Dallas chef Stephan Pyles admits he "misjudged" the Dallas dining scene when he opened Stephan Pyles Flora Street Cafe in the Dallas Arts District. The restaurant is one of the city's fanciest — and it has become a place that Dallas diners seemed to save for birthdays and anniversaries, the chef says.
To pump up diners' interest in visiting more frequently, Pyles plans to lower the prices and possibly even remove the white tablecloths. To join him in that effort, he's teaming up with Dallas chef Tim Byres, of Smoke.
A partnership between Pyles and Byres means the two remarkable Dallas chefs will again join forces to make Modern Texas cuisine in North Texas. Byres worked as the executive chef at Stephan Pyles in 2008 and 2009. Pyles closed that restaurant in 2016 to launch Flora Street Cafe. And Byres left in 2009 to open Smoke in West Dallas.
But this week, Smoke announced it was being bought by the Belmont Hotel.
Which means: Byres was available for a new job, and his mentor Pyles scooped him up.
"I'm really, really excited to be in a room like this," Byres says of joining the Flora Street team.
Flora Street's co-chefs Cody Sharp and Evan Pemberton will remain in their current duties. Byres will be Pyles' managing director, which means he will oversee the general manager and all the chefs at Flora Street; expand Stephan Pyles Concepts' catering business; and assist on various projects like Pyles' relationship with Benchmark Global Hospitality, the group that's launching a new Stampede 66 inside a hotel in Allen.
Byres will replace George Majdalani, a familiar face inside Flora Street Cafe and Pyles' longtime business partner. Majdalani has left the company to spend more time with his family.
For years, Pyles and Byres have endured a changing Dallas dining scene, where upscale dining may not be as revered as it used to be. The two commiserated on closing restaurants — Pyles' Stampede 66 closed near downtown Dallas earlier this year, too.
"Between Stampede closing and Smoke closing, we really kind of had a meeting of the minds," Pyles says. "It just sort of dawned on us ... Why don't we start here, with Flora?"
In 2017, Flora Street Cafe earned a rare 5 stars in The Dallas Morning News. (Today, that number is impossible to earn; we've changed to a 4-star system.) Last year, our critic at the time called it "one of the most impressive new restaurants in the country."
While Pyles says Flora Street "continues to get great reviews; people love it," it has too often become a special occasion restaurant, he says. He hopes hiring Byres will afford their team the clarity to "take all the intimidation factors away," Pyles explains.
In a sense, they will "casualize" the restaurant, he explains.
One of Byres' talents is that his restaurants tended to create a sense of community in their neighborhoods. He remarked that a diner cried inside his restaurant this week after hearing the news that Smoke will be sold to a new owner. It was beloved, especially in the Oak Cliff and West Dallas areas.
"Smoke came out of the ground like a weed on a sidewalk, and became a tree," Byres says. "And then everybody got under it."
Byres' new role at Stephan Pyles Concepts begins next week. His wife, Mo Byres (they met while working at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek together some years ago), will also join Stephan Pyles Concepts.
The revamped Flora Street will not appear until next year, but Pyles did drop one more hint: brunch.
"We've never been open at brunch here," Pyles mused. Lucky timing: His new hire, Byres, served a very popular brunch at Smoke.