When diners visit new restaurant RM 12:20 Bistro in Lake Highlands, executive chef and owner Erin Willis hopes customers "walk in and think they're somewhere other than Dallas." They'll be at the corner of Walnut Hill Lane and Audelia Road, to be exact, next to a Circle K gas station. But forget all that; this is France.
Willis has lived in Lake Highlands for 20 years and says her new place will bring fine dining flair to a neighborhood that lacks it.
In fact, she'll go so far as to call it an adults-only establishment.
"This is definitely the only restaurant in Lake Highlands that does not cater to kids," she says. "Every single one of those restaurants, there are kids running amok. I want this place to be a Lake Highlands destination for date night."
Can kids come? It depends. "If your kids can behave, by all means, have them come in and have dinner," Willis says.
The restaurant opened quietly in late December and is celebrating its grand opening on New Year's Eve.
The theme is "French farmhouse," she says, and some of the menu items include moules marinières (mussels with shallots, butter and white wine); bouillabaisse (fish soup); sweet potato gnocchi with sage butter; and a daily pot de crème. Willis' love for cooking is inspired in part by her grandmother Hannah Sandler, who is pictured in an oil painting inside the restaurant. Sandler owned a grocery store in Fort Worth, and her specialties, fried chicken and bagels, are commemorated on Willis' brunch menu as fried chicken and croissants.
Willis has worked at restaurants around Dallas for several decades, including at Cafe Pacific, at a museum at Southern Methodist University and at a resort called High Hill Farm near Tyler. She likes French food because she says "there is a sexiness to it" — hence the idea for RM 12:20 to be a date-night spot. She hopes the gutted and redone restaurant feels like a "fun little bistro in France," where diners can have "a very simple yet elegant meal."
And the restaurant is tiny, at just over 1,500 square feet, including the kitchen.
Alex Fletcher and Michaela Camm (of Henry's Majestic and Harlowe MXM) consulted on the cocktail and wine menus.
The restaurant name, RM 12:20, is meant to be pronounced "R-M-twelve-twenty." It's a reference to a Bible verse from the book of Romans: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."
Willis says this Bible verse is the one that led her to Christianity.
"We all have enemies: those that piss us off or have done us harm. This verse just reminds us how we are to treat one another," Willis says. "Kindness is the best weapon."
RM 12:20 is located at 9850 Walnut Hill Lane, Dallas. Find menus at rm1220bistro.com.