Restaurant Reviews DFW

Bar Manzanilla Joins Irving’s Big Beat Dallas

With the popularity of the Toyota Music Factory, Irving is quickly becoming DFW’s newest art and nightlife district. Visits and outings to Irving/Las Colinas are expected to exponentially increase with the opening of Big Beat Dallas this Thursday.

Big Beat Dallas is an amalgamation of a Texan’s two favorite things; food and live music. It is a project ten years in the making by Billy Bob Barnett,  founder of Billy Bob’s Texas, one of Dallas’s most famous country dancing clubs.

Upon opening this Thursday, Big Beat Dallas will be home to five original restaurant and bar concepts, seven live music stages, an open-air plaza, and a rancher’s market. Big Beat Dallas will also host live music performances every single night.

One of Big Beat Dallas’s five new restaurants is Bar Manzanilla. Bar Manzanilla is a coastal taqueria and tequila bar offering guests a variety of cocktails and dishes with impeccably fresh ingredients. I had the privilege of trying Bar Manzanilla last week at an exclusive media preview lunch. Based on my experience, I can say that Bar Manzanilla is most certainly promising.

First and foremost, if you plan on going out to Big Beat Dallas, I would highly suggest going the Lyft route or parking somewhere nearby. The parking garage was nearly packed to the brim. I can’t even imagine how it will be once the pavilion officially opens to the public.

To kick things off, I tried their house mule. It came served in authentic Mexican pottery and was jam-packed with ginger and lime flavor. As a lover of mules, I was fully satisfied with the taste and presentation of Bar Manzanilla’s version. However, given the drink’s price, I would’ve preferred a larger serving.

Bar Manzanilla’s mule, served in authentic Mexican pottery (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

For appetizers, my party and I ordered the Campechana Ceviche and the Chicken Tinga and Cheese Nachos. The ceviche was thick and had the consistency of tomato soup. The chunks of shrimp, scallops, octopus, and crab were plentiful, giving the dip a perfect amount of meatiness.

Campechana Ceviche (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Normally, I don’t care for nachos, but I think that’s because a lot of restaurants make them greasy and oily. Bar Manzanilla’s Chicken Tinga and Cheese Nachos were a marvelous exception. Rather than the typical tortilla chips slathered with Velveeta, Bar Manzanilla’s nachos come baked, topped with Queso Oaxaca, avocado, crema, and pulled chicken. The chicken was seasoned and cooked to where it had the perfect amount of spice and sweetness. Despite being topped with so many ingredients, the chips remained crisp and didn’t get chewy and floppy as most nachos do.

Chicken Tinga and Cheese Nachos (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

For the main course, I ordered the Beef Barbacoa tacos. These tacos contain slow braised brisket, guajillo aioli, queso fresco, shredded cabbage and avocado with radish. The combination of the ingredients made for the most savory tacos I had ever tasted in a bar/grill style restaurant. Albeit somewhat Americanized, these tacos were hot, fresh, and flavorful.

Beef Barbacoa Tacos (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

To wrap things up, my party and I ordered the Avocado Creme Brulee and the Coconut Tres Leches. The Avocado Creme Brulee may sound a bit eccentric, but it was surprisingly very good. Although the taste is very discernable from that of a traditional creme brulee, the avocado still allowed for creamy, custard-y goodness.

Avocado Creme Brulee (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

The Coconut Tres Leches cake was also quite delectable. Personally, I prefer coconut products in place of dairy products, so I was excited to try this. Although the portion appears to be small, it is just the right serving size to where one won’t feel uncomfortably full upon finishing.

Coconut Tres Leches cake (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Overall, I was highly satisfied with my visit to Bar Manzanilla. If Big Beat Dallas’s other restaurants are able to match Bar Manzanilla’s quality and service, the new music and dining epicenter is guaranteed to be a nightlife staple for years to come.

Big Beat Dallas will be having grand opening events beginning this Thursday through Sunday. For a full list of festivities, be sure to check out Big Beat Dallas’s event calendar.

Restaurant Reviews DFW

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.

Restaurant Reviews DFW

Bob Jackson Shares Keys to Successfully Operating a Business

“If the customer is wrong, pretend,” Bob Jackson says regarding his store’s approach to customer service. Jackson is the founder of Jackson’s Home and Garden, a longstanding home and garden supply store in Dallas. For 35 years, Jackson has sold a variety of fixtures, plants, furniture, and grilling fixtures to the Dallas community.

“People come from all over Texas, as well as other states, just to shop here,” Jackson says. “They love the unique patio furniture and different grills we carry. They also love our customer service compared to that of other stores.”

The “Green Egg” grill is one of many items Jackson’s Home and Garden has to offer. (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

In order to ensure that Jackson’s Home and Garden is providing customers with the best customer service, Jackson will sometimes send his employees on “secret shopping” missions to competing retail chains.

