A few intrepid spots have opened in what used to be the wasteland-food desert of the downtown area near the Arts District, where the main places to grab a bite during the working week involved underground steakhouses, fine-dining fare, or maybe a burger snagged from the ground floor of First Baptist Church, and the closest thing to a bodega was 7-Eleven. Recent development brought combination options in new buildings. Two established spots have touched down with refreshing, downtown takes. Here’s a peek.
Royal Blue Grocery
Royal Blue Grocery’s third location in Dallas recently opened in the Trammell Crow Center on the corner of Ross and Harwood Streets. A little smaller than both the Highland Park Village and Main Street locations, the new spot retains the same upscale bodega or corner store feel, just a scaled back version. Where the other two locations focus on having sundries like luxury laundry products by The Laundress, the Ross location is geared toward more grab-and-go options.
Entering the store from Ross, the coffee and wine bar greet you on the left, along with a deli case of sandwiches waiting to be plucked up and pressed into a warm panini. If you don’t have the time or inclination for a pressed sandwich, the circular display case in front of the coffee bar has plenty of ready-made options, including sandwiches and tubs of tuna salad or hummus. Slices of Cake Bar cake and mini jars of keto-friendly cheesecake can be found by the deli case, along with sushi, poke, and individual quiches.
There’s ample seating as part of the newly remodeled Trammell Crow Center. If it’s too chilly to sit outside, a door past the refrigerated drinks cases leads to an airy indoor seating area.
Unlike the other two locations, there is no fresh produce aside berries, so it’s not the ideal place to swing by to pick up forgotten items for a full meal. Don’t expect to stop in and grab a steak for dinner: there’s no meat counter either. But there’s a nice sized beer and wine selection, perfect for grabbing a bottle of wine on your way home.
People stop in during the morning rush for a flat white and a Tacodeli breakfast taco, a mid-afternoon snack or pick-me-up, or a glass of wine to unwind after work. Sadly, the Ross location doesn’t have Azucar ice cream scooped from behind the counter, like the Highland Park Village location, but if you need a frozen treat, there are pints and JOY Macaron Ice Cream sandwiches in the freezer case. — N.B.
I went to Italy for the first time today when I stepped inside the new CiboDivino Marketplace downtown. Owner Daniele Puleo and his wife Christina opened the first CiboDivino in 2015 in Sylvan Thirty, the shopping center in West Dallas. Like the original location, the one in Bryan Tower, called Centro, specializes in Italian provisions, with food ranging from counter-order pizza to prepared dishes made with ingredients imported from Italy.
The original location is as charming as I imagine Italy would be, with its gargantuan golden-tile imported wood-fired pizza oven, packages of fancy Italian pastas with names I butchered, and tiramisu in the glass pastry case. The patio wraps around the building with twinkle lights dancing above for ambiance.
The downtown location has, predictably, a more grab-and-go vibe, ideal for downtown denizens seeking a quick and convenient lunch spot. High ceilings and huge windows let light fill the entire shop. It was buzzing and slightly overwhelming when I went during a recent lunchtime rush. (Rookie mistake, I know.) Near the entrance, there’s a cozy coffee bar and white, circular tables for seating.
As I made my way through the masses of people, I passed large communal tables occupied by men and women dressed in professional wear. I meandered between the lines queued for house-made entrées with signs above them reading “PASTA” and “CHEF’S TABLE.” Toward the back, a case holds prepared salads and other foods in case the lines for the hot food are too long. I couldn’t help but notice the fancy wine selection in the a U-shaped rack, many imported from Italy. There is a vibrant green patio outfitted in red furniture that added a nice pop of color against the modern structure of Centro. I guess CiboDivino might be as close to Italy as I’ll get, till I get there. — A.A.
Note: Royal Blue Grocery is open until 10 p.m., CiboDivino Centro until 7 p.m.