Chris Vogeli Shares Challenges of Maintaining a Prime Steakhouse

For almost 20 years, III Forks has remained one of Dallas’s best-known prime steakhouses. Since it’s 1998 opening, it has become a holy mecca for steak-loving Dallasites and high-class connoisseurs. While things operate smoothly on a nightly basis, there is a lot of work that goes in to make sure guest service and overall experience are both impeccable.

On an April afternoon, I have the privilege of speaking with Proprietor and Executive Chef, Chris Vogeli. It is about an hour before dinnertime, but luckily, Vogeli has a good amount of time to talk to me in between staff meetings and front-of-house huddles.

“Since early on, we’ve always lived by the philosophy of taking care of everyone who enters our four walls,” Vogeli says of his III Forks team. “Consistency is the biggest challenge we face every day, but we always go out of our way to create a good atmosphere and to provide top-notch service.”

As one would expect, Vogeli is a perfectionist, therefore he is constantly training his employees to ensure that they are meeting the needs of everyone who walks in.

Vogeli and members of his finely selected team. (Photo credit: Tammany Stern)

“We spend a lot of time and money on training and on continuing training,” Vogeli says. “Nowadays, with dietary restrictions, we’re challenged on a daily basis. You’ve got the whole gluten-free thing, plus other trends. All of our servers are trained to guide those patrons into making good choices so they can come in and dine within their dietary needs.”

In order to meet everyone’s needs, Vogeli utilizes the highest quality ingredients in all of his dishes. However, given Texas’s notorious weather patterns, sourcing ingredients can prove difficult at times.

“We try to source locally, Vogeli says. “Unfortunately, we have short seasons in Texas. We’ve got grapefruit that we’ll incorporate into our dishes in January and February. We’ve got blueberries and peaches in June, but Texas’s unpredictable weather makes it tough to source locally.”

Vogeli also has included dishes on his menu, specifically intended for those wanting something other than steak, or heavy meats.

A crabcake from III Forks (Via Facebook)

“We offer some great seafood dishes,” Vogeli says. “It’s not just steaks. There’s something for everybody here.”

While Dallas, specifically the Far North, is becoming a hot-and-happening dining and nightlife district, III Forks has managed to remain the epitome of all things Dallas. However, this status has not been met without competition.

“Right now, there are too many stores in the area,” Vogeli says. “We’re not suffering, but this still poses a challenge. You’ve got all these fancy new places opening up in Plano and Frisco, and people are flocking to them. But trends come and go, and eventually, people find their way back to us.”

Although III Forks is a world-renowned steakhouse, Vogeli insists that those wanting to learn the craft of a luxury chef don’t need to stray too far from their own backyard.

Vogeli utilizes high-quality ingredients in his dishes. (Via Facebook)

“I’m a graduate from the El Centro Culinary Arts program,” Vogeli says. “I graduated in 1986 under Gus Kasrigis. Parents come up to me all the time and say ‘My kid wants to go into culinary arts, where should I send them?’ and I tell them ‘you can send them anywhere they want to go, but do not discount El Centro before making the final decision.’”

Vogeli also notes the importance of remembering to remain humble in the workplace. He reiterates that no task in the restaurant is beneath anyone.

You cannot be afraid to roll up your sleeves and jump into it,” Vogeli says. “You’ve got to be able to do every job that makes up the restaurant. Whether it’s mixing a drink or helping the dishwasher, you cannot be afraid to put in the work.”

This Sunday, III Forks will be offering a special Mother’s Day brunch menu from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. To make reservations, call (972)-267-1776.

 

Thompson Family Values: Mark Thompson on Home Security and Pest Control

Providing peace of mind is a full-time job. Mark Thompson, the founder of Smith Thompson Security, gladly accepts this responsibility. In a time when tragedies seem to take place on a daily basis, Thompson emphasizes the value of safety and security.

Mark Thompson started Smith Thompson Security in 1978. Smith Thompson Security is often regarded as a company born out of tragedy.

