A few times a year, I make a list. I check it twice, sure. That list details notable restaurants that are expected to open in the next few months in Dallas -- eateries from top chefs, in interesting neighborhoods, with wide appeal for hungry folks like you.
Filament, a Deep Ellum restaurant, has been on that list for more than a year. And finally: It's ready to open.
Filament debuts Monday, Dec. 7 in Dallas. Here's what you need to know.
1. The restaurant comes from the chef-owner of FT33, one of Dallas' best. But Filament is more casual.
Unlike its very busy five-star sibling restaurant FT33, most people won't need reservations at Filament. They are recommended. But Filament's staff plans to reserve nearly half the restaurant for walk-ins so they can create a more casual environment in Deep Ellum.
"We want people to be able to pop in before a show," says executive chef Cody Sharp.
And whereas McCallister's FT33 is fairly formal, Filament isn't. There are no tweezers used to plate dishes, says chef-owner Matt McCallister.
2. The food? Regionally-inspired Southern cuisine.
"Southern" could mean a lot of things. That's why Sharp, McCallister and a team of Filament chefs traveled all over the South, getting ideas from favorite dishes in cities such as New Orleans, Charleston and Miami, and then giving them their own Dallas spin.
McCallister is especially excited about the meat pies, to be made with brisket and pork. "You don't find meat pies in Dallas," he says.
Sharp is working on country ham and city ham, both part of a charcuterie program that he says is "pretty crazy." (Read: They're geeky about food. In a good way.) Sharp and McCallister have already spent months canning vegetables. Diners at the bar can look up and see mason jars full of chow chow (a green tomato-cabbage relish) and hot sauce.
The menu is designed to be shareable. A table of two, for instance, might order three small plates to start, then split an entree and sides and share dessert. The target price is $40 to $50 per person. See the menu below.
3. The star in the kitchen, besides the chefs, is a grill.
The grill comes from J&R Manufacturing, the Mesquite company that's made grills for many of the top chefs in Dallas, as well as for the Mondavi wine family and the Saudi royal family. The chefs will grill meat on it, sure, but it's more than that: Sharp plans to bury onions in the coals to make his onion dip served with potato chips. He'll also roast carrots, winter squash and more.
Sharp calls the grill "a prep tool." It and other kitchen equipment help Filament's chefs make their own spices. Sharp's pickled plum powder -- which he describes as giving a "fruit umami" taste to dishes -- is an especially interesting in-house spice.
4. Ask your server about off-the-menu items.
On certain days and at certain times, the chefs plan to offer secret specials, or dishes available in seriously limited quantities only available to people who know to ask. Sharp wouldn't say exactly what those items will be yet, so best bet is to ask your server when you arrive.
Chefs will also make daily specials, the kind you're more familiar with: Rotating favorites that aren't a secret. Octopus might be a special, for instance, Sharp says. Expect daily specials to be "cheffier" than the regular menu, Sharp says, but still approachable.
5. There's a lot of fun on the cocktail menu.
One of the inventive cocktails at Filament is a shared sazerac: a 12-ounce drink bottled in advance and served tableside to two to three people.
Their play on a boilermaker -- traditionally, a beer and a shot of whiskey -- is a Lone Star and a shot of Mellow Corn whiskey. Trend setters, take note: The inexpensive but easy-drinking Mellow Corn whiskey could become a new underground favorite.
The bar is mostly focused on American whiskeys, but non-whiskey drinkers will find something to enjoy, too.
Many of the cocktails take a Southern bent, such as the Old Fashioned that comes with a sorghum-chicory syrup in place of the traditional orange twist.
It should come as no surprise that the chefs -- the same guys who grind house-made red pepper flakes and obsess over house-made vinegars -- will prepare preserves and syrups in the kitchen that will land in cocktails.
Opening Dec. 7. Open seven days a week; kitchen stays open late, until midnight, on Fridays and Saturdays. Dinner only for now; lunch and Sunday brunch coming in 2016. 2626 Main St., Dallas. filamentdallas.com. Call 214.760.1080 to make reservations.
Here's your first look inside:
Follow Sarah Blaskovich on Twitter at @sblaskovich for more food news.