Let's call 2019 the year of the neighborhood restaurant.
If that sounds simple, it is. Some of North Texas' most talented chefs and operators are stepping away from glammy decor in favor of restaurants that are continually described with the same magic word: approachable.
"I want to open an awesome spot with great food and great drinks," says Nilton "Junior" Borges, a pedigreed chef who is — surprise! — opening a restaurant in 2019. "I want this to feel like an awesome lobby bar," says Greg Katz, whose bar and restaurant Beverley's is coming soon on Fitzhugh Avenue in Dallas. "I just want to be a good neighborhood restaurant," says chef Matt McCallister of Homewood, his new project in Highland Park.
Dude, when did Dallas get so ... chill? Many of the chefs and restaurateurs opening restaurants in 2019 have already opened an over-the-top spot. Take Nick Badovinus, for instance: His excessively cool restaurant Town Hearth opened in 2017, to much fanfare. But in 2019, his new restaurant is going to be comfy, fun and much more dressed down.
There's still a place for see-and-be-seen restaurants in Dallas. But glitz isn't a theme moving into 2019 in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Maggie Huff, the pastry chef at coming-soon Homewood, gets it: "The idea that you have to wear a coat and tie to dinner — when you didn't wear a coat and tie to work — is hard. We need to rethink that."
Here's a look at Dallas-Fort Worth's most exciting restaurants opening in 2019, presented in alphabetical order.
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The only no-name restaurant allowed on this list is deserved: Chef Nilton "Junior" Borges, who opened Uchi and Mirador in Dallas, is cooking up a new restaurant in Uptown since he parted ways with Stephan Courseau, who operates Up on Knox and Le Bilboquet. Borges' new restaurant so far doesn't have a name, but he explains that it's going to be American food with "fun snacks" in a restaurant that seats about 100 people. "This is something I believe Dallas lacks and wants," he says, without offering much more. Borges is one of Dallas' top toques — and a shining example of a chef who thinks a casual, neighborhood restaurant is the answer in 2019.
- Expected opening date: Late spring/early summer 2019
- Cuisine: American
- Address: at the McKinney and Olive building in Uptown, at 2021 McKinney Ave., Dallas
Restaurateur Greg Katz worked in other people's kitchens for two decades before he got the chance to open his own. He credits Dean Fearing, Nick Badovinus, Tristan Simon and other heavy-hitters in Dallas dining as part of the inspiration for his first restaurant, Beverley's, an American bistro. Katz hopes Beverley's — which is named after his mom — feels "timeless and classic, but also modern," with its hues of green and white, and pops of orange throughout. Diners can expect classic cocktails, steak and fish, served in what Katz describes as a "big-city restaurant in a charming corner." It will have a dining room for about 110 people, plus a bar, a patio out front, a courtyard on the side and a private dining room in the back that feels hidden from the world. "I designed it as, Where do I want to hang out for the next 20 years?" he says.
- Estimated opening date: March 2019
- Cuisine: modern American
- Address: 3215 N. Fitzhugh Ave., Dallas
Bubba's Cooks Country
The family behind Babe's Chicken Dinner House is finally expanding another one of its fried-chicken joints, Bubba's Cooks Country, after more than 30 years of operating a single location in University Park. Longtime Dallasites will know the original Bubba's near Southern Methodist University, famous for its mashed potatoes, gravy and rolls. The second Bubba's will be in Frisco, which company president Joel Vinyard likes for two reasons: One, It's home to one of the most successful Babe's restaurants. And two, it's literally home for much of the Vinyard family. If you've ever said a prayer that Bubba's would expand, it seems the Vinyards might have heard you. "We could have gone out at any time and found a location," Vinyard says, "but we truthfully lean on God a lot to guide us."
- Expected opening: January 2019
- Cuisine: fried chicken
- Address: 4585 Preston Road, Frisco
By the Horns Brewing
Few things go together as well as beer and tacos. When By the Horns Brewing opens in downtown Mansfield, diners will be able to find both in one place. Founder Jason Boso, who owns and operates Twisted Root Burger Co. and Truck Yard, envisions the brewery as a congregating space for the community, "where families can bring their kids and their dogs," he told GuideLive in December. By the Horns Brewing will specialize in German-style beers, and a restaurant inside the brewpub called Tacos and Avocados will serve food. In addition to Tex-Mex staples like brisket, chicken and pork tacos, the kitchen will also serve a Oaxacan cricket tostada, "just for fun," he says. He also plans to make tortillas from the brewery's spent grain — offering some interesting synergy.
- Expected opening date: January 2019
- Cuisine: tacos
- Address: 109 S. Main St., Suite 200, Mansfield
Deep Ellum Brewing's Funkytown Fermatorium
Local hopheads know and love Deep Ellum Brewing Co. for its signature beers, including the Dallas Blonde ale and the Deep Ellum IPA. But the brewery that proudly reps Big D is heading to Fort Worth in 2019 with the opening of a second location, this one called the Funkytown Fermatorium. The Fort Worth outpost will be decidedly different than the original brewery, says Ethan Minshew, director of taproom operations. The focus here is food. The 221-seat brewery and restaurant has a wood-fire oven and grill that are expected to churn out pizzas and shareable plates such as brisket mac-and-cheese and fried goat cheese with marinara. Beer dinners and special pairings will also be common — a great feature, considering half the taps will be devoted to beers made only in Fort Worth.