“My father was killed by a drunk driver,” Thompson says. “Our hometown’s newspaper did a story on our family and said we’d be out of town for the funeral. When we got back from the funeral, we discovered that our house had been robbed.”

The look on his mother’s face upon discovery of the horrific incident was enough to motivate Thompson to take action.

“I will never forget how much this broke my mother’s heart,” Thompson says. “Our family completely understands how violating such an act can be.”

Since that day, Thompson has been committed to providing security to families at a reasonable price.

“Back then, home security systems were expensive,” Thompson says. “Only the wealthy could afford them. We tried to find ways to make them affordable for everyone.”

Smith Thompson Security customers can create personalized packages to match the needs of their families.

“Everyone’s needs are different,” Thompson says. “You have to make the system adapt to the customer’s to live with them, not make the customer live with the system.”

Like his home security business, his pest control business, Smith Thompson Pest Control, has also proven lucrative. However, Thompson is a firm believer in working for one’s earnings. At the moment, his children are learning the ropes of the family business.

Smith Thompson’s official Pest Control truck (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

“Everybody in my family starts off like I did,” Thompson says. “I was crawling around in attics running wiring. My son, Jordan, is in the pest control business, and he’s learning it from the ground up.”

Thompson’s years of hard work and dedication have proven to be fruitful. Smith Thompson Security is currently the official home security system of the Dallas Mavericks.

“On our 30th anniversary, my wife and I came up with this crazy idea to visit all 30 NBA arenas,” Thompson says. “It started off as a joke, then it became a dare, then we actually did it. And then, the following year, we became sponsors after receiving a lot of media attention. We’ve been sponsors ever since.”

Having been heavily involved with the Dallas Mavericks for nearly eight years, Thompson won MFFL award at the final Mavs game of the 2017-2018 season.

Rick Carlisle, Lynda Thompson, and Mark Thompson at recent Mavs luncheon. (Photo credit: Tammany Stern)

Despite his staple status in the DFW community, Thompson has remained humble, hardworking, and dedicated to providing quality service to families and homeowners. Since Smith Thompson’s early beginnings, Thompson has never increased his home monitoring rate from $16.95 per month.

Smith Thompson Security currently serves families and homeowners in over 150 cities and towns in Texas. To get set up with affordable home security, call 1-888-888-1695, or visit http://smiththompson.com.

Luciano Salvadore on Early Career Beginnings and Coming to America

Perhaps one of the best-kept secrets in the realm of Dallas fine dining is Southlake. Known for its lavish neighborhoods and shopping centers, the city of Southlake boasts a variety of fine dining experiences. Although Southlake may be a bit of a drive, lovers of Italian food should most certainly pay a visit to Il Calabrese.

Il Calabrese is the brainchild of  Luciano Salvadore. From a young age, Salvadore was passionate about food. He studied culinary arts in Italy and graduated from The Recoaro Terme Culinary School at just 17 years old.

“School was pretty easy for me,” Salvadore says. “The hard part comes after. School is just pen and paper, but when you start cooking, it becomes a much harder process. Even now, 40 years after finishing school, I still find new ideas and challenges.”

Calamari Fritti from Il Calabrese (Via Facebook)

Despite owning one of the biggest, and most acclaimed restaurants in Southlake, Salvadore is always sure to keep an open mind. He believes that no matter how far one comes in their career, there is always room for improvement.

“A lot of people come out of culinary school thinking they know everything, and that’s the worst thing you could do,” Salvadore says. “There is something to be learned from everyone. Always be humble, be polite, and be respectful to others.”

Salvadore has lived by this code since the early beginning of his career. He came back and forth from Italy three times before he finally opened Il Calabrese.

“The first time I came to America, I told myself ‘if it doesn’t work out here, it’ll just be a vacation’” Salvadore says. “I worked in six different places my first year here. This guy hired me to help open a restaurant in January of that year. It didn’t end up opening until May, so in between that time, he had me helping out his friends in different restaurants all over town for anywhere between two weeks and two months at a time. Once the restaurant where I was working opened in May, I worked there for six months, then I moved back to Italy. Everything here was all too much for me.”

