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Minutes ago, Bob Sambol told his staff and investors that he is decamping the legendary Bob’s Steak & Chop House to take a job at MCrowd. Come Monday, diners at the Mercury Grill will find Sambol waiting to greet them at the front door. He’ll run that operation and will spearhead an MCrowd foray into fine dining with as-yet-unnamed future restaurants in the Dallas area.
Naturally, if you’ve been playing along at home, you are right now recalling that Sambol is a thief who recently copped to stealing $300,000 from an investor. I asked MCrowd co-owner Ray Washburne why he would take on that risk and the baggage that comes with it. I found it curious that he didn’t have a ready answer and seemed to be thinking out loud as he looked for one. Washburne said Sambol is a talented guy and a hard worker. “In the restaurant business,” he said, “you have very few people who are true restaurateurs, who work the door and know their customers’ names.” Sambol is one of those guys. (Washburne said Al Biernat is another.) But Washburne also said the hire was a real Dallas thing. “One reason Dallas is a great city is if you’re honest and you work hard, people are willing to listen to you,” he said. I replied, “Honest?” Washburne laughed and said, “We’re all sinners. Bob has addressed his issues. He’s looking for a fresh start, and working with the structure that MCrowd has, he can flourish.” Hang on, though. There’s one more reason Washburne gave for making the hire. Sambol got deferred adjudication and is on probation for 10 years. “If he messes up once,” Washburne said, “he’s done. He’s got a gun to his head.” In other words, he thinks Sambol is a safe bet.
For his part, Sambol told Nancy: “I’m really excited. I’ve had some incredible heart-to-heart talks with all of the partners. I’ve been honest with them, and I respect [Mercury Grill chef Chris Ward] and his staff. We are not looking back. We’re looking forward to increasing business and perhaps creating new projects for Chris.”
Ward is known for being, oh, let’s call it quiet. What is going to happen when MCrowd installs an operator at the Mercury who has grown accustomed, over the years, to having his name on the building? “Bob has a great passion for the restaurant business,” Ward said. “He has plans to boost the business at Mercury. We’ve also talked about doing another restaurant together.”31 Comments »
Here’s a link to my report on the 20 Top Steakhouses in Dallas. Read it and we’ll discuss.23 Comments »
DMN’s Jennifer Emily reports Bob Sambol, founder of Bob’s Steak & Chop House, pleaded guilty this afternoon to felony theft. Sambol was accused of taking $300,000 from an investor to make improvements on the restaurant. The improvements were never made. Sambol will repay the debt. He received 10 years of deferred adjudication. I reached Bob on his cell. “It’s settled. It’s over,” Sambol said. “Business is great at Bob’s and there is a bright future to look forward to.”12 Comments »
This morning I received yet another email from a secret source with insider information about a big sale in progress. The restaurant? Al Biernat’s. The buyer? A group led by long-time restaurateur Phil Cobb.
“I’m so glad you called,” says Al. “Please kill this rumor for me. I’m only 55 and have a ten-year lease.”
Cobb’s group did make an offer on the restaurant and Biernat did consider it for a while. “I think that is how the rumor started,” says Al. Plus I’ve spent a lot of time at my home in Colorado and vacationing in Hawaii so people assumed I was on my way out. The group made me a very nice offer and they were very nice, but we are doing so well. I am definitely not selling. ”
Biernat has purchased another restaurant, The Mermaid Café, but it is in Creede, Colorado. His son plans to open a taqueria.
The venerable Plumpjack Winery has created a new operation CADE Winery. Winemaker Tony Biagi was in town recently and agreed to be interviewed.
Every day this week visiting media staying at the Sheraton in downtown Dallas is being treated to free food from different areas of Dallas. Today it is Addison’s turn to wow the palates of hungry sportswriters (is that redundant?) Anywhoo, the ice didn’t stop Richard Chamberlain from transporting 800 pounds of grub from his Chamberlain’s Steak & Chop House to the Sheraton. “Well, it took me a long time to get here,” says Chamberlain. “I never got over 18 mph on the Tollway but it probably helped that I had 800 pounds of food in my car.” Chamberlain has cooked up 300 pounds of short loins (Iditarod Cuisine?) of beef which were donated by the Texas Beef Council. The mayor of Addison is also on his way. His name? Joe Chow.6 Comments »
When La Fiorentina Tuscan Steakhouse opened its doors to the public on Dec. 1, we were first in line. Follow the link for some awesome pictures and to find out what Alberto Lombardi has up his sleeve with his new Tuscan steakhouse.6 Comments »
No, they haven’t shut the steakhouse and morphed into a winery. Rather, they have created a private-label wine for sale solely to their restaurant patrons. This is not your average house wine which is usually the least expensive and least explained wine on the list. Nick & Sam’s 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley is an altogether serious and big-league wine, inviting comparison with other top Napa Cabernets in blind tastings. It is made, as the back label explains, by Bob Egelhoff. His resume reads like a Who’s Who of Napa Valley royalty. Eglehoff worked at Beckstoffer Vineyards, Merryvale Vineyards, Robert Craig, and David Arthur during his 30 years of making wine. At David Arthur he crafted the 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon which the The Wine Spectator gave 99 points (out of 100). He got 10 job offers in the next six months. Little wonder he is the Tête de Cuvée Award Recipient at the 2011 Cotes du Coeur International Fine Wine Auction and Celebrity Chef Dinner in Dallas next April 9. And, while his winemaking expertise is self-evident, what may not be so apparent is his virtuosity with the ivories. Nick & Sam’s sommelier, Brian Soloway, revealed that part of the negotiations for the dinner ended up with a spontaneous session on the restaurant’s piano one night after the place had closed.