“We look to see how friendly their employees are to their customers,” Jackson says. “We also look to see how knowledgeable they are about the products they are selling. Over here, we train our people. We want them to know everything about what we sell and we don’t like to let them go once they’re trained.”

In Jackson’s office sits a placard that reads “Treat employees like they make a difference, and they will.” Jackson believes that the key to good customer service is to prioritize those providing the customer service.

“We love our employees,” Jackson says. “We like to retain them as long as we can, so we do all we can for them in terms of pay, insurance, holidays, and vacations. We care more about their success and happiness than we care about how much they can do for us.”

With good employee morale comes a positive customer experience. Apart from providing customer service with great fervor, Jackson keeps people coming back by offering unique and high-quality products. He has traveled to 36 different countries as a means of finding inspiration for the store and its product offerings.

Ceramic tabletops from Jackson’s Home and Garden (Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)

“The chandeliers we sell are handmade in Florence, Italy,” Jackson says. “The works of art are by artists from all over the world, and we buy them at trade shows throughout the country.”

The Jackson brand is one that is associated with quality, therefore he is making sure his family carries on the legacy for generations to come.

“My son Forrest is the Chief Operating Officer,”  Jackson says. “He runs the wholesale and manufacturing and has an overall view of the retail aspect. My son Hunter does all the photography for the website and the catalogs. He used to be the general manager, however, he now does photography for us and for his own clients.”

Maintaining a home and garden store with multiple departments and floors takes hard work, but even after 35 years in business, Jackson shows no signs of slowing down.

Jackson’s Home and Garden offers a variety of plants and flowers

“We will continue to do just what we do,” Jackson says. “I enjoy working and I am thankful to be in good health. I will soon be 73 years old, but I continue to work every day except for Sunday.”

Jackson’s Home and Garden is located at 6950 Lemmon Ave. in Dallas. They are open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Be sure to drop by on March 31 for Spring Open House! Come early for cooking demonstrations, food sampling, and Diamond Jim the Magician.

Restaurant Reviews DFW

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.

Restaurant Reviews DFW

Alberto Lombardi Details Early Career Beginnings, New Additions to Legacy West

While Dallas’s nightlife and dining scene is currently on an exponential rise, Alberto Lombardi has been a major driving force in the industry for decades. If you go out and about regularly in Uptown or in Knox Henderson, chances are, you’ve dined in one of Lombardi’s restaurants. Dining establishments, including Taverna, Lounge 31, and Toulouse are all fathered by Lombardi under his restaurant group, Lombardi Family Concepts.

From a young age, Lombardi knew that his lifelong career was destined to be in the realm of hospitality.

“I’ve been in this business since I was 13 years old,” Lombardi says. “I worked in Italy and went to school over there for three years. Then, when I was 16, I left for Berlin and worked in a hotel. After that, I went to Norway for six months, then worked on a cruise ship.”

Apart from his extensive European travels, Lombardi also worked in Miami and San Francisco, eventually finding his way to Dallas.

“I arrived in Dallas in 1974,” Lombardi says. “My first job in the city was managing The Venetian Room, which I did until 1976.”

After eventually parting ways with The Venetian Room, Lombardi opened his first restaurant, Lombardi, on McKinney Avenue in 1977. He later opened the first Taverna location in Knox Henderson, which has remained a staple in the city’s dining scene. He has expanded his empire by opening Taverna locations in Houston, Austin, Laguna Beach, Atlanta and most recently, Plano’s Legacy West shopping center.

One of Taverna’s many pizza options.

“When I first heard about the Legacy West project, I said ‘wow, let me put my concepts in,’” Lombardi says. “When I first came to Dallas, Plano was a rural area. There was nothing to do, but Legacy West is such an urban area where people can shop and go to restaurants. It’s amazing how much Plano has changed.”

Despite having opened Taverna’s Legacy West location only two months ago, Lombardi has shown no signs of slowing down. Earlier this year, Lombardi announced big changes would be taking place within Lombardi Family Concepts. These changes include his three daughters playing a larger role in the restaurant group’s operations.

“My daughter Laura will be handling marketing and my other daughter, Sarah, will be coordinating the menus,” Lombardi says. “Anna will be helping us with the technological side of the business. She’ll be maintaining our website and our social media handles.”

Apart from the big changes coming from within the company, Lombardi Family Concepts will also be expanding its territory by opening up Toulouse and Kai locations in Legacy West during the first quarter of the year.

“The Toulouse location in Dallas is more of a bistro,” Lombardi says. “The Legacy West location will be more like a brasserie. I believe it will be one of the most beautiful restaurants around here.”

Toulouse is set to open for Dinner beginning March 12. Also joining the Legacy West development will Lombardi’s newest concept, Kai Asian Bistro.

“Kai will consist of Asian fusion, a sushi lounge, and live music,” Lombardi says. “We plan to open at the beginning of April.”

Lombardi Family Concepts currently operated multiple restaurants across the Dallas metroplex. Also, be on the lookout for Toulouse and Kai’s new Legacy West locations opening soon.