After 14 years running Italian restaurants in Dallas, chef Julian Barsotti (Nonna, Carbone’s, Sprezza, and Fachini) is changing it up with a new Tex-Mex concept this fall. Partnering with Michael Barnett (co-founder of Homewood), the two are hoping to create one of the best quality and atmospheric, hacienda-style restaurants in the city. Currently under construction at the former Cafe Express location on Lovers Lane, Odelay will be a massive 50,000-square-foot space serving old-school Tex-Mex and fulfilling wanderlust.
“We know Dallas has so many Tex-Mex places, but we thought: how can we add value?” Barsotti tells PaperCity. “We want to have classic dishes and an environment like a ‘captured space’ — one that makes you feel like you’re on vacation.”
Dallas’ Lovers Lane is an area that both Barsotti and Barnett are familiar with. “We have more confidence in knowing our customer,” says Barsotti. “My daughter’s first restaurant meal was at Rafa’s [across the street].”
The idea of opening a Tex-Mex spot came organically, Barsotti says, even before he launched his hit delivery-only concept in the pandemic. “Ritas and Queso was just confirmation of how well the concept worked,” he says. At Odelay, the focus will be on the greatest hits of Dallas Tex-Mex: enchiladas, fajitas, and tacos. Ingredients will be top tier with proteins ground in-house from Rosewood Ranches and A Bar N Ranch. Snapper and shrimp will come from the Gulf area. They also plan to use a true charcoal live-fire grill. Flour tortillas will be made in-house with the ability to view the process through a glass window. “As a kid, I loved being able to see the tortillas being made at restaurants,” Barnett adds.
Sergio Pinto (currently at Fachini) is coming on board to manage Odelay, and he’s already well experienced in the Tex-Mex world — his family owns Dallas-based Ojedas. “He is a great guy and couldn’t be a better fit for the job,” says Barnett. “He blends perfectly — being part of a family that has deep roots in Tex-Mex cuisine, while also having a standard of excellence when it comes to hospitality,” Barnett says.
The bar program will have an emphasis on tequila, with a menu created by master sommelier Sergio Quijano. “We’ll have smaller, older tequila distilleries. The entry-level tequila will be Arette,” Barsotti says. “We want to be thoughtful, but not pretentious.” And that goes for the entire vibe of the restaurant. Kid-friendly and affordable, Odelay strives to be the kind of place you gather as a family. “I want to take my own kids here each week,” Barnett adds.
Designed by Liz Johnson of Wallace Johnson Studio, Odelay’s interiors will feature a U-shaped bar, a private dining space, and a raised-floor area with more seating. But the highlight of the restaurant may be the sprawling outdoor patio (100-plus seats) with an arched wall that will separate the space from the parking lot. It’ll also feature Mexican pendants, string lights, and desert landscaping. Overall, there will be a bit of a Palm Springs-inspired, mid-century theme, Barsotti says.
As for the term, “odelay,” which translates roughly to “what’s up,” Barsotti says it’s a message of enthusiasm. It also happens to be the title of a ’90s-era Beck album — the restaurant will feature music from the decade. “It’s all about the energy and excitement,” says Barsotti.
Odelay plans to open in April 2022 at 5600 W. Lovers Lane, Suite 109.