Salvadore’s return to Italy, however, didn’t last long.

“You grow to miss America,” Salvadore says. “Your mentality in your career changes when you get to America. You become open to more challenges. There’s a lot more competition in Dallas’s restaurant industry, but there are also a lot more opportunities to thrive.”

Insalata di Mare from Il Calabrese (Via Facebook)

Salvadore cites American eating habits as major factors in his decision to return to the states.

“In Italy, they go out to eat for special occasions, like birthdays,” Salvadore says. “Americans eat out seven days a week. There are a lot of people here who don’t mind spending money on different products, therefore, it is easier to work and make money here.”

Il Calabrese makes their tortellini in-house (Via Facebook)

Since Il Calabrese’s opening in 2014, Salvadore has certainly proven that by being open to challenges and new ideas, one will most certainly see success. Il Calabrese offers a variety of Italian dishes with ingredients sourced directly from Italy.

Il Calabrese is located at 1281 E State Hwy 114, Southlake, TX 76092. They are open seven days a week, from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Pascal Cayet Shares Secrets to Making a Restaurant Feel Like Home

Perhaps one of Dallas’s best-kept secrets is Lavendou Bistro. The provincial style restaurant, which rests outside of far north Dallas’s Bent Trail neighborhood, specializes in authentic French cuisine. Although French culture is often associated with luxury and hyper-romance, owner and operator Pascal Cayet wants for Lavendou to have a more familial feel.

“I opened up my first restaurant, Chez Girard, in 1984 on McKinney Avenue,” Cayet says. “It was a country, French restaurant, but I wanted to do something different.”

Cayet eventually sold Chez Girard, then opened up Lavendou Bistro in 1996.

“Lavendou is more of a Provençal restaurant, inspired by south of France,” Cayet says. “A couple of friends and I had gone on vacation in the south of France and wanted to recreate some of the feelings and bring them over here.”

French onion soup from Lavendou Bistro (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

And thus, Lavendou Bistro was born. Since its opening nearly 22 years ago, the menu has stayed relatively the same. Lavendou has since become well known for its signature items, including their souffle.

“Not too many people do souffle anymore,” Cayet says. “It’s very time consuming, but making a good souffle is a matter of having the right ingredients, the combination, and the right oven. In the beginning, making a souffle can be challenging, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy.”

Having built a strong customer base over the course of the past two decades, Cayet has made very few changes to the menu, for the sake of the customers.

“I think some of my customers might kill me if they saw that their favorite item was no longer on the menu,” Cayet says humorously. “Oftentimes, they come in with the same order each time, which is why we try to keep our menu consistent.”

Tournedos Félix Faure (via Facebook)

Both Cayet and his customers are very fortunate to have had much of the same staff working in Lavendou since its opening.

“We’ve had the same cooks, the same servers, and same waiting staff for almost 22 years,” Cayet says. “Most of our patrons are regulars, so the servers know their customers’ orders by heart.”

Lavendou Bistro’s signature crème brûlée (via Facebook)

Because of the fact that Cayet has emphasized consistency in his operations, this has established a sense of familiarity with Lavendou’s customers, allowing them to feel at home. Guests are often so satisfied with their experience that they will often bring new customers into the mix.

“Sometimes, bringing in new customers can be a challenge, since everything tends to stay the same,” Cayet says. “But luckily, our regular customers bring in their friends and family all the time, so we pull in a lot of new customers organically.”

Whether you try the gooey goodness that is Lavendou’s French onion soup, or one of their delicious soufflé, customers are in for an authentic French experience at Lavendou.

On April 1, Lavendou will be having an Easter Sunday brunch, featuring a special menu. Tickets run at $42.95 each, plus beverage, tax, and gratuity. Call (972)-248-1911 to make your reservation today.

