Thanks to all of you who participated in the two SideDish discussions (Bloggers v Journalists and Restaurants Beware of Food Writers who Expect Freebies). I thought the two posts brought up some great points and readers conducted an intelligent discussion. Apparently the restaurant industry and PR agencies took note. And I think we’re about to see some upgrades on how business is conducted.
Last night, someone forwarded me an email blast sent out by Nicki Patel at Strauss Marketing . She addresses “the people we normally deal with.”
Hope your week is off to a great start! In light of recent events and blogs, notably on D Side Dish at the end of last week, we are taking a step back and looking at how PR professionals and bloggers can better work together taking into account FTC guidelines. Several of our clients read the blog and comments, and have asked us to find a way to better evaluate their business decisions on offering complimentary products/dinners/experiences.
As a service to them we are asking that you please submit your most recent numbers on readership so that we may keep that on file. You are welcome to send over Google analytics, subscription numbers on feed burner (or other reliable sources), or any other tool you may use to track your readership, etc. Also, we know that some of you write not only for your blog, but occasionally for other publications as well. Please include that information so we are able to effectively pitch you on items that are appropriate and refrain from flooding your inboxes.
We know that is not a hard and fast number to base decisions on, but it is a start for us to be able to explain to our clients why offering up products/dinners/experiences is a smart idea. Thank you for your help on this and we hope to continue working with you in the future!
Kudos to Strauss Marketing for opening the door. “We felt your blog post addressed a situation that we deal with on an on going basis,”Patel said. “We saw this as an opportunity for us to address it as well.” Patel told me this morning she has already received “stats and information” from some on the list.
Hopefully the market will correct itself and restaurateurs won’t have to fear negative reviews from unaccredited bloggers and PR professionals won’t have to accommodate every person with a blog. There is a happy medium, or shall I say media, out there waiting to give you your money’s worth.15 Comments »
Full disclosure: Last night I took my good friend Don Waddington to dinner. Don, who recently lost his wife, Polly, wanted to attend Sevy’s 100th wine dinner celebration. Sevy’s has been Don and Polly’s favorite restaurant since it opened. The Waddingtons traveled on both D Magazine chef cruises, which also included Jim Severson and his wife, Amy. I know Jim and Amy and consider them good friends. Amy contributes to SideDish. I do not review Sevy’s, and it is one of the few restaurants I go to on my own nickel.
Back to last night. Sevy’s private dining room was filled with loyal customers. It was not a media event. I wasn’t working. However, I noticed a woman with a camera and a tape recorder in her hand working the room as if she was the hostess. She snapped pictures, took down names, and chatted with everyone in the room. When a course was served, she would sit down, but once she was finished, she was up again and working the room. At one point, I overheard her say, “Well, I can’t write about it if I don’t taste it.”
I turned to Amy Severson and asked if she knew the name of the woman. “She came in the restaurant the other day and introduced herself as a food writer, asked for a copy of our logo, and made a reservation for the wine dinner,” Amy said. “There was never any discussion of any quid pro quo, nor was there any discussion of her covering the wine and food dinner for us as a PR move.”
However, it was obvious to all at our table that this woman was all about PR, but not for the restaurant. She was there to promote herself.
Oh, let’s get to the bottom of this.55 Comments »
Both Escape Hatch and Eater have reported that CampO Modern Bistro, which opened in August 2011, is now boarded up and locked down as of last night. Owners Miguel Vicéns and John Paul Valverde of Coevál say that Dallas didn’t latch onto their farm-to-fork focused restaurant as well as they’d hoped, and now the North Cliff eatery’s space is undergoing a redesign. The owners plan to open the new restaurant in 45 days.
“It’s bittersweet,” says Valverde. “Obviously, we know the amount of work that we’ve put into CampO. We’re not crossing our hands and saying we’re giving up. We’re seeing what a big mass of people loves versus what a small, wonderful crowd loves.”
Matt McCallister, the execuchef of CampO when it first opened, had just gotten off the phone with Valverde when I rang him up. Valverde broke the news to him today, so he hadn’t known that a new concept had been in the works for the last four weeks. “I hope whatever concept they’re working on they get success out of it,” he says. But right now, McCallister is focused solely on his baby, FT33, and he hasn’t been in the CampO loop lately. The owners say they just had lunch with the most current execuchef, Michael Ehlert, today, and the split has been amicable.
As for the new concept, Valverde and Vicéns are still kicking around ideas and finalizing all the details. Valverde says the new restaurant in the North Beckley space will have “casual, approachable cuisine.” They’re going to “shoot for having grade-A products just like (they) did at CampO.” Local ingredients, quality food, and the rest of the whole nine yards. From the sound of it, the concept is going to be completely different from CampO’s. The Coevál team wants to reach a bigger demographic, so presumably, its going to cater more to what the majority likes. And what the majority likes… well, isn’t CampO.