We were transported into a world of single malt scotch whiskey this week as Nicholas Pollacchi, Global Ambassador of The Balvenie introduced us to a range of Balvenie scotches accompanied by a five-course meal at Nick & Sam’s Steakhouse. The highlight of the tasting was the Balvenie 17-year old Peated Cask. This single malt whiskey came about when Malt Master David Stewart mixed a peat and barley mixture and then distilled it in oak casks. Then he emptied the casks and filled them with 17-year old Belvenie scotch. The whiskey took on a distinct peatiness. He mixed that with 17-year old Balvenie aged in American oak. The result is a whiskey that has a distinct peatiness that is not to the exclusion of other aromas and flavors. In the mouth, there is toffee and peat. In the finish a pronounced smokiness emerges at the back of the mouth. This is a complex and likable whiskey.
Another special member of the Belvenie family is the Belvenie 21 yr. Port Wood Cask. As its name suggests, this is matured for 21 years in barrels (known as pipes) that previously contained Port wine. The nose smelled of rose petals and oranges. The woody flavors in the mouth were explosive. This whiskey won Single Malt Whiskey of the Year at the International Wine and Spirits Festival.
The evening started with an excellent Blood and Sand cocktail. You can ask for this made with Balvenie when you visit Nick and Sams. Recipe follows: Continue reading "Special Report: Balvenie Single Malt Scotch Tasting at Nick and Sam’s in Dallas"4 Comments »
As the economy continues to kill restaurants, it also fuels the fires beneath the ever-burning rumor mill. One reason why so many stories are flying all over town is simple economics–as restaurants close, the supply of available restaurant real estate increases. Couple that with curious restaurateurs looking for a bargain or just checking out possibilities, and sparks fly.
While some entrepreneurs are seriously searching for deals, others may just be kicking grease traps and fantasizing. (Restaurant real estate porn if you will.) No matter, once anyone has poked around a few locations, the phone and e-mail lines light up like a modern day version of this.
Late yesterday, a juicy tale flowed my way. Word on the street: Bob Sambol,founder of Bob’s Steak and Chop House on Lemmon, was leaving to reconcept Hully & Mo at the Quadrangle. My source said the deal was “so done” they ‘d already picked a new name: Legends. Made sense to me—real estate mogul and owner of Hully & Mo, Tim Headington, is a Bob’s customer and friend of Sambol’s as is Mike “Mo” Modano.
I called Bob Sambol. “Hey, tell me about Legends,” I said right off the bat (at the drop of the puck). “Huh? What are you taking about?” said Sambol. “You know, your new restaurant. You’re taking over Hully & Mo and changing the name to Legends,” I said.
“I’m still here at Bob’s and business is really good,” said Sambol.”We’ve made a lot of changes and things are going really well. Our new wine guy, Ken Kuczwaj, is doing some great stuff. The people here at Bob’s have been great to me.”
Hmm. He certainly went into auto-mode awfully quick. I went for the neutral zone trap.”So, you have no idea what I’m talking about, ” I said. ”Well, yeah, I talked to them [Headington],” said Sambol. “They need some help. I’ve looked around. I’ve looked at Silver Fox [Centrum]. That place is immaculate. You could reopen it in 10 days. But my next restaurant is not going to be a steak place, it’s going to be a real New York Italian restaurant. I’m only looking now because I am curious and people call me every day with possibilities.”
Perhaps Headington and Mo (donde esta Hully in all of this?) will change the Hully & Mo concept without Sambol. After all, Modano seems to be headed to Detroit to play and Headington & Hully isn’t sexy. (Note to Mr. Headington, please don’t call it Legends. It doesn’t make me hungry or thirsty. It makes me think of strippers. However, “Modano’s” entices me to be all three.)
Anywhoo, I did “learn” one thing from rooting around yesterday: former Houston-turned-Dallas-turned Houston restaurateur Joey Vallone “has signed” a lease on the space formerly known as The Club in the Centrum. Remember Joey’s? It used to be in the space now occupied by Al Biernat’s. Joey is quite a character. Which reminds me, where in the hell is Matthew Antonovich? He never opened his restaurant in Louisville.
