Cry Wolf—the adventurous, acclaimed East Dallas restaurant that bucked Dallas’ blingy trends—has closed. The restaurant served its last dinner on October 8, then took an unannounced one-week break before making the closure permanent today.
The closure comes at an especially bad time because Cry Wolf was, by all accounts, serving the best food of its tenure. Chef-owner Ross Demers had fortified his staff with additions like chef de cuisine Mike Stites (formerly of Carte Blanche), Colin Younce (ex-Petra and the Beast), and pastry chef Diana Zamora. This summer and fall, I heard nothing but great things from friends and restaurant industry leaders. One of my favorite chefs told me Cry Wolf was the best restaurant in the city.
Demers, perhaps surprisingly, disagreed. “Since we opened that place—this is going to sound crazy—I was never happy with it. I wouldn’t call it a perfectionist thing because I don’t think I am one.”
I had a reservation booked for Tuesday, October 10; Resy texted my dining companion that afternoon to say that the restaurant “will be unable to open for dinner.” Guests the rest of the week were less fortunate: the restaurant’s Resy account continued accepting bookings, and Google Maps shows multiple reviews from customers who kept their appointments and found the doors locked and lights off.
That Friday, East Dallas neighbors were alerted to the unusual situation when Dallas police cars surrounded the restaurant. A DPD public information officer told D that a “call for service” took place, and “the preliminary investigation determined no offense occurred.” No further details were available. Demers says an employee absconded with the device he uses to log in to Resy and he couldn’t reach the company.
On Wednesday, October 11, the day after my canceled dinner, I drove over and peeked in the windows. One of Cry Wolf’s employees saw me and came out to talk. (I’m not naming them because it wasn’t meant to be an interview.) They told me they were incredibly proud of the work the restaurant was doing, and that they couldn’t imagine having a similar amount of creative freedom anywhere else in Dallas.
Demers says that he has good memories of some aspects of Cry Wolf, but that running the restaurant was wearing him to the bone.
“I had the coolest regulars that would come in two times a week, the best people, the neighborhood. But even that location—there are so many factors that just ate at me. There were so many factors that affected my mental status.” Perhaps most fatally, he felt Cry Wolf was becoming too much like its competition, not enough a rebel against Dallas’ culinary status quo.
“I tried something different to do it my own way, I didn’t want to be like every other restaurant in town. That’s why I never posted any pictures of food.” But Demers is also self-aware about his shortcomings. “First of all, I don’t particularly care for people, so what the hell was I doing putting in a small concept with an open kitchen, people sitting on barstools next to me while I’m expediting? It drove me nuts when people sat next to me. I’ve never once called myself a chef. I’ve always considered myself a cook. Chefs always hold themselves to better people management, better behavior, things of that nature.”
The point made by Demers and his employee about the difference between Cry Wolf and other restaurants in town is an important one. Creative, chefs-doing-what-they-want restaurants in Dallas are under siege from copy-and-pasted luxury concepts and chains. Blame whatever forces you want—customers who want more comfort foods, real estate investors looking for safe tenants so they can flip properties, food bloggers and media obsessed with shiny new things—but Cry Wolf was one of a rare species. East Dallas has a track record of supporting more creative restaurants that don’t fit neatly into a “concept”: Mot Hai Ba, Petra and the Beast, Rye, and relative newcomers Cry Wolf and Quarter Acre. I hope this closure doesn’t portend bad news for the others.
In the meantime, we’ll wait to see what’s next from the culinary crew. Only one of those chefs, Zamora, has clear future plans. She left Cry Wolf in early September, and her forthcoming brick-and-mortar bakery, Nena Postreria, is under construction in East Dallas.
Demers says he plans to take time off to relax, learn from Cry Wolf, and find his path forward. “As a chef you have to rebuild yourself constantly. I’m just going to take a break and figure it out.”
Bethany Erickson contributed to this story. This article was updated at 10:30 a.m. with additional commentary from Demers.