Restaurants / Openings

Popular Dallas Restaurants React to Being Able to Open Texas Dining Rooms at 25 Percent Capacity

TJ's Seafood and Asian Mint Will Continue Takeout Only Focus, While Some Open For Normal Business Hours

BY // 04.28.20

The big announcement came Monday afternoon from Governor Greg Abbott: starting Friday, May 1, Texas restaurants will be allowed to reopen their dining rooms at 25 percent capacity.

Several concepts in Trinity Groves, including AvoEatery and Kate Weiser Chocolate, plan to open at 25-percent capacity, along with Front Burner restaurants such as Ida Claire, Whiskey Cake, and Sixty Vines. Curious to learn how more Dallas restaurants are planning to do business this Friday, we reached out to a few of our favorite local spots to learn more about their plans for May 1.

TJs Seafood
Courtesy of TJ’s Seafood

“We’ll keep operating the way we’re currently operating,” TJ’s Seafood Market & Grill and Malibu Poke owner Jon Alexis tells PaperCity. “We’re still open for takeout. We’ve got this down now.” Alexis believes that, for restaurants with more seating capacity, opening at 25-percent capacity might be beneficial for their business, but with only 120 seats at Preston Royal and 24 seats at Oak Lawn, it doesn’t make sense for TJ’s.

“We’re not going to rush to figure it out by Friday,” he says. “Maybe 50-percent capacity makes a little more sense, but restaurants are hard enough at 100 percent capacity.” Alexis is also prioritizing safety over cash flow at the moment.

“I’m not serving food until I’m sure I’m not going to hurt you,” he says. “The fact that [the government is] too scared to start with 50 percent should tell you a lot.

“I hope that two weeks from now all my buddies with restaurants that opened look at me like ‘you fool. But I don’t want to be talking to friends that had an outbreak and now their brand is ruined forever.”

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Alexis says that they are looking to hold multi-course wine dinners with smaller groups at the Royal location once they can control things better within the dining room. Outdoor patios could be another option, with more space to spread out tables and to-go containers to avoid contamination. But for right now, Alexis says that they’ve put a lot of thought into their new takeout process, which includes a whole new plating technique for the to-go box. Personally, I’ve ordered a crab cake entree to-go and can tell you this: it’s impressive.

“I’m optimistic for this,” he says about opening dining room again. “But I don’t want to half-ass it.”

Asian Mint Cooking Kits dining rooms
Asian Mint is now offering Chef Mint at Home cooking kits. (Courtesy)

Nikky Phinyawatana of Asian Mint tells PaperCity that she will not be reopening any of her four dining rooms (three in Dallas, one in Richardson) this weekend. “I’m excited,” Phinyawatana says when I asked her about phase one. “It’s a good step forward. It gives us a roadmap to let us figure it out. My concern is that I want to make sure we get it right.”

For Phinyawatana, taking care of staff and guests is top priority. “I have faith that each restaurant will do the right thing,” she says. As for sticking to takeout, Phinyawatana says that they just spent six weeks getting staff up to speed on everything and getting into a groove with that.

“It depends on the size of the restaurant,” Phinyawatana says of opening dining rooms. “We don’t have large spaces to abide by the six-feet rule. It’s not feasible.” The average seating of her four Asian Mint locations is about 50 to 60 people. “I didn’t even think about it,” she adds. Her only question was: “Is this safe to make happen in three days?”

But in the meantime, Asian Mint has been ramping up their Chef Mint at Home kits, which has pivoted to become a subscription service after customers consistently ordered fried rice, pad Thai, noodles, and more to cook at home.

“It’s so fun,” says Phinyawatana. “Takeout food is great, but how awesome is it to cook these meals at home? The heat, char, and smokey flavor feed your soul.”

When asked if she’d reconsider opening at 50 percent capacity, Phinyawatana responds: “My business doesn’t lead through numbers, but how ready we are as a team. Right now, we’re meeting every day and as a big group weekly.

“If everyone just continues to be careful, I think we’ll be OK. I think Dallas has done a great job as a whole,” the restauranteur says.

Miriam Cocina Dallas
Dallas restauranteur Shannon Wynne and Miriam Jimenez opened Miriam Cocina Latina in 2019.

Dallas restauranteur and owner of Miriam Cocina Latina, Rodeo Goat, Meddlesome Moth, Flying Fish, and Flying Saucer locations, Shannon Wynne plans to open up all of his restaurants this Friday. Although, being in the high-risk age category (Wynne is 68), he doesn’t personally plan on going out.

However,  Wynne says that if a new spike occurs, his restaurants will close their doors again.

And as for the economic impact of only allowing a capacity of 25 percent, Wynne explains, “It’s going to cost more to serve customers even at 50 percent.” Then why do it? Wynne believes it’s a learning process.

“I’m pretty sure the numbers aren’t going to work, but we have to learn about human nature with limited availability,” he says. To help keep things safe within his dining rooms, Wynne says that they’ll be pushing tables together to ensure the required six-feet distance and will have staff stationed at the front door to be mindful of capacity. Patios at spots such as Rodeo Goat and Flying Saucer will also help diners maintain a social distance.  “I want our employees to be safe. We have all the PPE we need and cleaning policies in place,” he adds.

Wynne hopes people stay smart, especially when customers have had a margarita or two. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he says. “But people have to do what’s best for themselves while maintaining directives of scientists.”

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