," Gardner says. "She wanted to open a storefront outside of the mall, and leased the Reverie Bakeshop space after they relocated, and it blossomed into an accidental partnership."

TLC stands for "Tastes Like Chicken," and capitalizes on Gardner's savvy use of ingredients to approximate the flavor and texture of meat. TLC's menu includes items like pizza with cashew mozzarella, chili, chicken-fried steak, and lasagna with three vegan cheeses: ricotta, mozzarella, & parmesan.

"At the new restaurant, we'll do many of the dishes we're currently doing out of Revolving Kitchen, but the seated spaced means I can do regular specials, which I enjoy but which are difficult to present on an online platform," he says.

Last weekend, he did a special Crispy Citrus TLC chick'n with their signature oyster-mushroom "chick-nun," coconut milk rice, Chinese broccoli, Thai chili, Mandarin oranges, and a "salt bae" sprinkle of sesame seeds.

"Dining out is also fun, it gives that sense of community you just don't get when you're eating takeout," he says.

Spiral Diner

Popular vegan restaurant Spiral Diner is closing location in Dallas

Vegan News

Dallas is losing a big vegan restaurant: Fort Worth-based chain Spiral Diner is closing its location in Oak Cliff.

According to a release, the restaurant will close on August 14.

The location is at the end of its lease, which Spiral opted not to renew, claiming that the 100-year-old building needed too much work.

Spiral had been there for 15 years, opening in February 2008 — the second Spiral location following the original in Fort Worth.

But a new Spiral Diner & Bakery will open in Arlington in 2023, along with two new vegan concepts in Fort Worth: a fine dining restaurant, Maiden Fine Plants & Spirits, and a donut and ice cream shop, Dreamboat Donuts and Scoops.

Owner and Founder Amy McNutt called it bittersweet, saying, "we've been honored to feed our hungry customers for over 14 years! But, with our lease agreement expiring soon, it seemed like the right time to move on. All the years of incredible business have worn out this old building – it could no longer sustain our bustling operation!"

Better Balance

Company settles in Dallas to launch its plant-based protein empire

Vegan News

Dallas is now home to an exciting plant-based enterprise that makes healthy proteins not from animals. Called Better Balance, the company started out in Spain, then Mexico, but its U.S. headquarters are Dallas.

Their products can be used just as you would with regular meat type things in recipes such as burgers, tacos, soups, sandwiches, and pastas.

Their lineup includes:

  • Shreds, which can be marinated as chicken, beef, pork, or fish and provide a blank canvas allowing anyone to be a food artist and create incredible dishes
  • Grounds, perfect for Bolognese pasta, plant-based meatballs, and hamburgers
  • Hot Dogs, great for grilling and summer holiday celebrations
  • Sour Cream and Cheese Sauce for dairy-free queso and nachos

They are currently available as a wholesale item and are found in more than 300 restaurants, theme parks, stadiums, and music festivals, including the Frisco RoughRiders stadium in Frisco.

Their newest partnership is Case del Vegano, an acclaimed vegan restaurant in Oak Cliff who are using their products for pupusas, garlic chicken nachos, and Southwestern chicken quesadillas.

But their parent company, Sigma, a multinational food company, has plans to start selling them directly to consumers later this year.

Dallas seemed like the right launch point, says a spokesperson, due to what they say is a diverse local culinary scene, where they can test items. They're also taking advantage of Dallas' reputation as a travel hub, with easy connectivity to their international teams in Mexico and Spain.

San Antonio eatery Frida Mexican Restaurant and Bar added Better Balance products to their menu to serve the growing audience for plant-based foods, says executive chef Sofia Sada.

"We want to serve customers who live a plant-based diet or someone who is simply feeling adventurous and wants to try something new," Sada says. "Plant-based meats are on a steady rise, and I find it important to adapt by offering menu options that could reach a broader audience of diners. Of all the available options, I find that Better Balance is best tasting, and allows me to create delicious dishes for all our patrons without compromising flavor and texture."

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

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.

Zac Efron finds out war is hell in The Greatest Beer Run Ever

Movie review

Longtime comedy writer/director Peter Farrelly duped a lot of people – though not this critic – with his first attempt at drama, 2018’s Green Book, for which he won Oscars for both Best Original Screenplay and, astoundingly, Best Picture. His follow-up film, The Greatest Beer Run Ever, is another film based on little-known history, with much stronger results.

Chickie Donohue (Zac Efron) is kind of a ne’er-do-well in a 1967 Manhattan neighborhood, living at home and going down to his local bar on a daily basis to drink with his friends. There, he, his friends, and bar owner Doc Fiddler (Bill Murray) commiserate over the fate of the local men who are getting injured or dying in the Vietnam War. Though they hate what the men face, they mostly agree that the soldiers are doing their patriotic duty.

On a drunken whim, Chickie – who has job as a merchant mariner – says he’s going to pay tribute to their friends by bringing them beer from back home. By hook or by crook, he actually manages to get over to Vietnam on a supply ship. But what starts out as a fun lark for the genial Chickie turns into an education about what war is actually like, how his friends are handling their deployments, and that governments may not be always telling the truth.

Co-written with Farrelly by Brian Hayes Currie and Pete Jones, the film is a tale of two halves. The first 45 minutes or so is pretty goofy, as it sets up the story by showing the growing divide about the war, a serious topic that’s undercut by almost every character utilizing an over-the-top New York accent. Chickie’s apparent lack of concern about heading into a war zone also rubs the wrong way.

But the film’s shift in tone once he gets to Vietnam is a welcome one, and helps to make sense of what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish in the beginning of the movie. As Chickie tries to track down the various guys from his neighborhood, his eyes are opened about the experience on the ground in a war. Chickie traveling in plain clothes gets him mistaken for a CIA agent, a falsehood he willingly goes along with until an encounter with a real CIA agent pulls the wool off his eyes once and for all.

Farrelly appears to have matured as a filmmaker in the past four years. While he went for overly simplistic conflict and just as facile resolution in Green Book, he gets down and dirty in this film. He and his co-writers don’t pay lip service to the bad parts of war; they put Chickie right there in the middle of it all, witnessing atrocities firsthand. He’s not a soldier, so they don’t try to overplay their hand, but they give the film just enough intensity that the changes he experiences don’t feel tossed off.

Of course, the film is “based on a true story,” so you know liberties were taken – would the number of beers he brought really last? – but they do an effective job of making eye-rolling moments relatively believable. Chickie’s interactions with his soldier friends have a good arc to them, as do his run-ins with in-country reporters like Coates (Russell Crowe). A late film sequence that finds the two of them running around Saigon while the city is under siege is one of the best the film has to offer.

Efron, save perhaps for his turn as Ted Bundy in a Netflix film, has never been known for his dramatic chops. This role gives him the best of both worlds, allowing him to let loose and dig deep in equal measures, and he makes the most of it. Relative unknowns play his various friends, with the ones playing soldiers coming off the best. Murray and Crowe provide contrasting color to the film, and each is effective in their small amount of screentime.

The Greatest Beer Run Ever is a nice step up for Farrelly and proof that there are still interesting ways to demonstrate that war is hell. The funny premise behind the film belies the seriousness with which it treats the larger issue at hand, a bait-and-switch that gives the story a gravitas you might not expect.

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The Greatest Beer Run Ever is now playing in theaters and streaming on Apple TV+.

Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

Zac Efron in The Greatest Beer Run Ever