Stay tuned for another episode of As the Restaurants Turn.7 Comments »
Sorry, I was writing a post to run tomorrow morning and accidentally hit publish instead of save. Therefore, if you are looking for the story about Bob Sambol, you will have to wait until 9:00 am on Tuesday.5 Comments »
Imagine you run a restaurant. What do you do to attract patrons during the Dog Days of Summer? If you are The Capital Grille you devise a wine-food pairing that’s good dining, good fun and good information – all in one package. They call it their Master Wine Tasting Event. Basically, you choose from one to eleven wines from a specially selected list (quantity per pour is somewhat smaller if you choose a large number of the wines). The price is a flat $25! You pay à la carte prices for the food portion of your meal (food purchase required). So, essentially, you get a huge break on the wine part of the bill. Continue reading "A Capital Idea at The Capital Grille"1 Comment »
I’m not sure when they closed but the phone is disconnected and the location is gone from their website. And JP told me it was true so it has to be true.7 Comments »
Or so the initial rumor goes. Dang, I just wrote a 1,500-word review on The Dallas Chop House. I reached Fran Gallagher, DRG’s public relations person, and she is in her car. She send details when she gets to a desk. All she said was, “There is a difference in the change in the direction of the company.” Huh? Stay tuned.16 Comments »
What a long strange trip it’s been for Tre Amici. Opened in December, 2008 as a steak house with an Italian fare, the restaurant struggled through partnership changes, menu realignments, and public relations problems. Last night Tre Amici closed. Ken Branstetter, GM and partner at Tre Amici, has this to say.
It’s unfortunate, but we just never could generate enough traffic to get over the hump. I’m extremely proud of my staff, they were loyal and hard working to the end.
The building on North Dallas Parkway has already housed two other steak joints, Rick Stein’s and Flemings, and the space is flanked (sorry) by Raffrain, a Brazilian steakhouse that seems to be doing well. I’ve never fallen in love with the all-you-can-eat churrascaria concept, but I seem to be in the minority. What gives?2 Comments »
Restaurateur Alberto Lombardi is lacing up his armor jumping into the battle of the Dallas steakhouses. Criminy, he’s picking up where Matthew Antonovich left off–he’s opening La Fiorentina, a Tuscan-style steakhouse in the former Chip’s Burgers location on Cole Avenue. The rest of the biz is below. Go. Continue reading "Alberto Lombardi to Open La Fiorentina in Dallas"3 Comments »
Yesterday, I posted a reader review of Al’s Steakhouse and Salad Bar. Basically the woman complained about the service and food at the restaurant, but at the end of her rant I “wondered” if the fact that she had two small kids with her was part of the problem.
Full disclosure: I am one of those frequent travelers who breaks into a sweat when I spot a frazzled single mother with two young kids making her journey down the aisle on an crowded airplane. However, I am a great believer of taking small kids to fine dining restaurants.
Over the years, I’ve used my young nieces to test fine dining servers many times. At the same time, I’ve used the upscale restaurants and servers to teach my young nieces how to behave in an upscale restaurant. I feel it’s important for them to learn about sitting still and talking instead of coloring on the tablecloth. Their lives are so busy and most of the time they eat on the run. Rarely do they spend time around a table sharing a meal that requires manners.
I remember dining at The Mercury several years ago. It was a busy Saturday night and the table next to me was having a multi-generational dinner. The two youngest kids (maybe 3 and 5) were wired to portable DVD players while their parents and grandparents were wired on high-priced wine. One of the people at my table remarked that it was a brilliant idea—the DVD was a great way for the kids to be with the family, etc. I disagreed. I say, take the headphones off and engage them in the ritual of dining. If they misbehave, take them outside.
If you are a parent and have a magic formula, I’d love to hear it. Meanwhile, I’m taking two 11-year old girls to The French Room. Whoops, that’s a dead giveaway. Shirley Temples anyone?38 Comments »
Just off the phone with the ever-exuberant Dee Lincoln. After 25 years with Del Frisco’s she’s calling it quits. “It’s been an incredible run,” she says. “There is no greater feeling than getting out on top.”
Lincoln and her brother have immediate plans to open a casual spot called The Dinghy at Pier 121 on Lake Lewisville. After that, she plans to cull her list of “great opportunities.”
“I’m really, really, really excited about the wine bar [Dee Lincoln’s Tasting Room & Bubble Bar at Cowboys Stadium],” she says. “I want to focus on doing wine bars in some other stadiums and resorts. I’m looking at some opportunities in downtown Fort Worth and Uptown [in Dallas].
She leaves Del Frisco’s in “great shape” and plans to spend more time with her 9-year old daughter. “I don’t want to lose the balance in my life,” she says. “With all the steak places coming in to Dallas, I’ll be happy to sell wine, cheese, and tapas.”
The Dinghy opens on Memorial Day weekend.
A press release announces:
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House Co-Founder Dee Lincoln will issue a major announcement today at 4 p.m. at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, 5251 Spring Valley Road.Dee Lincoln, nationally known as the “Queen of Steaks” for her role as one of the leading female businesswomen in the steakhouse industry, has been affiliated with the Del Frisco’s brand for over two decades. The Spring Valley location in Dallas is the flagship location of the Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House brand which has expanded from Dallas across the nation. The New York City Del Frisco’s is the highest grossing restaurant in the United States.
Could “has been” be a clue? Murmur.
UPDATE: Dee Lincoln has resigned. More in a moment.4 Comments »