- Expected open date: January or February 2019
- Cuisine: Pizzas and other stuff
- Address: 611 University Drive, Fort Worth
Nick Badovinus says he's been mulling the idea for new restaurant Desert Racer since precisely April 11, 1996. He was driving across New Mexico and landed in Dallas that day, to go to work for Dean Fearing at the Mansion on Turtle Creek. That feeling of excitement, ambition and wide-open spaces will be found in Desert Racer, on Lowest Greenville in Dallas. "It's a highly personal project," Badovinus says. "It's reflective of a spirit, and it's about a journey." Desert Racer is a giant place — 8,000 square feet inside, 8,000 square feet outside — with the potential for games on the patio and room for large groups inside and out. He wouldn't say much about the menu, but it's expected to have Southwestern flair.
- Expected open date: April 11, 2019
- Cuisine: Southwestern
- Address: 1520 Greenville Ave., Dallas
Dibs on Victory
Dibs on Victory's food can be explained through its chicken wings: They come served dipped in Buffalo sauce, mopped in barbecue sauce, rubbed with Doritos Cool Ranch, or flavored with edible 24-karat gold. You've got traditional, Texified, wacky and sophisticated. That might describe the clientele at Dibs on Victory, too. This big, two-story bar comes from Brandon Hays and Phil Schanbaum, who have operated Dallas haunts like High Fives, Ferris Wheelers, Wayward Sons and So & So's. Dibs is a quick walk from the American Airlines Center, home to the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars, and Hays and Schanbaum hope to create "a culture around the game."
- Expected open date: January 2019
- Cuisine: American
- Address: 2401 Victory Lane, Dallas
"It's almost on a weekly basis that we have a developer who wants us to open in Dallas. Or Houston. Or Austin," says Travis Heim of Heim BBQ. But for the company's second restaurant, they're sticking close to home by opening another location in Fort Worth. Heim is hopeful that they won't run out of seats at this new restaurant, which is a 7,500 square-foot restaurant located in an old VFW hall, but he can't be sure they won't run out of food before dinnertime. They're sure going to try, though: The kitchen is expected to have eight smokers out back, which is five more than they have at the original Heim. In addition to the company's popular brisket and bacon burnt ends, Heim will sell burgers, chicken wings and salads. "We really wanted to create a one-of-a-kind place in Fort Worth that I think doesn't really exist right now," Heim says, speaking of the restaurant's River District address. "It's exciting. We can't wait to get the doors open."
- Expected open date: Early 2019
- Cuisine: barbecue
- Address: 5333 White Settlement Road, Fort Worth
Chef Matt McCallister insists, "if you look at some of the stuff we're doing, it's all very simple." He's dressing a plate of raw scallops with sumac vinaigrette, explaining that he foraged for the sumac last summer, then made it into vinegar. The scallops are dotted with ham aioli and celery leaves. By the time he's done, the colorless raw scallops have become a work of colorful art. "I still think people eat with their eyes first," the chef says, "and that's never gonna change."
McCallister's much anticipated restaurant Homewood — the most anticipated restaurant on this list — is going to serve food that's less fussy than his stunning Design District restaurant FT33, which closed last summer. "I think this touches the pulse of Dallas better," McCallister says of Homewood, which is moving into a renovated Beck's Prime burger joint in Highland Park. The restaurant is intended to be more of a simple, "honest" approach than FT33, one where "you won't need a dictionary to decipher the menu," McCallister says. Still, expect Homewood to be exceptionally curated. When diners finally get a menu in their hands, it'll have been reworked more than 40 times.
- Expected opening date: February 2019
- Cuisine: American
- Address: 4002 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas
Food was a "really big deal" for YuYee Kaiho, who grew up in Thailand. Her family "cooked for 30 or 40 people, every day," says her husband George Kaiho. She wants to bring authentic Thai recipes to Dallas with the help of her husband George and cousin Paul Sakpanichkul. "Our concept is a quick trip to Thailand," George says. Some of the dishes they plan to serve are tom kha gai (a coconut soup with chicken), pad Thai (a noodle dish with shrimp and tofu) and papaya salad. If the name Ka-Tip is familiar, that's because the family has been trying out recipes by serving food at the Dallas Farmers Market on the weekends since mid-2018. Their permanent restaurant will be in the Farmers Market, too, in the Harvest Lofts building.
- Estimated opening date: February or March
- Cuisine: Thai
- Address: 1011 S. Pearl Expressway, Dallas
Popular San Francisco ramen restaurant Marufuku has chosen Frisco as the location for its first franchise. In California, the ramen shop draws lines of people out the door, and its franchise partners want to see if Texans will eat it up with the same fervor. "Texas, we feel, is a very important market for us," says Carlos Herrador, executive vice president of franchise operations. Marufuku specializes in chicken paitan and Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen. Manager Phil Guo explains that making the perfect broth "takes a lot of time, a lot of love, a lot of passion," and chefs at Marufuku spend as many as 20 hours making the pork broth. Marufuku will be surrounded in Frisco by Asian-owned restaurants like 85C Bakery, 99 Ranch Market and Daiso Japan.
