Commissary in downtown Dallas is worth a stop for coffee or lunch, even if you never see what's in the basement

Walk inside stylish shop Commissary on Main Street in downtown Dallas and you'll feel like you're in a snack bar with good coffee. You are. But in the bowels of that blue-tiled building, a fleet of butchers slice charcuterie and dry-age meats for eight well-known Dallas restaurants, too. A bakery tucked behind the main shop turns out 200 loaves from a single oven.

What might feel like a cute, new shop for lunch is in fact the culinary hub for Headington Cos., a major player in downtown Dallas real estate and a restaurant operator in more than three of Dallas' trendiest neighborhoods.

Justin Fields, vice president of hospitality for Headington Cos., stands in front of the check-out area at Commissary, a new coffee, lunch and dinner spot in downtown Dallas.

"Necessity is the mother of invention," vice president of hospitality Justin Fields explains as he traced the origins of Commissary back two years. At Headington restaurants such as CBD Provisions in downtown Dallas and Victor Tangos on Henderson Avenue, chefs once baked their own bread and cured their own meat in each kitchen. Instead of having more than a half-dozen pastry chefs doing the same task at more than a half-dozen restaurants, why don't they do it all in one mega kitchen?

And so a commissary, little c, was developed at 1217 Main St. It was intended to be a food "factory," Fields says. Then, perhaps, they were seduced by the smell of freshly baked bread, and they realized passersby might want to come in and have a slice. Maybe somebody out there wants an espresso from the La Marzocco machine. Or a glass of wine and lunch.

And so, Commissary, big C, rose from those bread ovens. It opens Monday, Nov. 6.

Commissary has corners that feel like Eatzi's, but smaller; and a menu that might be like Boulangerie by Village Baking Co., if it were bigger. Staffers used the word "bodega" to describe it, as if downtown Dallas is sprouting New York City flair.

Commissary is not a replacement for a grocery store, Fields was quick to explain. While shoppers can buy a bottle of wine, a wedge of cheese and a box of crackers for, say, a dinner party, selection is limited. The brands on display are basically staff favorites, arranged stylishly as if they were curating a party for you. That sounds great if you like their recommendations; not great if you're jonesing for a box of Franzia, a canister of Cheez Whiz and a sleeve of Ritz Crackers. (Hey, no judgment.)

The key lime chocolate tart at Commissary is one of many pastries for sale. This one is topped artfully with pink prickly pear foam, Valrhona pears and edible flowers.

In addition to grab 'n go items and Counter Culture Coffee, Commissary will sell breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the pastry case, you might find your favorite restaurant's star dessert. They are, after all, made by the same team of pastry chefs. Ditto the gelato.

The part customers will never see is that butcher shop downstairs, where meats like prosciutto are tended to for at least a year before they're sliced and served at Headington restaurants. You read that right: one year — at least. Next time you order a charcuterie board, you might pause to reflect how long it took those thin, pink slices of meat to land on your table. And you might muse about that basement butcher shop you never would have known was there.

Commissary opens Nov. 6. (Note that the first floor of the shop is open to the public; the butcher downstairs is not.) Commissary bakes bread and cures meat for these Dallas restaurants: Mirador, Americano, CBD Provisions, Wheelhouse, Sassetta, Front Room Tavern, Victor Tangos and the Porch, in addition coffee shops and bars in the Headington group.

Open seven days a week starting Nov. 6.

Patience, please: Prosciutto is aging in one of the Commissary's refrigerators. It takes 12 to 18 months.

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