Wednesday, May 29, 2024 May 29, 2024
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After Sunday’s Storm, Dallas Restaurants Battle No Power, Others Serve Huge Crowds

The 70 mph winds brought forth a wide range of challenges for the city's restaurants.

People came in to work on Monday haggard. It took a full hour for one colleague to drive in from East Dallas, east of White Rock Lake, where trees had suffered and bustling intersections had turned into four-way stops.

They came in with horror stories. On the patio at Gung Ho, servers struggled to tether a shade umbrella’s flailing sails as trees whipped around them like clothes in a wash cycle. “Oooooooh, my ga-wd,” says an observer in a cellphone video Catherine Downes recorded of the event, while a few doors down, the rooftop deck of HG Sply was reduced to flotsam and jetsam.

It is like watching a tropical storm. (And, indeed, that is exactly what representatives from Oncor were quoted as saying by the Dallas Morning News and NBC News.) The storm, which left hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses without power, was brief, but violent.

The ripple effects for restaurateurs have been complex. GuideLive reported on the immediate aftermath on Monday. Two days later, the implications are even clearer.

Misti Norris of Petra and the Beast says she lost power immediately, evoking the specter of what it means for a small business that runs on a shoestring. “We were in the middle of our lunch service, and as soon as the storm started, power went out. Luckily, our guests are super cool. A sous went and picked up dry ice immediately. We put everything in one cooler. So it wasn’t bad. Being small, too, we order what we need. We never sit on too much,” Norris says, “and we preserve so much.”

When several restaurants exist under one restaurateur, it mitigated the repercussions—an ebb and flow, give and take. Julian Barsotti’s restaurant Fachini lost power, as did many businesses in Highland Park Village. Meanwhile, business at Carbone’s was booming Sunday and Monday, as diners sought havens from darkened kitchens, and his other restaurants, Nonna and Sprezza, both experienced larger-than-usual crowds. And while Barsotti says he is still assessing the loss of inventory, he was able to transfer a significant portion to the kitchen at Nonna. The same was true for Stephan Courseau, who moved inventory from the power-deprived Up on Knox to his other restaurant, Le Bilboquet, just a few blocks away.

Business surged at José on Lovers Lane, where, owner Brady Wood comments wryly, “margarita intake was commensurate with wind speed.” His private club Park House in Highland Park Village lost power and remained shuttered until today.

Next door to Carbone’s, at TJs Seafood on Oak Lawn,  Jon Alexis says his business had “the busiest 48 in our history,” noting, “It’s famine … or feast!”

“We did Friday night numbers on a Monday night,” he elaborates. “I have been the restaurant with no power for several days. We just so happened, for whatever reason, the northeast corner of Preston and Royal had power, while others were out as of even this morning. You realize being a neighborhood restaurant is more than just being the hot restaurant in town. Everyone has been in our restaurant,” which was kept open after hours. “Our vendors don’t have power. Our staff, some of them don’t have power. We staffed for a [quiet] Sunday night. And we couldn’t even call our servers to ask them to come in,” as cellphones languished, uncharged.

Down the street, Matt McCallister says of Homewood, “We did not lose power. We were actually insanely busy Sunday, since people wanted to go out and get out of their homes.” They had 105 walk-ins on the patio, which usually accommodates 40-50 walk-ins a night. The kitchen didn’t run out of anything, but the specter of inventory looms large for those who lost power. “Restaurants run on super-tight margins,” McCallister empathizes.

And it’s costly when places have lost high-value items, like fish flown in daily from Tsukiji market. (Tei-An, to whom I reached out, is closed Sunday and Monday.)

Other businesses have a highly sensitive inventory: ice cream and cheeses. Botolino Gelato did not lose power on Lowest Greenville, and Azucar in Bishop had power restored soon enough that it didn’t affect business. Baldo’s near Southern Methodist University lost power on Sunday, and when power hadn’t returned Monday morning, its owners made the decision to rent a freezer truck. This is also what saved the Al Biernat’s location on Oak Lawn, where refrigerated trucks and a generator allowed the business to avoid the otherwise $300,000 in product loss (though not the $20,000 a day in revenue) estimated by Director of Operations Brad Fuller. Both locations of Scardello cheese lost power, and manager Lance Lynn offers a glimpse of how perilously close to the brink the shop came, saying, “had it gone on for a few [more] hours, we would’ve lost everything.” Emporium Pies rented a refrigerated truck and used their refrigerated mobile truck to stockpile inventory.

Meanwhile, some restaurants and hotels that stayed open were actively engaged in welcoming those hit hardest. The Adolphus, being at 50 percent vacancy, offered 30 rooms for residents of the Elan City Lights apartment complex, which was involved in Sunday’s crane collapse that caused one death and multiple injuries in Deep Ellum. They also offered a discounted neighbor rate for those without power. “City Hall [Bistro] and In-Room Dining were hit very hard with unexpected volume,” says Nik Katz, the general manager of food and beverage. “While we did not have enough staff to accommodate the large influx of guests … the sense of community was palpable and that is what it’s all about.”

Donny Sirisavath at Khao Noodle, a place full of heart, says he lost power “only for a brief moment. There were strong winds that messed up our signage.” They had a roof leak, he continues. “A tree fell over from the high winds, and there were kittens inside that we went to save.”

Editor’s note: a previous version of this article inaccurately stated the estimated loss of revenue at Al Biernat’s as $300,000 per day, as opposed to over the two-day period.