Lancaster is a suburb in south Dallas County you don’t often hear about, but Michaella Ramler is looking to change that. In February 2023, the Lancaster-raised real estate developer and investor purchased 17,000 square feet of the city’s historic downtown square, and set about revitalizing the space she loved so much as a kid — one which had been deteriorating since a tornado in 1994.
“I wanted to focus on food and retail,” Ramler tells PaperCity. Her anchor restaurant, La Calle Doce, a Veracruz-style restaurant currently found in Dallas’ Oak Cliff and Lakewood, is gearing up to open soon. A few recent openings include HUG BBQ, Gelu Italian Ice, and Just Juice. There are a few staple spots that have been there for many years as well, including John’s Trikes and Bikes and the 40-year-old The Lovin’ Oven Bakery.
What may be even more exciting are the upcoming concepts. A winery tasting room and restaurant Saviana Winery and a Japanese-inspired cocktail and coffee spot Kyoto Brew are in the works. But one of the most anticipated new spots in Lancaster’s town square is a food concept from former Abacus chef Chris Patrick and his wife, Laura Patrick, called Curio Kitchen + Market.
Introducing Curio Kitchen + Market
After leaving his Culinary Director position at Abacus Jasper’s Restaurant Group in 2019 (and 20 years in the fine dining industry), Chef Patrick and Laura started a chef-prepared food delivery service called Bright Box Foods.
“We had just had our third child that year,” Laura says. “Chris was working 80 hours a week and the lifestyle was not sustainable anymore.”
Bright Box Foods allowed the husband-and-wife team to serve the city of Dallas chef-prepared meals and offer corporate catering and private in-home catering, but they had always planned to open their own brick-and-mortar space.
“Curio was a long time coming,” she says. After looking for a location in Dallas proper for two years, they connected with their Oak Cliff neighbor, Michaella Ramler. She told them about her Lancaster project and finally, the couple felt like they found their space, as well as a great landlord partner.
“Chris and I both grew up in small towns [he’s from Athens, she’s from Rockport],” she says. “It felt right and it’s also only 11 miles from our house.” And since Lancaster is in Dallas County, they can still deliver food and wine to Dallas homes — which is a huge part of their business.
Curio will take over Bright Box Foods‘ delivery element (with the addition of a subscription service), as well as offer grab-and-go meals prepared by Chef Patrick, specialty items, and bottles of fine wine.
The Inspiration Behind the New Concept
The Patrick’s new concept is inspired by an Oak Cliff shop owned by Laura’s late grandfather in the 1970s called Pepe’s Mexican Curio Shop.
“My grandfather was from Monterrey, Nuevo León, México. He migrated to the U.S. alone when he was 11, so I am a second-generation Mexican American on my mom’s side,” she says. “At his shop, he sold various imported Mexican ‘curios,’ which consisted of goods such as traditional Mexican textiles, pottery, trickles, etc. I never got to visit the shop, but I always heard stories about it and the community he built around his business in those years in Dallas. I hope to bring that same spirit to our new space. He is and will always be a huge source of inspiration to me.”
The Curio Kitchen + Market space features tin ceiling tiles, original hardwood wide plank floors, and a commercial kitchen designed by Chef Patrick. “The entire front of house will be dedicated to wine and grab-and-go items,” Laura says. There will be an outdoor patio and some casual seating for wine tastings and such, but the couple is going to see what the demand is for market items to be enjoyed on-site.
Laura shares that Curio will essentially be located in a food desert. She explains that there’s tons of foot traffic in the area from workers nearby grabbing a bite for lunch, but only HUG BBQ is currently open for food. The new spot will offer grab-and-go sandwiches, soups, and salads.
The curated wine program will also be led by Laura and will showcase small producers that make low-intervention vinos. “So much is added to mass-produced wines and the story behind them gets lost,” she says. She wants to highlight other family-owned or husband-and-wife-owned small businesses.
The Future of Historic Downtown Lancaster
Downtown Lancaster is going to look a lot different in the coming weeks, as Ramler hopes to have many new concepts open by the end of the year. Another exciting project is the revitalization of The Historic Lancaster Theatre which will showcase live music, plays, art exhibits, films, and more.
“The city is trying to get back to community events,” Ramler says. Chris and Laura Patrick will also host wine tastings, cooking classes, farm dinners, and more at Curio to encourage the community to share their passion for food and wine.
Look out for Curio, opening at 129 Historic Town Square in early 2024.