Four months ago, Kyla Phomsavanh was part of a scary squabble that led to his departure from Thairrific, a restaurant originally opened by his own parents. Now the past is said and done, and Phomsavanh has clearly moved on by opening his new restaurant, Sakhuu, which is a tribute to his business partner/girlfriend Angel Young’s father. The name derives from “sakuu,” the Thai word for white tapioca pearl, and the extra “h” in the name comes from Young’s father. Mr. Khu “had to escape the killing field, go to Vietnam, and change his name to Tran,” says Phomsavanh.
Located at 4801 Bryan Street, Sakhuu offers dishes very similar to Thairrific’s when Phomosavanh was still controlling the kitchen there Expect the same popular stuffed wings, pad thai, and tom kha soup, but starting next week, Phomosavanh will be adding new items (“Sakhuu pearls” with tapioca skin wrapped around ground chicken, soup dumplings with curry flavors) to the menu. On Saturdays only, you can walk into Sakhuu and order a bowl of Thai noodle boat soup, which is a beef-based soup with meatballs and your choice of noodles.
Oh, and before I forget: This restaurant is BYOB-friendly.
We all love Jeffery Hobbs, especially Nancy, who reviewed Sissy’s back in July and wrote inspiring lines like “The ham salad and pimento cheese plate swept me back to my childhood faster than my therapist could ever hope to. After one bite, I was 5 years old” after eating his Southern cooking.
This just means that September is a bittersweet month for Sissy’s. Jeffery Hobbs is leaving to pursue his own project (aka opening his own restaurant), and sous chef Chris Ostlund is taking the helm as execuchef. According to Hobbs, Ostlund was groomed from the very beginning for this position, and Hobbs and Lisa Garza still remain great friends despite the split. Hobbs is still helping out with the new lunch service that’s starting on Tuesday, September 18. Hobbs, Garza, and Ostlund all worked on the menu together.
I tried to get Hobbs to spill the beans about his mysterious “project,” but the guy is superstitious to the max and won’t let out a single peep. “I really can’t say; I can’t talk about anything,” he says to me… at least five times. “There are a couple of things that need to be nailed down. Even when you feel like it’s a for sure thing, there are things that come up.”
But here is what I do know after much cajoling: Hobbs is looking at two different spaces and still deciding. The food at his restaurant is “basically a confluence of everything that [he's] ever done before.” It’s going to be simple and American. (“Not exactly Southern,” he says.) When I asked if he was going to name his restaurant “Jeffery’s,” Hobbs laughed and said no. He’s still deciding on the name, but it’s probably going to have an abbreviation.
SideDishers, do you have any good guesses??
Word comes through my email inbox that Chef Jason Boso is closing down the Cowboy Chow in Roanoke for a few days in September while they renovate the inside for a brand spankin’ new concept, Tacos & Avocados. Boso plans to have the new taco joint open by September, which means the makeover should be a quickie. Are tacos still taking over world? It sure looks like this trend is never-ending when a taco concept is replacing another taco concept…
Jump for the press release.
Yesterday Café Pacific turned 32-years old. But, according to owner Jack “Knucklehead” Knox, the storied restaurant’s real birthday is today. He says:
It has been thirty two years since we quietly unlocked the front door to Cafe Pacific for what we hoped would be an unannounced soft opening. Nothing worked. The servers couldn’t serve, the bartenders couldn’t tend, the cooks couldn’t cook, and the owner was unqualified to own. I saw no advantage to our staying open longer so that we would have more time to offend the maximum number of first time customers. We closed at seven. We opened again twenty fours hours later to only slightly better results.
He sends the original dinner menu below. Continue reading "Happy Birthday Cafe Pacific"
This morning a press release releases a few details about Cook Hall, the Global Gastro Pub with regional cuisine and handcrafted cocktails replacing Craft Dallas at W Dallas Victory Hotel. The concept comes from NYC-based CCHG (Culinary Concepts Hospitality Group), a restaurant management company which operates and licenses other brands such such as Spice Market, J&G Steakhouse, Market, and J&G Grill, each of which was created by Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. At no point in this release was Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s name mentioned. I’m sure he and Tom Colicchio are palling around the Hampton’s with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert.
Jump for the details. Continue reading "Craft Dallas Closing in mid-September; Cook Hall to Open November 1"3 Comments »
Brian Marsters, Director of Operations for Matt’s Rancho Martinez, has saved 5,000 emails from customers asking when the new Lakewood location of this popular Tex-Mex restaurant will open. “I would like those 5,000 supporter to contact (Dallas City Councilmember) Angela Hunt and ask her the same question.” Marsters and co-owner Estella Martinez are befuddled by their situation. “We can’t open because we are caught in the crossfire of a feud between our landlord (Stonelake Investments), several area homeowners associations, and the City of Dallas.”