- Estimated opening date: February 2019
- Cuisine: Ramen
- Address: 9292 Warren Parkway, Frisco
Punch Bowl Social
Although Punch Bowl Social is a bowling alley with karaoke and arcade games, 90 percent of the business is related to food, says founder and CEO Robert Thompson. The first Punch Bowl Social opened in Denver in 2012, and this "eater-tainment" brand has grown to 17 locations across the country, each operating a scratch kitchen. The D-FW outpost is in Deep Ellum, and punk-rock music fan Thompson is excited by its history. Thompson recently hired chef Sheamus Feeley, who was executive chef and vice president at Hillstone, to put finishing touches on Punch Bowl's newest menus. Hungry patrons will find unexpected items for a bowling alley, like green chorizo tacos and a smoked trout sandwich on rye. The most popular items are chicken and waffles served with chipotle-citrus syrup and strawberries; and a cheffed-up version of a Big Mac.
- Expected open date: April 2019
- Cuisine: diner-inspired
- Address: 2600 Main St., Dallas
Headington Companies continues its takeover of downtown Dallas dining with a new restaurant called Queso Beso. It replaces a restaurant called Sol Irlandes, which is located in the middle of some of Headington's other properties: the Joule hotel; boutique Forty Five Ten; and The Eye sculpture. The company is notoriously tight-lipped, and the only thing we know about Queso Beso, for now, is that it'll serve Tex-Mex.
- Expected open date: Spring or summer 2019
- Cuisine: Tex-Mex
- Address: 1525 Main St., Dallas
Connected to Oak Cliff restaurant Macellaio will be a small izakaya from chef Justin Holt. Holt has spent at least five years working on ideas for Salaryman, and that includes hosting pop-up dinners, making the restaurant's wooden plates himself, and commissioning pottery from artists who live in the 75208 zip code. "I'm very thankful for the neighborhood," Holt says of Oak Cliff, which has shown great support for Macellaio, Lucia and many other family-owned businesses in the Bishop Arts District. Salaryman will serve ramen during lunchtime, then get "funkier" at dinner, he says. Holt expects to sell yakiniku, or grilled meat, and yakitori, or skewered chicken, among other dishes. Adventurous diners will be encouraged to sip shochu, a Japanese spirit with a nutty flavor.
- Expected open date: January or February 2019
- Cuisine: Japanese pub food
- Address: 287 N. Bishop Ave., Dallas
Stephan Pyles Flora Street Cafe
Hold up: Flora Street Cafe is already in operation. That's correct, but Stephan Pyles' ultra-fancy restaurant is getting a significant makeover in 2019 now that its founder has partnered with Tim Byres, who recently left West Dallas restaurant Smoke. Pyles and Byres plan to "casualize" the restaurant, which might mean removing the white tablecloths, lowering the prices and changing the menu. Anyone who has visited Flora Street will want to go back in 2019 to see how this gent in a tuxedo looks wearing jeans.
- Expected re-launch: early spring 2019
- Cuisine: "elevated" Texas
- Address: 2330 Flora St., Dallas
While not a full-service restaurant, The Cookery makes this list because of its novel approach to teaching North Texans about food. Owner Kelly Huddleston's shop originated in Dallas and is now growing to Fort Worth. She describes her shop as a place where "cooking class meets dinner party." During each $95 class, a group of up to 14 people will learn to cook a three-course meal, stopping between each to eat together on a large farm table. Huddleston learned to host at a young age, when her parents used to throw "exotic dinner parties." But Huddleston didn't realize she enjoyed teaching others to cook until many years later, when she was a whitewater rafting guide who made interesting meals on the side of the river for her guests. "I found my calling," she says.
- Estimated opening date: March 2019
- Cuisine: all types, taught via cooking classes
- Address: 710 S. Main St., Fort Worth
Tinie's Mexican Kitchen
Restaurateur Sarah Castillo wants to infuse some sexiness into South Main Street, a revitalized part of Fort Worth. Her Mexican restaurant Tinie's (pronounced THEE-nees) is going into a neighborhood that Castillo calls "Oak Cliffish," but in Fort Worth: "really unique and local," she says. The restaurant will serve empanadas, tamales, and family-style dishes like rotisserie chicken and carnitas served with tortillas, rice, beans, peppers and cabbage. "I think it's just so intimate — sharing food," Castillo says. Tinie's will be a dark, two-story space with a rooftop patio that offers skyline views of Fort Worth. It's a few miles from Castillo's original restaurant, Taco Heads.
- Expected opening date: spring 2019
- Cuisine: Mexican
- Address: 125 S. Main St., Fort Worth
Tiney Ricciardi wrote the sections on By the Horns Brewing in Mansfield and Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Fort Worth. Like what you read? Follow Tiney on Twitter at @tineywristwatch.
Follow Sarah Blaskovich on Twitter at @sblaskovich.