Front Burner restaurant group is changing the Plano food scene.
Jack Gibbons at Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar
Randy DeWitt at Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar
Ida Claire restaurant
Sit down to lunch with Front Burner restaurant group’s founder and CEO, Randy DeWitt, and president Jack Gibbons, and conversation flipflops between tales of recent food-inspired travel, the optimal height of a comfortable barstool, and growing fresh greens inside shipping containers.
DeWitt and Gibbons, who are best known for Plano restaurant Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar and Dallas hot spot Velvet Taco, are far from your pretentious foodies — but they know their stuff.
Recent globetrotting has brought them from Napa to France, Russia to Aspen, all in the name of research for their next big concept. And while the Plano-based company currently operates nine concepts, with 15 restaurants in Texas and others in Chicago and Oklahoma, they aren’t slowing down.
This particular lunch date takes place at Sixty Vines in Plano, perhaps one of DeWitt and Gibbons’ most popular eateries, with a second location set to open in the former Palomino location at The Crescent this fall. Today, top of mind to discuss is the debut of Legacy Hall and Haywire, which also open this fall at Legacy West Plano.
We sit at a tall-top table, with a perfect view of the open kitchen, massive wood-fire pizza oven, and the star of the show: a bar with 40 varieties of vino on tap. (No other restaurant in the country offers as many.) Glasses of wine are ordered — a pinot noir that DeWitt and Gibbons helped craft with the aid of a winemaker who splits his time between California and South America.
Sixty Vines is known for its elevated American fare, and we order up tapioca-dusted crispy zucchini with Peppadew and shishito peppers, red beet and sweet pea-mint hummus, fig and prosciutto pizza, and a divine whey-brined bone-in chop drizzled with sage brown butter. For a moment, I’m no longer in Plano but in a chic, white-walled Wine Country kitchen.
DeWitt scrolls through renderings of Legacy Hall on his iPad. The idea of an upscale food hall isn’t new — Chicago French Market, Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, and Eataly in New York have been garnering buzz for years. But for Dallas, this is a first.
Legacy Hall, which I imagine will feel a bit like a Texas-y Harrod’s Food Hall, will boast stalls from top chefs including John Tesar and Gilbert Garza in a 55,000-square-foot space that includes indoor and patio seating, a beer garden, live-music venue, and a craft brewery, dubbed Unlawful Assembly Brewing Co.
Also on site are shipping containers utilized as full-service bars and growing sites for fresh produce. No doubt Haywire, the group’s standalone restaurant at Legacy West, with a focus on local ingredients, will source certain fixings from those cleverly re-imagined storage units.
DeWitt and Gibbons have created quite the empire — one that is rooted in a surprisingly simple idea. The two gents are dads. They live in Plano with their families. As guys who appreciate top-notch food — and who have highly cultivated palates — they didn’t want to constantly drive south to restaurants in Dallas proper.
Instead, they created their own eateries that appeal to the family-centric North Texas culture, without sacrificing inventive and superb food presented in chic, well-designed spaces.
After lunch, Gibbons takes me on a tour of the wine cellar, which is really more of a vault. I’m walked through three climate-controlled rooms adjoined by massive doors — each carefully chilled appropriately for reds, whites, and beer and Champagne. It’s a complex system of wine storage that was meticulously created for Sixty Vines.
As we leave, I pause at a crate filled with wine tags (you can bottle your favorite tapped variety). They’re stamped with one-liners: “Because I don’t do shots;” “Because I need courage to dance;” “Because Tinder isn’t working out.”
It’s then that I realize DeWitt and Gibbons’ key to success: Attention to detail. Impeccable branding. Love of food. And, an easygoing sense of humor.