Evandro Caregnato Prepares for DeLucca Opening

After having spent most of his life working in Brazilian Churrascaria restaurants, Chef Evandro Caregnato has decided that it’s time to go his own way. In a Churrascaria restaurant, guests pay a set price and servers, known as gauchos, walk around tables offering a variety of meats to the guests. Today, Caregnato will be opening DeLucca, a new restaurant in Southlake that will be serving pizza in the churrascaria style.

For as long as he could remember, Caregnato has had a passion for the culinary arts.

“Since I was a little kid, I have always loved helping my parents in the kitchen,” Caregnato says.

One of Caregnato’s first jobs was working in his grandfather’s restaurant, Churrascaria Caregnato, in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. He was later approached by the founding partners of a Dallas Churrascaria chain to assist in the opening of their restaurant. They sought his help in order to ensure that all of the operations were performed faithfully to Brazilian customs and traditions.

“I was at this chain for over 20 years,” Caregnato says, “But now, I feel it’s time to finally have something of my own.”

After having spent much of his career working in a chain, Caregnato wants to bring something unique to Dallas restaurant scene.

“In my hometown, we have something called ‘Rodizio pizza,’” Caregnato says. “The pizza is served in the similar style of the Churrascaria. It’s a beautiful concept, but there’s nothing like it in the states, as far as I know. I thought it would be cool to bring it here.”

DeLucca will be gracing Southlake with its ‘rotisserie pizza’ beginning on Wednesday. Caregnato refuses to settle for anything less than authentic perfection and has made sure to use the best appliances to prepare the menu offerings, despite any challenges he may have faced.

“Moving the pizza oven inside the building was a very difficult task,” Caregnato says. “It weighs about 7000 pounds. We have two ovens, this heavy one and a smaller one imported from Italy. Both are wood-burning ovens.”

These ovens will be used to bake a variety of pizza, including Kale & Bacon, Chicken Tikka Masala, and more. On the dessert side, guests can choose a Nutella pizza and a dulce de leche pizza.

“There’s not a such thing as a ‘Brazilian style pizza,” Caregnato says, “It’s about the way the pizza is served. With one set price, the customers get to try so many different styles, and we’re going to create several unique options.”

Upon DeLucca’s opening, Caregnato’s family will be playing a significant role in the restaurant’s operations.

“My wife has a lot of restaurant experience,” Caregnato says. “She has a great personality and will be running the show. I will be in charge of menu development and will be focusing on the food side. I will also be scouting out future locations, as I hope to duplicate the concept.”

DeLucca officially opens its doors to the public today. They will also be having a grand opening celebration on March 29th at 4:30 PM, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with a DJ and a laser show.

Corey Pond Speaks on The Common Table’s New Frisco Location

For nearly eight years, The Common Table has been a hot brunch destination for Dallasites and Uptown dwellers. With its new location in The Star in Frisco, founder Corey Pond hopes to expand Common Table’s horizons and attract a wider demographic. As its name suggests, The Common Table is a haven for those who wish to bond over the love of beer and food.

“It’s more of a feeling than it is anything literal,” founder Corey Pond says of the eatery’s name. “A common table is a place where you would go and meet people you don’t know, and hopefully make new friends. We believe we’ve incorporated that sort of philosophy here.”

A “common table” inside The Common Table’s Frisco location (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Although The Common Table is arguably most known for its brunch and beer dinners, Pond notes that he hadn’t originally planned to serve food.

“I had a love for craft beer and wanted to open a craft beer bar,” Pond says, “but because of the location we ended up with, we also had to have a restaurant. It took us a little while to get the food right, but now I think the food in both places is very good, especially for the price.”

    Founder Corey Pond (left) with Operation Partner Rodman Shields (right)

Weekend brunch is a staple in Dallas. With so many restaurants to choose from, The Common Table has set itself apart by making quality dishes and creating an amped up atmosphere.

