Famed Dallas Chef’s Oak Lawn Restaurant Elevates the Homey Feel

Matt McCallister's Homewood Defies Convention With Tireless Prep

BY // 07.01.19
photography Reed Kenney

It’s not uncommon for a restaurateur to aspire to make diners feel as though they are guests in someone’s home — a vibe often attempted through cozy, residential design or a menu of hearty, comforting plates. Homewood, the relatively still new Oak Lawn restaurant founded by chef Matt McCallister and Michael Barnett, does not employ these platitudes.

That is, unless your idea of home is a chic wood-paneled dining room on an organic Napa Valley farm, where dishes such as embered Monterey squid are prepared by a particularly rugged James Beard Award-nominated chef.

Still, upon setting foot in the space — designed by Austin firm Design Hound — it’s obvious that McCallister and Barnett have captured an elevated feeling of home perfectly. The first suggestion of this is the kitchen, where on an early Wednesday afternoon, hours before the restaurant opens for dinner, there are no fewer than eight culinary staff members, including McCallister, hard at work.

Considering everything on the menu is made by hand in-house, from the emmer gemelli pasta to the oak-smoked Hereford pork loin, this round-the-clock behind-the-scenes work is standard fare.

As we sidestep busy prep stations, a proud Barnett points out details such as the outdoor raised garden beds, which McCallister built and will tend himself; the barrel of three-year aged hot sauce they are currently serving with raw oysters; and even the staff lockers.

Barnett, who until Homewood, had never worked in a restaurant, let alone co-owned one, has an infectious passion for food and for Homewood’s farm-to-table concept, something he enjoys sharing with guests every evening while serving their meals.

“I love being around the kitchen and then being able to take our food out to the tables and visit,” he says.

Chef Matt McCallister (Photo by Reed Kenney)
Chef Matt McCallister (Photo by Reed Kenney)

It’s this love of food that led Barnett — a former attorney and executive with his family’s banking business — to dine solo one night about five years ago while his wife as at book club. He snagged a seat at McCallister’s acclaimed Dallas Design District restaurant FT33, which closed last summer.

“Matt came by and we ended up talking for probably 45 minutes to an hour. We exchanged numbers and kind of became food friends,” McCallister says. “Well, we’re friends — but 95 percent of what we talk about is food.”

Years later, McCallister approached Barnett about opening a restaurant together, and they decided to go all in. Homewood is a personal passion project for both, and for McCallister, it’s a chance to do the innovative, locally sourced cuisine he was known for at FT33, but for a broader audience.

While McCallister helms the kitchen each night during dinner service, guests are likely to be served by either Barnett or his wife, Jessica Barnett.

“We love being here, and we love serving people — seeing them happy and smiling,” Barnett says. If ever a sentiment captured the true meaning of hospitality, that has to be it.

“Both our team and the people coming through our doors are just having a lot of fun being here. That’s hopefully the best barometer that we’re doing it right.”

Homewood, 4002 Oak Lawn Avenue, 214.434.1244, 

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