Stampede 66, Stephan Pyles’ homage to all things brash, vigorous, and myth-laced about Texas, closed on Saturday, CultureMap reported yesterday. The over-the-top restaurant, anchoring a building’s ground floor near Uptown’s El Fenix, was famous for Texas haute cuisine.
Ensconced in the bold Texan décor, like a lodge with rawhide and leather armchairs, you found deviled eggs decorated with candied jalapeños and trout roe, popovers with smoked cheddar espuma, fried green tomatoes, and fine-dining takes on fried chicken. It was also home to the brilliantly layered Heaven and Hell cake, the union of angel food, devil’s food, and peanut butter mousse.
The restaurant group, Stephan Pyles Concepts, may in some ways be as famous for its closures. In the past three years, we mourned when the short-lived San Salvaje shuttered. Two years ago, I wrote about the Heaven and Hell cake’s brief existence in limbo as the eponymous restaurant Stephan Pyles closed and the iconic dessert migrated to Stampede 66 while Flora Street Café, Pyles fine-dining gem in the Arts District, simultaneously readied to open. (These closures were often maddeningly matched with bests—best new restaurant for San Salvaje shortly after it opened.)
As one of the founding fathers of Southwest cuisine, Pyles is of Dean Fearing’s ilk. Fearing’s vast remodel last year focused on the modern. They needed more lounging areas, more avenues for the casual diner, Juliana Kerschen of design firm Johnson Studio told me at the time. (The firm had been responsible for original design 10 years prior.) Even the iconic has to reinvent itself—”freshen it up and make sure it was up to date,” as Kerschen put it—and make way for new impulses.
Meanwhile, from a dining perspective, it feels like we’re in the throes of something—a landslide of shifting ground that began with the closing of Matt McCallister’s FT33. (The restaurant closed in May, after also hitting its six-year mark.) The last few weeks have seen a handful of radical changes as Anastacia Quinones left The Cedars Social and Graham Dodds parted ways with the Statler.
The fault lines are unsettling in the higher echelons of restaurateurs and chefs. But it’s also a question of urbanism. Pyles is between an event Las Vegas and the Hawaii Food and Wine festival. In a written statement, Pyles writes, “While we love Uptown and Downtown Dallas, this particular part of Uptown is saturated, surrounded by vacant real estate, constant construction lane closures and neighboring high rise construction that has made it harder and harder for doing business.” He acknowledges the growing pains of an expanding city. The restaurant group announces it will be “relocating Stephan’s ‘love letter to Texas’ to the new Delta Hotels by Marriott Dallas Allen & Watters Creek Convention Center this January 2019.” These are the moves we’re seeing increasingly in response to the pressures of the restaurant business in a city where the lure of the suburbs has never been stronger.
Meanwhile, there is Flora Street Café—in many ways, Pyles’ movement towards the modern in a way that feels imminently relevant.
Though that is not where to look for the angel-devil decadence. If you need it in the meantime, hunt down the recipe in Saveur, where it was immortalized in 2009.