“Brunch food really isn’t difficult to prepare,” Ponds says. “It’s just all about buying good ingredients. It’s a chill vibe here most of the time, but at brunch time, we turn up hip-hop music a little louder than usual.”

Although The Star and Uptown are two vastly different scenes, The Star’s location shares a lot of the elements that the original location has become well known for.

“We’ve just recently started the live music series here [in The Star,] Pond says. “The music events are held every Thursday and Saturday night, like in Uptown. Some of the artists are the same, but we also have some new artists.”

Apart from the live music events, The Common Table’s Frisco location also has Live Trivia Wednesdays, Brewsday Tuesdays, and Pour Man’s Beer Dinner on Mondays.

Trivia Nights and Pour Man’s Beer Dinner are just a couple of The Common Table’s notable events

“The Pour Man’s Beer Dinner is different every week,” Pond says. “Each week, the chef in each location comes up with a different four-course menu, each of the courses is paired with a different beer.”

Because of the wide variety of beer available in house, The Common Table’s customers are able to taste unique pairings of beer and food.

“Beer’s such a versatile drink, more than wine.” Ponds says. “There are over 100 different styles of beer, so for any type of food you make, there’s a perfect beer to pair it with.”

The Common Table is currently open in both Uptown Dallas and in The Star in Frisco. Be sure to pay a visit and try their unique pairings.

Francesca Nor Details Dive’s New Renovations, Personal Journey to Dive

Dive Coastal Cuisine is going into its eighth year of serving hearty seafood in the Highland Park district. For the past three weeks, Dive has been undergoing some major renovations. They will officially reopen their doors on Wednesday.

“We are basically taking the front walk-up center and putting in a full-service bar,” owner Francesca Nor said of Dive’s renovations. “We’ve always been a walk-up concept and have never been ‘full service’ anything. There will be five or six seats at our bar where we will serve beer, wine, infused tequila, and our signature sangria.”

Apart from the bar and full-service aspects, Dive’s rebranding will also include changes to its aesthetic.

“Where there was a high-top communal table, there will now be a banquette,” Nor said. “We’ve added some lighting, we’ve redone the menu, we’ve redone the website, and we’ve added coral to our color palette. Our color palette was originally navy and turquoise, but now, it’s navy, turquoise, and coral, so it has a little bit more of a ‘poppy’ feel.”

From a very young age, Nor became fascinated by culinary arts, cultures, and unique dishes.

“I was about five or six years old when I first became interested in food,” Nor said. “I was born in Los Angeles and my parents would take us to upscale, hip restaurants. I would go into these restaurants and order things like the caviar or the shark, and the waiter would look at my parents like ‘Is she for real?’ I didn’t know any different, I just knew that I liked that food because my parents exposed me to it at a young age.”

Dive’s signature SURF+TURF dish, consisting of Churrasco steak, grilled shrimp, cilantro rice & black beans with house-made chimichurri sauce (Photo Credit: Claire McCormack)

Despite having developed an interest in food so early on in life, Nor began her higher studies in the realm of art.

“Funny enough, I went to school to study photography and mixed media art,” Nor said. “It wasn’t until I was about 21 years old until a light went off. I was living in Florence, Italy and I took a workshop at Cordon Bleu, and realized ‘this is what I need to be doing,’ so then I decided to go to culinary school.”

Nor finished culinary school at the top of her class. Following culinary school, Nor traveled the world, acquired knowledge of various world cultures, and eventually opened Dive. When selecting her employees, Nor believes in a personal approach, as opposed to modern technological pre-screenings.

“There are a lot of ways restaurants select their employees,” Nor said. “There are HR departments, there are all sorts of personality tests, but honestly, I just kind of go with my gut. I get the first impression of someone and I just kind of go off of how they click with me. Experience is always important, but if they don’t respect my business and what I do, then it’s just another job to them.”

For those wanting to follow in Nor’s footsteps and open a restaurant, Nor offers a bit of advice.

