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Marcus Paslay Shares the Inspiration Behind His New Concept, Walloon’s

The chef and restaurateur says new American seafood grill in Fort Worth takes its name from a popular vacation spot in Michigan frequented by Ernest Hemingway.
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The head of From Scratch Hospitality and the mind behind Fort Worth favorites Clay Pigeon, Piattello, and Provender Hall, Chef Marcus Paslay is readying a new venue in The 701, a historic revitalization project in the city’s Near Southside district.

“My team and I started brainstorming what would fit the neighborhood and the space, and we came up with a seafood-focused, American grill concept,” Paslay says. “I’m pretty excited about it.”

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Marcus Paslay

Called Walloon’s, Paslay says the new concept promises an extensive, Hemingway-inspired cocktail menu alongside classic seafood dishes. “We’re going to have a raw bar with oysters, shrimp cocktail, and all the traditional raw bar-type menu items,” Paslay says. “We’ll also have a bistro or Brasserie-style menu with different fish dishes, steak frites, and sandwiches.” He notes that French undertones will run throughout the concept.

Paslay was first contacted by Arlington-based Dodson Development, the developer behind The 701, who was seeking a fixture restaurant for the historic space. “We needed a really cool restaurateur to come in and kick off the project,” says Alex Bryant, president of brokerage and commercial services at Dodson. “We called Marcus, and initially he was a little reticent to come down to Near Southside, but, man, we really wanted him.”

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The 701 project in Fort Worth's Near Southside will house VLK Architects as its lead tenant and Walloon's as it's fixture restaurant.

Bryant adds that as the project progressed and Paslay was able to better visualize the space, his hesitation dissipated, and both parties became certain the concept would be an exceptional fit. “We always had been looking at that area of town over there on Near Southside for the past few years, and just hadn’t found the right fit,” Paslay says. “When that spot came about, we went over there, took a look, and just fell in love with the space.”

The property was originally built as a bank in the 1920s, and it still houses the original vault. “We’re going to keep that and turn it into a lounge area, which is going to be a lot of fun,” Paslay says. Bryant notes it also has the original Terrazzo flooring and “old tin ceilings” as well.

At 4,000 square feet, the concept will seat roughly 100 and feature a large bar at its center, surrounded by what Paslay calls “eclectic décor.” “The space is on a corner, so you’ve got these windows that go down both sides both on Magnolia Avenue and Hemphill Street,” he says. “We’ll be able to put some nice booths and banquettes along those windows, with little bistro curtains—kind of a nice warm and cozy feel.”

The design reflects the inspiration for the concept’s name as well, which is drawn from both a group of Belgians that live on the border of France, but are not French-speaking, and Walloon Lake in northern Michigan. “My family and I have spent some time there, and that’s where Ernest Hemingway used to go and summer and do some writing,” Paslay says.

Construction has not yet begun, but Paslay forecasts Walloon’s opening for early summer 2023. “It’s consistent with the way we create restaurants: We find a space in a neighborhood we like and we want to be in and then develop the concept around it,” he says.

As he works on Walloon’s, Paslay has a few other irons in the fire, too. “That would include both Fort Worth and outside of Fort Worth,” he says of the new restaurants he plans to open. He didn’t share any conceptual details, but if all goes well, he says, a couple could open in the next two years. “Beyond that, there’s sort of a five-year plan,” he says. All will be different than anything he’s done before. “For now, Walloon’s is the only thing that’s official.”

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Kelsey Vanderschoot

Kelsey Vanderschoot

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Kelsey J. Vanderschoot came to Dallas by way of Napa, Los Angeles, and Madrid, Spain. A former teacher, she joined…

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