Gemma's duck frites are a stunner on the new menu. (Courtesy)
Husband-and-wife team Stephen Rogers and Allison Yoder opened Gemma in 2013. (Courtesy)
After 10 years, Gemma is about to renovate and get a whole new look. (Courtesy)
When reopened later this month, Gemma will feature more comfort dishes in a neighborhood bistro-style space. (Courtesy)
The Shrimp Ceviche is a new menu item at Gemma. (Courtesy)
Gemma's famous Rabbit Pappardelle will, of course, remain on menu. (Courtesy of Gemma)
The new menu will include a chopped salad as well. (Courtesy)
Mediterranean spot Sachet debuted at The Shops of Highland Park in 2017. (Courtesy)
In 2013, husband-and-wife restaurateur team Stephen Rogers and Allison Yoder debuted their first restaurant, Gemma, along Henderson Avenue. The charming California-inspired bistro was a near-instant success, making “best of” lists across the city, but Gemma has gone on to do the impossible in Dallas — it’s maintained that allure. The same can be said for Sachet, the duo’s second concept, which opened in 2017 in the Shops of Highland Park. (Gemma currently sits at number 8 on D Magazine‘s list of the 50 Best Restaurants in Dallas, while Sachet occupies the 20th spot. Reservations for both still require plenty of forward thinking.)
Just ahead of Gemma’s 10th anniversary this December, the California-inspired bistro will close for a week for renovations and updates to its thoughtful menu. But before we get into the details, we caught up with Rogers and Yoder to reflect on the past decade and rediscover how their popular Dallas spots came about.
Rogers and Yoder met when they both worked in Philadelphia as classical musicians. He played piano, she sang opera. They both worked part-time jobs in restaurants and spent summers performing in Italy, where they spent the majority of their weekends dining at local spots. But soon the grind of working gig to gig, which included a seven-year tenure in New York City, began to wear on the couple and they moved to Miami to follow a somewhat more stable passion — restaurants.
“You have to want to live this life,” Rogers tells PaperCity. “Neither of us are 9 to 5 people.”
“We went to Miami to learn,” Yoder adds.
The goal was to open their own place one day. They both worked as managers at different restaurants until Rogers found himself wanting to cook more. After two years in Miami, the couple then moved to Napa Valley and found jobs at PRESS Restaurant. “I was an accidental chef,” says Rogers, who ended up taking over as head chef for a temporary stint.
“I agreed to be a bandaid until they found a new chef,” he laughs. But then, San Francisco’s restaurant critic Michael Bauer came into the restaurant one night while Rogers was in charge and gave PRESS a stunning three-star review. The restaurant gave him the head chef job, permanently.
It wasn’t until the couple had two twin boys that they decided they might need more flexible jobs. After seven years in Napa, they decided to move to Rogers’ hometown of Dallas (he’s originally from the Park Cities). They opened Gemma as a seasonal, Napa-inspired bistro on Henderson Avenue after touring many locations. Rogers is the chef and Yoder runs the front-of-house and bar program.
After 10 years, Gemma remains a favorite amongst Dallasites for its fresh pasta and seafood. But beginning September 10, the local spot will close for renovations, and reopen with an entirely new look on September 20.
The intimate, 50-seat interior of Gemma is getting new floors, paint, and so much more. “We thought: what do we want to open in this day and age?” says Yoder.
Apart from redoing the interior space themselves (with the help of a friend), the new menu will soon feature a burger (a first for Gemma), along with duck frites, chopped salad, steak frites, scallops, and shrimp ceviche.
Of course, Gemma’s famous rabbit pappardelle and complimentary biscuits will remain intact, as will the spirit of the cozy bistro, whose top-notch hospitality has always matched the quality of the food.
The timing couldn’t be better as Gemma’s strip of Henderson Avenue is currently getting a facelift. This summer, a big development by Acadia Realty Trust broke ground on the section of the street that once housed Henderson Tap House.