“Hands down, you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing,” Nor said. “Stay true to yourself and make sure that what you’re doing is something you enjoy. Staying honest with yourself and not doubting yourself is conveyed in everything you do. If you believe it, your customers will believe it too.”

Fish on the Grill (Photo Credit: Claire McCormack)

Dive Coastal Cuisine officially reopens on Wednesday and operates from 11 a.m to 9 p.m. They will also be open until 11 p.m. from Thursday to Saturday and will offer a variety of late night bites, including cheese boards, hummus boards, and more.

Dallas Hale details conception of Sushi Marquee

In the dining industry, the quality of each guest’s experience is just as important as the quality of food they’re being served. The minds behind the Crafted Bar Concepts restaurant group strive to create a guest experience as unique as possible. Sushi Marquee, the newest addition to The Star in Frisco, is a hot, fresh concept from the minds of CBC.

Various sushi rolls arranged to celebrate Sushi Marquee’s opening in The Star (Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Sushi Marquee started off as an idea of  CBC’s Vice President Brad Hawkins. Hawkins partnered with Dallas Hale, CEO of Crafted Bar Concepts, to create what would become Sushi Marquee.

“At Sushi Marquee, the guest comes in anticipating a phenomenal meal,” Hale said, “In addition to that, they receive an interactive, fun experience. We’ve got sake bombs, ’80s and ’90s music, and we aim to create just an all-around good time, that way, when the guest leaves, they say ‘man, I can’t wait to go back!’”

Sushi Marquee’s large television screens, which often play classic movie clips and music videos from the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s. (Photo Credit: Tammany Stern)

When approached by Hawkins to partner in the creation of Sushi Marquee, Hale, confident in its success, immediately agreed.

“I wish I could take credit for this idea,” Hale said. “This is the brainchild of Brad Hawkins. We’ve been the best of friends for about 25 years and we’ve always talked about creating a concept together.”

The minds behind Crafted Bar Concepts. Dallas Hale (left), Brad Hawkins (center) and Matt Saba (right). (Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Sushi Marquee is largely inspired by the sushi restaurants Brad Hawkins encountered while visiting Los Angeles.

“Brad has been telling me about this concept for about 20 years,” Hale said. “He had gone to L.A. and came across a place that had a fun, interactive vibe but the worst sushi he had ever tasted.”

Because of his experience in L.A., Hawkins was determined to create something better with Hale.

“He came to me and said, ‘Dallas, we need to recreate this concept, but we need to jazz it up and make it the best sushi they’ve ever had,” Hale said. “I told him, ‘let’s go.’”

A couple of the many options Sushi Marquee has to offer. (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Despite having been primarily relying on word-of-mouth promotion, Sushi Marquee has seen much success since its grand opening two weeks ago.

“It’s surprising how well the turnout has been,” Hale said. “We haven’t advertised yet because we’re still working out all of the kinks, but the food’s been amazing, we’re getting great reviews, and the crowds keep pouring in, it’s been great!”

Sushi Marquee’s signature Lamb Lollipops (Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Although Sushi Marquee is currently only open for dinner, they plan to officially open for lunch at the top of next year. Their lunch menu will feature a variety of options which they call their “Power Lunch” meals.

“Our Power Lunch menu is amazing,” Hale said. “We will offer our full menu at lunchtime, but we will also have poke bowls, sushi burritos, and bento boxes.”

The Power Lunch menu will provide guests with easily customizable options.

“We’ll have signature poke bowls, but we’ll allow the guests to select their choice of fish, along with their choice of rice, sauce, and veggies,” Hale said. “Once their bowl is ordered, the customer will be served within five to seven minutes.”

Although Sushi Marquee is fresh off of its opening, they have managed to keep the ball rolling with all sorts of events.

“We’ve already had people call to set up their bachelorette parties, birthday parties, and bridal showers,” Hale said. “We also hope to get a video DJ for New Year’s Eve.”

