Restaurateur Sam Fox is responsible for a fleet of successful restaurants — chains, essentially. It's a naughty word.
But, look: After Fox's company created healthful restaurant True Food Kitchen, it spun off on its own and now counts Oprah Winfrey as one of its investors. Two more Fox restaurants, North Italia and Flower Child, are being bought out by Cheesecake Factory.
Fox is CEO and founder of Fox Restaurant Concepts, which CNBC called a "$260 million restaurant empire" in 2016. One of its boutique restaurants, The Henry, has made its Dallas debut.
The Henry doesn't feel like a small chain restaurant, but what does that mean, anyway?
"They weren't always intended to be scalable," says Kelly Corson, regional manager of restaurant operations for The Henry. Maybe that's it: This place, with its "Ralph Lauren meets post modern feel," as Fox explained it in a Dallas Morning News interview in 2018, was originally supposed to be a one-and-done restaurant. The first Henry is located near the Fox Restaurant Concepts headquarters in Phoenix.
There, the company plastered the tagline, "the greatest neighborhood restaurant," outside The Henry — "before we even opened the doors," Corson remembers. She was the restaurant's general manager at the time.
The restaurant grew to a second location, in West Hollywood in 2018, when the company agreed to make over a beloved cafe. Dallas makes three, with a fourth expected to open in San Diego this year. In Dallas, block lettering outside the restaurant calls it "Dallas' newest neighborhood restaurant," noteworthy in part because 2019 is shaping up to be the Year of the Neighborhood Restaurant.
The Henry in Dallas is the biggest one so far. It's located in the bottom of a $300 million high-rise called The Union, just north of American Airlines Center and down the street from the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. Fox says that in 2018 the location "was something we couldn't pass on," and notes that he is friends with the developer. Fox's team will open a second restaurant, North Italia, in the same Dallas development. (D-FW's first North Italia is located in Plano, at Legacy West.)
The restaurant is an all-day place, with a coffee shop in one corner catering to businesspeople in The Union and to residents living or working near the Harwood District, Victory Park, Uptown and downtown. The restaurant will sell breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner. The Henry seems to know its restaurant-loving audience: A bloody Mary cart can roll right up to a table for Saturday and Sunday brunch; we've always been suckers for a little bit of theater. There's smashed avocado toast, because millennials. And it has three patios, one looking at the bustle on Akard Street, one looking over a quieter green courtyard, and a third on the second floor, where happy hour happens.
Customers can spend as little as $6 on an appetizer during weekday happy hour or as much as $32 on the Korean prime skirt steak at dinnertime. Some members of the Arizona- and California-based staff have let a little Lone Star in, with lassos and a really, really big Texas flag hanging on the walls.
"We kind of joke about its size," Corson says.
While The Henry has a similar look in each city, its staff says this small chain does change depending on location. Texas-specific menu items include the green chile chicken enchiladas and a spicy shrimp boil. Corson describes the menu as "eclectic American."
Beyond the coffee shop and the restaurant, the second floor has a private dining room as well as a big bar that's open in the afternoons and evenings for cocktails. The $13 Drunken Panda is made with cucumber sake, dragonfruit tea, calamansi and lager. And, bonus: A beer comes on the side. The Almost Naked Margarita, $14, is a play on a skinny marg.
The Henry isn't a person, it's the name of a sink fixture that Fox liked while he was remodeling his home. Now you know.
The Henry officially opens Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, at 2301 Akard St., Dallas. The coffee shop is open at 7 a.m. daily; the late-night menu ends at midnight Sunday through Thursday and at 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. thehenryrestaurant.com.