You might've never noticed it: Next door to the Grapevine Bar on Maple Avenue in Dallas sits a little blue-green cottage, currently vacant. "Shack" might be a better word. Its front window opens to the busy street; its back opens onto to the basketball court inside the Grapevine Bar's patio.
There's a commercial kitchen inside the shack, and two Dallasites plan to sell cheesecakes out of it in the afternoons and evenings beginning June 30.
"Austin has these nice little shacks that are restaurants," says Valery Jean-Bart, who grew up in Haiti and is now co-owner of Val's Cheesecakes with Christopher Reece. He drove past the shack nearly every day for years before inquiring about it.
"I can do this here; I know I can make it work," he says.
His company, Val's Cheesecakes, already sells desserts to a handful of coffee shops and restaurants around Dallas. After baking inside St. Paul United Methodist Church for his first two years, he decided to open up his own retail shop.
On the menu: cheesecake ice cream, oatmeal-bacon-cranberry cookies, chipotle brownies and 12 varieties of cheesecake.
By day, Jean-Bart is an engineer for the Trinity River Authority. He'll keep his full-time job and open Val's Cheesecakes in the evenings, 4 to 10 p.m., every day except Monday.
Jean-Bart started the business in honor of his mom. He baked a cheesecake every Sunday with her while she battled cancer for five years. "We bonded over cheesecake," Jean-Bart says.
After they mastered traditional cheesecakes, they created recipes for more eccentric dishes such as mango-chipotle cheesecake. The two created about 270 cheesecake recipes -- far too many to make the final menu at the shop.
"I realized I can't sell everything my mom and I came up with," Jean-Bart says. So he's sticking with his 12 most popular flavors, most named after streets in Dallas. The Lovers Lane cheesecake is the red velvet recipe. The Northwest Highway cheesecake is cookies and cream, because "everybody gravitates to Northwest Highway at some point in the week, and everybody likes cookies and cream," he says. Other varieties include lemon, blueberry, coffee with sea salt, and strawberry.
Also regularly available: the now-famous brisket cheesecake.
The shop will "be a little bit funky -- a little different," he says.
The grand opening party is 6-9 p.m. June 30. Hours will be 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.