Sushi Marquee is a novelty for lovers of sports, music, and Asian cuisine. It is a fresh, fun, modern concept, unlike any other sushi restaurant in town. Sushi Marquee is officially open in The Star in Frisco.

 

Laura Sanchez on her Family Mexican Food Empire

In the heart of the Bishop Arts district lies one of DFW’s longest standing Mexican food restaurants. El Ranchito has been in business for nearly 35 years, and owner Laura Sanchez is still expanding upon her empire.

In September, Sanchez opened El Ranchito’s South Cooper location in Arlington. Opening the restaurant was a process that took nearly seven years.

“The original building owners originally wanted to lease the place,” Sanchez said. “I wanted to own it, so I had to wait until the owners were ready to sell the space. When we heard the building was finally for sale, we bought it, and then it took two and a half years to actually build the restaurant.”

When deciding on a location to open the restaurant, Sanchez made sure to strategically pick a Hispanic-populous area.

“We are feeling very optimistic about the new location,” Sanchez said. “It’s a larger restaurant attracting the Hispanic communities of South Arlington, Mansfield, Grand Prairie and Fort Worth.”

In terms of measuring up to the success of the original Oak Cliff location, Sanchez is looking forward to seeing the new Arlington location thrive.

“It’s doing very well so far,” Sanchez said of the new location. “The Oak Cliff location has been in business for 35 years, so the new store is gonna take some time to meet the original’s success, but as for now, we are very confident about it.”

El Ranchito’s menu consists of North Mexican cuisine. Sanchez emphasizes that much like the food in the U.S., Mexican food specialties differ by region.

“Northern Mexico is very meat, beef, and pork oriented in terms of food,” Sanchez said. “We have a lot of tripas and other dishes that aren’t as popular in the south or southwest regions of Mexico. Northern Mexico offers a lot of cabrito, asado, machado; all those dishes they don’t have in the other places.”

Delicious Tacos Al Carbon plate from El Ranchito (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

 

With its new location having opened up, El Ranchito will also be dividing its traditions and events among the stores.

“Every year, we celebrate the birth of Elvis Presley and we commemorate his death,” Sanchez said. “The event takes place across four Wednesdays in January and four Wednesdays in August. However, my brother and I have decided that the Elvis events will take place two Wednesdays in Oak Cliff and two Wednesdays in Arlington during the two months.”

The Elvis Presley celebrations consist of look-alike contests.

“The people who come to compete just make it a culture,” Sanchez said. “They just always go all out. People are already calling to reserve their spots.”

El Ranchito pays tribute to Elvis Presley twice a year (Photo credit: Tammany Stern)

 

When she’s not holding down the fort at her two El Ranchito locations, Sanchez is either helping organize events in her Jefferson Tower event center, or handling matters at La Calle Doce, her Mexican seafood restaurant.

“At La Calle Doce, we serve a lot of Monterey-inspired seafood dishes,” Sanchez said. “Some of our specialty dishes include our tilapia, which is served on top of our signature paella. We also serve a really good ceviche, and our shrimp cocktail is loved by Oak Cliff’s Hispanic community.”

Sign in front of La Calle Doce, also owned by Laura Sanchez (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Part of what makes Sanchez’s dishes so authentic is the fact that many of her employees are members of both her immediate and extended family.

“It’s wonderful working with family,” Sanchez said. “Most of them have been working for me since they were legally able to work. It helps that they really love the restaurant and put a lot of care into creating quality dishes and providing good service.”

Mariachis in El Ranchito give Sanchez’s restaurant an authentic Mexican feel. (Photo credit Tammany Stern)

El Ranchito is currently open in Oak Cliff and in Arlington. Also, be sure to try some delicious Mexican seafood at La Calle Doce in the Bishop Arts District.

Legacy Hall is an Artistic Celebration of Food and World Cultures

The most anticipated addition to Plano’s Legacy West shopping center is finally set to open its doors this Wednesday. Legacy Hall is a three-story food hall containing a variety of restaurant set-ups and bars. It is the first of its kind in the United States, inspired by the food halls Jack Gibbons, president of The Frontburner Group, encountered during his international travels.