The saga started when Matt’s lease expired in February and the landlord chose to replace Matt’s with a Mi Cocina, which is already up and running. Matt’s relocated to the building vacated by Consignment Solutions at 1904 Skillman Ave. The opening has been delayed by a series of the usual suspects such as myriad permits, grease traps, and parking, but last Wednesday the plan for the restaurant and Stonelake Investments development projects clashed when Stonelake applied for a permit to close off a block of La Vista between Skillman and Live Oak and created a pedestrian mall.
Stay with me, now.38 Comments »
The Mecca Restaurant is known for its bigger-than-your-face cinnamon rolls and home-cooking style, and now it’s about to take all of that to its new location at 5815 Live Oak Street. After 44 years at its Harry Hines location, owner Michael Sealy says it’s time to move. The lease is up, the building requires a great deal of care, and most importantly, he says, “Since DART bought up Denton Drive behind us, our sales are half of what it used to be. And we can’t increase our sales because there’s no market for dinner.”
After nine months of scouting for a new location, Sealy settled on the Lakewood location that used to be the old space for Molly Maguire’s Irish Pub. Before that, in the 30s, 40s, and 50s (according to Sealy), Volk’s Department Store occupied that space, and people would buy their blue jeans there. Now the space right next to an exercise center called CrossFit White Rock will be used to serve three-egg omelettes and homemade pancakes to keep up Mecca’s 74 years of breakfast tradition.
Sealy plans to add dinner service once Mecca makes its move, starting August 17 at the soft opening. The Harry Hines location will close on August 12.
Someone with a big mouth let slip that Ristorante Nicola on Preston Road will be closing for a remodeling session. An email from Jef Tingley who represents the restaurant confirms this news: “Yes, Ristorante Nicola will be closing in August for remodeling and downscaling the concept. The exact dates, timeframe and furnishings are still being finalized…” Busy travel bee Jef promises more info to come.
Four days ago, Nancy announced that The Commissary was closed and speculated yesterday that Screen Door might be next. It turns out that she’s right. The Screen Door in One Arts Plaza is closing doors tomorrow. A few friends and I went there for lunch just to capture some Southern comfort food memories before it completely shutters down, and our waiter told us that he and the other employees found out late last night around 10 p.m. that it was official: Screen Door’s last dinner service will be at 7:50 p.m. this Saturday. They’ll open bottles of wine and say goodbye. According to the waiter, The Commissary will re-open as Ziziki’s in approximately three weeks (rather soon, it seems) and Screen Door will re-open as a French concept as part of the Lombardi family in late September early October. (Still waiting on a call from a Lombardi spokesperson to confirm this fact.)
When I asked Chef David McMillan if he was sad to see Screen Door go, he shook his head no. “That’s the way it is when you have a fun economy,” he said. He’s hoping to open something closer to where he lives, either in Colleyville or Southlake.
Jump for updated news.
I’ve cruised past the construction site of John Tesar’s new restaurant, Spoon in Preston Center, several times this month and noticed zero activity. The permits were not on the windows and there was no construction taking place. Yesterday I checked Tesar’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, then texted and called him, and nothing. Last night I spoke with his rep, Bev Garvin. She says all is well and construction is “back underway.” They are preparing to knock down the front of the space and, after that, “expect a six-to-eight week turnaround.”
I asked her Tesar’s whereabouts and she giggled a bit. “I can’t tell you,” she said. “I only get to talk to him when they allow him access to phones or when they let him have phones.”
After I lifted my jaw off my desk, I asked, “Well, should I check the roster at Betty Ford Clinic or San Quentin?” She giggled again, nervously. “No, it’s all good I can’t tell you. If you poke around you might find out more.” She did say he would be back in Dallas on July 31.
I don’t feel like poking, so let’s play “Where’s John Tesar?” Prize worth $100 to the winner. (Some people, and you know who you are, are not eligible to play.)
I am going out on a long white oak limb here: Meditating in India.
Okay, your turn, GO!34 Comments »
So says a customer who was there last night. According to said customer: “The show is over. Sunday was the last service. The space is leased to a local restaurateur.” Calling chef David McMillan.
Also heard Rhost on Greenville has been sold to The Londoner Pub.
UPPITY DATE: Incoming intel. Ziziki’s is going into Commissary space.
At this very moment, I am shooting the breezes with Nick Badovinus. He is on my speaker phone. He is laughing so hard and spouting Nick-isms so fast I can’t take them all down.
