Tables will be set with champagne flutes, to evoke the traditional European dinner service. Photo by Courtney Dabney.
Chef Michael Arlt and business partner Dustin Lee in front of their broken egg artwork. Photo by Courtney Dabney.
A year in the making, The Beast and Company is ready to welcome Fort Worth inside. Photo by Courtney Dabney.
The long back bar area at The Beast and Company, will serve classy cocktails and fine selection of wines. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)
The secondary dining room topped by original tin tiles. Photo by Courtney Dabney.
Refashioning an old building into a trendy restaurant might sound like a lot of fun, but just ask business partners Dustin Lee and chef Michael Arlt and they’ll tell you a different tale. Their long-awaited Fort Worth restaurant called The Beast and Company is finally set to open at 1010 W. Magnolia Avenue on March 30. After a lot of challenges and hard work.
The building — which also houses a next door neighbor SpawGlass Construction Management — has been a lot of things since it was built around 1941. Most recently, this space housed another longtime restaurant Mama Mia. Before that, for a brief time, it became an unusual bed and breakfast brought to life by comedian Jerry Van Dyke. Jerry Van Dyke’s Soda Shoppe & Guesthouse lasted from 1998 to around 2002. The former upstairs guest rooms are only now being transitioned into rentable office space.
When it was first built, Magnolia Avenue was largely a warehouse district and its first life as a munitions warehouse caused some renovation struggles, according to Lee. The walls, made from original terra cotta brick, were three layers thick (presumably for safety, in case of explosions). In many places, they still are. In others, those layers of brick have been coated with inch-thick plaster over the years.
When Lee and Arlt began peeling back layers of flooring and walls, it became like an episode of This Old House. Where do you stop?
The main dining room at The Beast and Company is now backed by a long bar with basket-shaded pendant lighting. The church pew still lines the entire left wall. But now it’s reupholstered in green fabric, with stained concrete under foot. The secondary dining area is topped by original tin ceiling tiles with creaky, ebony stained wood flooring grounding the room and mid-century, brass and glass, spider pendants providing illumination throughout.
There is even a private dining space in the back. The challenge there was in covering the graffiti writing of former Mama Mia diners, who were allowed to leave their indelible mark in black Sharpie.
“It took 27 coats of Kilz primer and white paint to finally remedy,” Dustin Lee tells PaperCity Fort Worth, on a tour of the soon-t0-open Fort Worth restaurant. “I love the process. What you’re seeing now has been a year’s worth of work.”
The Beast and Company’s Menu
Lee, who travelled extensively in his former career as a global product manager for a Fortune 500 company, found his match in Michael Arlt.
The chef was raised in the Florida panhandle with its melange of cultures. Arlt moved to Texas to work for Hotel Vin after his most recent stint as sous chef at the popular Cyndi’s Rooftop restaurant and bar in Chicago. He is well traveled too.
At The Beast and Company, Lee and Arlt are rolling out a globally inspired Southern menu. Now, they are finally ready to divulge the details.
“We are tracing the flavors back to their origins,” Arlt says. “For instance, Creole cuisine actually goes back to Africa due to the slave trade and Cajun, of course, is French at its roots. I was influenced by my childhood in Northwest Florida with its blend of deep Southern, mixed with Hispanic and Creole influences.”
Arlt and Lee wanted to convey fine dining, but also keep things comfortable. For that reason, you’ll be greeted by champagne flutes on your table, reinforcing the European style of dining, where a meal typically begins with bubbly or a cocktail with appetizers — and journeys onward to a glass of wine with the entree.
You’ll find something new on every plate. With ingredients you might not have ever thought about combining. Take the rock shrimp risotto, with bottarga (cured fish roe) and risotto blended with uni (sea urchin roe). Or pork collar with langoustine ravioli and foie gras. Who saw that coming?
In fact, nothing on The Beast and Company menu is going to be light on flavor. Consider the eggplant dumplings filled with charred eggplant, served with bok choy and lemongrass sambal in an aromatic coconut broth. Or the unusual fish selection of skate wing courtbouillon (pronounced koo-be-yan), amped up by smoked mussels with white beans, flavored by a wild combination of mustards, saffron and fennel.
“It will be an aggressively seasonal menu, changing every quarter,” Arlt says. “When I find a fantastic farmer to partner with, their ingredients pretty much write the menu for me.”
The Beast and Company’s interesting cocktail menu includes the El Loch Ness, a blend of Scotch whiskey, mezcal, blood orange and rosemary. And if you see a citrine yellow cocktail headed to a nearby table, that would be the spiced Bees Knees with gin, a saffron liqueur, spiced honey syrup and lemon.
The wait is almost over. The Beast and Company is about to open. And now we know when — and what to look forward to on the menu.