The last time we saw Graham Dodds in the kitchen was at Overeasy, the diner inside the Statler Hotel. Starting in late spring, he’ll be housed in a Victorian artifact on Zang Boulevard, a century-old home that will revere its history by opening under the name The Mayor’s House.
“There was a mayor of Oak Cliff, back in the ‘30s,” Dodds says, filling me in on the history that captivated him and convinced him to take on the job in the neighborhood where he opened farm-to-table Bolsa a decade ago and also lives. “[The mayor] and his wife didn’t have kids, so they left it to their housekeeper. [The current landlord] Jim Lake saved it. It was kind of a passion project. He put a lot of money into fixing it up. Which is really nice for us.”
By the new condominiums that have cropped up in the changing Bishop Arts District, the house has unmistakable charm that will be preserved.
“When you go in, there’s a great, big fireplace that spans two rooms,” Dodds says. The team, which includes Dodds’ partners, who own several restaurants in California and New York, is trying to source a 1930s-era bar to complement the vintage locale. The menu will be American brasserie à la Graham Dodds. He’s been developing recipes for fondue and fried pies as well as pulled whole-duck tacos wrapped in tortillas with pickled onions—a riff on a dish he ate at Cosme in New York on recent R&D trips. He hopes to have a stellar fish and chips that will pay homage to his British background.
The 120-seat restaurant will feature separate dining rooms, a wrap-around patio, and an upstairs balcony. Meanwhile, true to its Victorian skeleton, the kitchen remains small, despite a build-out that’s still in progress.
“I just can’t pass up this space,” Dodds told himself—though he’d vowed not to do another restaurant with that number of seats. But, “there’s this soul to it,” he says. “I’ve always driven by it and wondered what was going to happen to it.” Now he knows.
In many ways, this reminds me of the love affair that Nick Badovinus had with the old Magnolia Oil/KLIF building downtown, which sparked his momentum in developing ideas for what will become National Anthem, opening later this year. Even—and perhaps especially—in this changing city, established chefs can become enamored of spaces that hold a piece of time.
The Mayor’s House, which Dodds anticipates will serve brunch, lunch, and dinner, will likely open in May or June of this year.