“My business partner Randy and I were in Russia traveling back through Amsterdam,” Gibbons said. “When we studied the history of food halls and how they started in Europe, we felt that there was a big place for this in the United States.

Legacy Hall’s opening comes shortly after the opening of Legacy West’s Haywire, which is also parented by The Frontburner Group. Like Haywire’s three stories, each floor of Legacy Hall has a different feel to it.

“On the first floor, there are 20 stalls that are serving all different product from shawarma to lobster rolls. Each of the 20 stalls is run by local chefs and restaurateurs,” Gibbons said. “There’s a full working brewery on the third floor.”

This past Saturday evening, media and press were invited to a sneak preview of the much-anticipated food hall. Each of the attendees was given a pre-loaded “hall pass,” containing $25 worth of credits, valid at any of the bars and food stalls.

For dinner, I made my way over to Blist’r and ordered a Char-grilled chicken tikka naan wrap. I was given the option of choosing “regular” or “spicy” and opted for the latter. My wrap was assembled quickly, in the same fashion of a Chipotle burrito.

Char-grilled chicken tikka naan wrap from Blist’r in Legacy Hall (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

I was very satisfied with the taste of my naan wrap. While the chicken was hot, spicy, and flavorful, it was the tamarind and mint chutney, along with the pickled onion that gave the wrap a sweet kick. I washed down the wrap with a lemon berry acai flavored Stubborn Soda. The soda tasted different from any other soda I’ve ever tasted, as the sweet fruit flavors overpowered the carbonated water. Originally, I had planned to give up drinking soda in the imminent new year, however, I may have to make an exception for Stubborn.

After dinner, I opted for a healthy dessert at Berrynaked, a stall offering a variety of popsicles, smoothie bowls, and sundaes. I was able to try both the matcha latte and the blueberry lavender popsicle. While both popsicles were refreshing, I preferred the blueberry lavender. The matcha latte was good, however, the dairy base doesn’t allow for the consumer to get to the flavor as quickly as the water base of the blueberry lavender does. As for both popsicles, they were frozen to the right consistency to which they didn’t melt immediately upon removal from the freezer.

A display of popsicles at Berrynaked (Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)

To end the night, I paid a visit to the third level bar and ordered a drink called “Teaches and Peaches.” The Teaches and Peaches consists of Peach Brandy, Madeira, lemon juice, raspberries, and billers. Albeit a bit pricey, it was packed with fruity flavor and had a strong impact.

Teaches and Peaches from Legacy Hall’s third-level bar. (Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Although I didn’t get a chance to try every single food stall, there were several items that looked very appetizing, including “The Soulman” from Press Waffle Co., as well as handcrafted pizza from Forno Nero.

The Soul Man from Press Waffle Co. (Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Apart from offering a multitude of delicious food options, Legacy Hall encourages its guests to be environmentally conscious, as they have different trash containers for paper, plastic, and food waste.

My only complaint of the night was that the first floor felt rather crowded, however, this is likely to change, as more outdoor additions are underway.

In March of 2018, Legacy Hall will open an environmentally friendly music venue right outside of the first floor.

“Our venue will be called ‘The Box Carton,” Gibbons said. “It is made out of recycled shipping containers and has different bars and restaurants that will really complete the food hall project.”

Although the Gibbons and The Frontburner Group have a lot on their hands right now, they have no plans to slow down in the near future.

“We’ve started a company called ‘The Food Hall Company,’” Gibbons said. “We’re starting our Plano hall as our first one, but we plan to create more of these unique venues and make them wildly popular across the country.”

Legacy Hall is an artistic celebration of food and world cultures. There is something for everybody at Legacy Hall and it will undoubtedly be a hit upon opening.

Legacy Hall is set to open on December 6. For a complete list of bars and food stalls, click here.