It all started when I noticed a Bud Kennedy tweet: “@eatsbeat Dallas’ retro Off Site Kitchen burger grill opening 2nd loc[ation] at 2405 N Henderson, Dallas.” What “shocked” me is Bud is a real reporter. He’s been in the business for a long time. He doesn’t gossip at media dinners, he makes phone calls and asks questions. I spoke with Nick a couple of weeks ago about his “renno” at NHS Tavern and he had no idea what he was going to name it. He had a new sign and some groovy new décor items, but he had no name.
He still doesn’t have a name of the place that will reopen soon. But it is NOT going to be Off-Site Kitchen. Why? Because Off-Site Kitchen is basically a commissary with a food service element. Badovinus has all of his food orders sent to Off-Site Kitchen (hence, the name) and from there, they are portioned and distributed to his other restaurants. It’s a smart business move that pays for itself by serving bitchin’ sandwiches.
Here’s what Badovinus is saying between sobs of laughter and disbelief: “Where does this s*&t come from? I mean who are these people who know more than I do? It has never come out of my mouth that there is going to be another Off-Site Kitchen. Never. How does somebody write that? I mean, do people just make these things up? Tell me, please. How does this get started? I mean people are already bitching to me that Off-Site Kitchen is too small so I’m, what, gonna take a place that sells a $3.75 cheeseburger and stick it in a high-rent location with valet parking? ( a 30-second guffaw) I mean do people think I’m stupid. It makes no business sense. Off-Site Kitchen is not a brand, it’s a place. (Oh, I see a t-shirt in the works!) It’s a real commissary not named Commissary. I mean why can’t people just call and ask me? I’m sorry this just makes me so crazy. I don’t know how you do this s*&t for a living. You must be freakin’ exhausted.”14 Comments »
Todd Johnson is very upset. It turns out that Craft Dallas - Tom Colicchio’s non-gimmicky restaurant in the W Hotel where Nancy once said she’d pick its chicken dish for her last supper – is closing at the end of this summer to make room for a new restaurant, Cook Hall, that’ll open as early as the fall. Cook Hall is supposed to be a modern take on America’s gastropub and will offer “regional cuisine and handcrafted cocktails…The restaurant will add a new bar and flow more openly into the hotel’s Living Room (W’s take on the traditional hotel lobby) as well as offer shareable small-plates to encourage the social experience. Cook Hall’s pricing will be moderate to upscale.”
This is new direction is headed by Culinary Concepts Hospitality Group (CCHG), and Craft Dallas isn’t the only W destination it’s giving the axe. Ghostbar, the hotel’s 33rd floor nightclub, is also closing later this month. Plans for the space are still being finalized at the moment. Meanwhile, everyone should head to the W and start saying their last goodbyes. First Nana, now Craft Dallas. Is big-league fine dining dying a slow, inevitable death in Dallas? Sure looks like it.
Sayonara, Marquee Grill & Bar. Apparently it is no more. People were getting the restaurant in Highland Park Village confused with another restaurant in a different state with a similar name, so Twomey Concepts, the owner, decided to change the name to Village Marquee – Texas Grill & Bar. Now that the name is altered, the owner decided to take the opportunity to make changes to the menu and the overall restaurant concept as well. Read on for the rest of the press release if you want to hear the details. Continue reading "Marquee Grill & Bar Has a New Name: Village Marquee – Texas Grill & Bar"
Our favorite Pegasus food writer, Teresa Gubbins, posted this morning that Stephan Pyles has added blogging to his laundry list of skills, which means that you, dear readers, get to see the play-by-play of how his new restaurant at 1717 McKinney, Stampede 66, comes to fruition. His first post, “Introducing Stampede 66,” includes photos and descriptions of “the modern Texas [restaurant] with a casual, creative and high-energy ambience.”
Chef Pyles writes:
We have selected our executive chef and it was a natural choice. Our current execu-chef at Samar, Jon Thompson, will make the transition from cardamom and curry to chiles and chicharon. The kitchen will serve as much Texas-sourced product as possible and my years of research into Texas culinary history will be fully utilized. We have already begun the sourcing of wild native products such as Agarita Berries, Turksap and Red Mulberry. We will be using seafood exclusively from the Texas Gulf Coast and poultry such as dove, quail and wild turkey, will all come from Texas farms or the wild.
The restaurateur has already made a name for himself with restaurants like Samar and Stephan Pyles, and now he’s adding his name to a list of chefs who blog. Remember Matt McCallister’s scratchdiner blog? And Chef DAT’s underground blogspot? Both haven’t written in awhile, but we have faith that Pyles will keep his webspace going strong at least until Stampede 66 opens.
Check out this vintage sign that was shipped to Dallas. It’s currently getting hooked up inside a local restaurant. Guess the name of the place and you will win a Godiva Chocolate black-almond-truffle-scented candle.36 Comments »