There's a fine line between ambitious and crazy. Tim Timbs and Tom Janik know it well. For more than a year, the two have been working to open a brewery three stories in the air, on the top floor of Plano's new European-style food hall, Legacy Hall.
It's an unconventional approach to say the least — most breweries are built on the ground level to support the enormous weight of equipment and to have ease of access to a loading dock. Then again, few things about Legacy Hall, which opens on Dec. 6, are conventional.
Conceived by Randy DeWitt, CEO, and Jack Gibbons, president and COO, of Front Burner Restaurants, the 55,000-square-foot food hall brings more than 20 restaurants under one roof, much like a mall food court. The restaurants are miniature versions of already existing local brands or new ideas from well-known chefs in the area; for example, Top Chef contestant Tiffany Derry is opening a fried chicken wings joint called Roots Chicken Shak.
"You could come back 20 times and have 20 different meals," Gibbons says. "It's just a unique experience, which is really what we're aiming to be."
Legacy Hall is part of the shiny new Legacy West development in Plano, and it's far and away the biggest restaurant concept in Front Burner's network, since it can hold nearly 2,500 patrons, according to architectural documents filed with the City of Plano.
The food hall been likened to experiencing "the United Nations on a plate," offering cuisine from Italy, India, Japan, Mexico and beyond. But with eight bars, an in-house brewery and a forthcoming outdoor music venue, it could be also considered a dining and drinking playground for adults in North Texas.
A brewery wasn't part of the original Legacy Hall plan, but it was an enticing prospect.
"What differentiates this food hall from any food hall in the world is the brewery and the live music," Gibbons says. "It makes it not just the place to get food, it's a place to spend time with your family, your friends and businesspeople."
Timbs, senior vice president of the restaurant group, thought about partnering with an established brand to open a satellite brewery and taproom, but decided on a proprietary company with a craft focus. He called it Unlawful Assembly Brewing Co. and hired head brewer Janik from Twin Peaks Brewing Co. (which is also owned by Front Burner) to lead operations.
How did the brewery end up on the top floor of the food hall? That space was originally supposed to be a restaurant, then offices, but neither panned out.
"This is expensive real estate, why not do a brewery?" Timbs says. He admits, it wasn't unusual for construction team members to look at him apprehensively. "When we first started, they're going, 'I don't know how you're going to do that.'"
The answer: very carefully. Timbs worked with structural designers and engineers to identify exactly where the brewery equipment would go, down to a designated spot on the concrete floor for each leg of the stainless steel equipment.
"Construction engineers had to layer in, 'OK how many additional metals? How much thicker concrete? How are we going to support the weight?'" Timbs says.
Then crews lowered the brewing system, each of the 16 fermentation tanks, and the grain silo through the top of the building by crane before closing up the roof. Timbs remembers seeing the tanks dozens of feet above ground, shifting in the wind. For a moment, he questioned the viability of his plan. Once the equipment was in position, he breathed a sigh of relief, but there was still work to do.
Because Unlawful Assembly Brewing Co. is a working brewery, the logistics are understandably complicated. For instance, spent grain is sent through a 340-foot pipe, which is then discarded into a silo on the opposite end of the building.
That's a lot of extra work. Janik says the brewery is testing creative recipes, an approach that has served him well in the past. In 2015, Twin Peaks won a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival for a barrel-aged brown ale Janik made.
The brewery's starting lineup of brews includes Rebel Faction saison, Public Dissent pale ale, and Idol Time passion fruit and pineapple wheat, among others. Unlike Twin Peaks' beers, which are famously served at 29 degrees, these brews aren't required to be poured at any specific temperature, Janik says.
Drinkers can try Unlawful Assembly beers in the taproom or at one of Front Burner's other restaurants throughout Dallas-Fort Worth.
What else is there to drink at Legacy Hall?
Unlawful Assembly Brewing Co. has a taproom on the third floor of Legacy Hall, but there's plenty else to drink onsite. And because the food hall operates under one liquor license, patrons can grab a glass at one of its many bars and meander throughout the rest of the property with it in hand.
Pick your poison:
- Detour is a natural wine and charcuterie bar that showcases European varietals, meats and cheeses.
- Bar Main is the largest bar at Legacy Hall, specializing in craft cocktails. It also serves wine and beer on tap.
- Good View, located on the second floor of the food hall, overlooks the outdoor space where bands will play once the music venue is rocking.
- Haywire is a three-story restaurant connected to Legacy Hall. Stop by the whiskey bar on the first floor to wet your whistle.
Once the outdoor live music venue and "box garden" are completed, likely in spring 2018, several more bar concepts in shipping containers, will open:
- Lime and Lager, a Mexican beer and margarita joint
- Idol Time Tiki Bar, featuring rum drinks and classic tiki cocktails
- Stillhouse Bar, which is sponsored by Tito's Vodka and will have cocktails and beer on tap
5 food stalls not to miss
Local chefs and restaurateurs who specialize in varying types of cuisine have signed on at Legacy Hall, so every day is like a food festival there. The lineup of chefs has changed since the project's inception -- FT33 chef Matt McCallister, for example, was originally expected to open a stall, but is no longer on the lineup -- but foodies are still likely to recognize some of the bigger names: chefs John Tesar (Knife), Uno Immanivong (Chino Chinatown), and former Top Chef contestant Tiffany Derry. There is also one "rotator stall," as Gibbons calls it, which will house a different restaurant every six months. The first tenant will be Dallas-based Monkey King Noodle Co.
It's worth noting that restaurant stalls do not accept cash, though they do accept debit and credit cards. Or, load money onto a "hall pass" that acts as a gift card and can be redeemed at any stall or bar at Legacy Hall.
Not sure what to eat? Start with these five options:
- Blist'r Naan Wraps, featuring Indian cuisine
- Press Waffle Co., which specializes in sweet and savory Belgian liege waffles
- Red Stix, which serves Asian street food
- Whisk and Eggs, a French crepe stall that offers sweet and savory options
- Tacos Patron, featuring tortilla-wrapped goodies