A 1961 MG is an unexpected dinner guest at Town Hearth, chef Nick Badovinus' new restaurant in the Dallas Design District.  Sixty-four crystal chandeliers illuminate the dining room, which also features an aquarium holding a World War II era minesweeper.

A 1961 MG is an unexpected dinner guest at Town Hearth, chef Nick Badovinus' new restaurant in the Dallas Design District.  Sixty-four crystal chandeliers illuminate the dining room, which also features an aquarium holding a World War II era minesweeper.

Tom Fox/Staff Photographer

Town Hearth: It sounds like a quaint,  earnest spot – some kind of hygge haven featuring rustic woods and a flickering fireplace, a laid-back place for lingering over a quiet dinner. Right?  

Well, Nick Badovinus' long-awaited Design District place is anything but. It's big! It's exuberant! It's over-the-top glammy! There are 64 crystal chandeliers, a silver 1961 MG parked in front of the open kitchen, and cocktails named for rock songs. Tropical fish swim laps around a canary-yellow World War II minesweeper enshrined in an aquarium.  

On Tuesday night, just a week after its debut, the 6,000-square-foot place was packed. Diners got their parties started with apps like plump seared scallops set on thick slabs of bacon, bathed in hollandaise and accessorized with trout roe. Or humongous shrimp that lolled about fra diavolo-style on garlic bread yachts.  

A 32-ounce, 90-day dry-aged long-bone ribeye called the 'Battle Axe' at Town Hearth goes for $125.

A 32-ounce, 90-day dry-aged long-bone ribeye called the 'Battle Axe' at Town Hearth goes for $125.

(Tom Fox/Staff Photographer)

Come main course time, it's the meat that has everyone excited. My friends and I splurged on a 24-ounce côte de boeuf, otherwise known as a bone-in ribeye, that Badovinus sources from a farm in Florence, Ala. Seared on the grill in the blazing wood-fired hearth that gives the restaurant its name, then sliced off the bone, the magnificent cut came to the table gorgeously medium-rare. Rich and flavorful after 21 days of dry aging and 5 weeks wet-aging, it generously served the three of us. 

Years in the making, chef Nick Badovinus' Town Hearth debuts in Design District

With sides, of course, like garlicky sautéed spinach. And a  2 1/2 pound Maine lobster, pulled from its shell and roasted in butter. 

You read that right: That monster lobster is listed as a "primo side." So are house-made spaghetti cacio e pepe and a 1974 Ducati Sport motorcycle, "faithfully restored by AMS Ducati." 

None of this comes cheap: The lobster goes for $69; the côte de boeuf $79, the Ducati $75,000 ("mint/clean title in hand/firm").

Those price tags didn't stop the crowd from partying like it was 1999. Dance music blared. Wine flowed prodigiously. If you didn't know better, you'd think the hot spot had been going strong for months. 

Maybe it's not so surprising: The dining scene's doldrums have lately felt epic. Could be it's just the moment for a splashy escape. 

Town Hearth, 1617 Market Center Blvd., Dallas. 214-761-1617. Open Monday-Thursday 5 to 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5 to 11 p.m.

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