News Article | 7/25/2008

Mixing up the menu at Victory

The Victory Park project in Dallas will get a slate of more affordable restaurants as part of a push by developer Hillwood to bring a wider array of dining options to the upscale area.

Hillwood has hired longtime Dallas restaurateur and entrepreneur Jeffrey Yarbrough, a past president of the Texas Restaurant Association, to determine what the posh, 75-acre mixed-use Victory project needs.

After studying Victory’s restaurant scene for about a month, Yarbrough concluded that Victory has a good offering of expensive, “special occasion” restaurants such as N9NE Steakhouse and the Asian contemporary restaurant Kenichi, but not enough of the type of places that Dallas diners visit regularly.

“I told them, ‘I think you have some challenges,’ ” Yarbrough said. “I don’t think Dallas (residents) can really afford to have a $150 meal every night. People need to be able to go to Victory and get a cheeseburger, a salad, a beer — and not break the bank.”

So Yarbrough, a former Deep Ellum restaurant and nightclub owner/operator, has lined up eight high-quality but less expensive local and regional restaurants to go into the Victory project, he said. Most will open between spring and fall of 2009.

“In 2009, there will be a new face of dining when it comes to Victory,” Yarbrough said.

He declined to name all of the restaurants, but said they will include a Thai restaurant, a lounge, a wine bar and “a really cool cafe.”

“We’re doing everything from chef-driven comfort food to a very female friendly, cafe-driven wine bar with salads,” he said. “By no means are these dives — they’re not $4 hole-in-the-walls. These are local and regional operators that are at the top of their game, and they’re really going to complement all of the high-end stuff.”

Although Victory Park officials are not ready to identify potential tenants yet, the names of two have been confirmed.

Fort Worth restaurateur Tim Love, who opened a burger joint called Love Shack in that city’s Stockyards District, has announced plans to open another Love Shack in Victory Park. And Charlie Green, founder of Olivella’s near Southern Methodist University, said he plans to open a similar but larger wood-fired pizza and pasta place in Victory by December. The 4,000-square-foot restaurant in Victory will be about four times the size of the current Olivella’s at 3406 McFarlin Blvd., Green said.

“The price point makes it a good fit,” Green said. “We’ll be somewhere between a burger place and the fancy steakhouses they have down there.”

The 425,000-square-foot One Victory Park office tower is scheduled to open by November, adding about 1,200 hungry lawyers, accountants, bankers and other office workers to Victory’s lunchtime mix, said Ken Reese, executive vice president at Hillwood. Law firm Haynes and Boone, accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP and PlainsCapital Bank are the major tenants in the building, which is 85% preleased.

The House, a 150-unit condo tower, is scheduled to open in January, Reese added.

Victory Park has nine mostly high-end restaurants now, and only half are open for lunch, he said.

“We’re focused on adding a handful of restaurants that will focus on the quick lunch,” Reese said. “We’ll have a new influx of people with these two buildings, and we’re just trying to add more affordable offerings to make sure all of their needs are met.”

The less expensive food will also entice folks on their way to events at the American Airlines Center, Reese said.

The Olivella’s lease is signed and the Love Shack has a letter on intent with Hillwood, he said. Reese declined comment on other restaurant leases in the works.

Hillwood turned to Yarbrough because “he knows everybody in Dallas and he’s got a good sense for the challenges in the restaurant industry,” Reese said.

“He’s owned and run restaurants and bars, so he’s been great in the sense that he’s helped us through the minefield of finding great local operators,” Reese said. “That’s really our focus.”

In the mid-1980s, Yarbrough launched, owned and operated Deep Ellum alternative nightclubs including Blind Lemon and the Art Bar, before selling them in 2003. He also developed Liberty Noodles, a pan-Asian noodle house on Lower Greenville, and co-wrote “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Asian Cooking” with Liberty Noodles’ founding chef, Annie Wong.

In 2004, Yarbrough started Dallas-based bigInk PR & Marketing, where his clients include chefs, restaurateurs and other hospitality industry leaders.