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Restaurants & Bars

The Thompson’s Newest Restaurant Makes a Warm First Impression

Little Daisy blends a well-appointed French sidewalk cafe look (on the ninth floor) with a menu that features New Orleans touches and a terrific salad.
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A wall of plates at Little Daisy, on the ninth floor of The Thompson. Brian Reinhart

It sounds like an “only in Dallas” joke. A new restaurant opens with a look and menu inspired by Parisian sidewalk cafes—on the ninth floor of a high-rise. Go on, get the jokes out of the way. It’s because a Dallas cafe would smell like exhaust fumes. It’s because Dallas doesn’t have sidewalks. Yes, yes, very funny.

Once you’ve had a laugh, know this: Little Daisy makes a very good first impression.

Little Daisy is the name of the corner brasserie with the ninth-floor perch. It’s in the Thompson Hotel, which is also home to hot spots Monarch and Catbird. Punch the number nine in your elevator and follow the signage—which, cutely, is surrounded by real daisies in vases. Around the corner, you’ll behold a visual landscape that only a new-money American city can provide. In the middle of this high-up hotel hallway, with its elegant mid-century modern trimmings, the eye comes upon a glass wall straight out of a European shopping arcade, hand-painted with promises of lunch and wines.

Usually it would be faint praise to say that a restaurant’s look is its best feature, but Little Daisy really looks lovely. The wallpapered ceiling (hand-painted by Meredith Stringfellow), mirrored walls, and generous artwork—including modern and art nouveau prints, still lifes, vintage advertisements for European liquors, and a wall of French plates—all contribute to the dining room’s feel. Art has been chosen with care; a great deal of it puts you in the mind not necessarily of Picasso but of artists who were inspired by Picasso. (He, by the way, spent nearly a year in Paris as a young student.) Each table comes with a couple more daisies, a literal, endearing commitment to the theme.

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The artwork in the entry to Little Daisy at the Thompson. Brian Reinhart

The dining room’s look—sophisticated but comfortable, cultured but relaxing—is mirrored in food that aims for those same adjectives. Jeramie Robison, the Thompson’s culinary director, has long been one of Dallas’ more underrated chefs. He worked for John Tesar at The Mansion, spent years as an executive chef at Uchi Austin and Uchi Dallas, then led the overlooked but charming Adolphus restaurant City Hall Bistro. (Sadly, City Hall is brunch-only these days, and it dropped Robison’s Mediterranean offerings.)

Robison is from Louisiana, so the Thompson’s leadership let him blur the lines between “French” and “French Quarter.” Gumbo and a muffuletta sit naturally alongside onion soup and salade niçoise. Anybody who’s been to New Orleans knows these cuisines belong together.

Robison’s gumbo is a family recipe, and it’s a maximalist version with multiple meats, bright flecks of diced pepper, fluffy Jazzmen brand rice, and a showering of scallions. The gumbo itself isn’t quite as velvety-smooth as some can be, and compensates with an extra hit of seasoning. (I’m trying to describe the bowl neutrally because everybody who loves gumbo loves it a certain way.)

My favorite dish at a casual lunch in Little Daisy’s first week, though, was kale salad. (I know. I didn’t expect to say that either.) Robison’s team cuts lacinato kale into strips and sautées it, then tosses it with raw greens for a mix of fresh and cooked. Then they add all sort of goodies: English peas, pickled onion slivers, thick-cut bacon chunks, an egg poached with turmeric that turns it bright yellow, maple-mustard vinaigrette, and an abundance of mustard seeds. This, too, is a maximalist take, an all-in salad that knows how satisfying greens can be when they’re presented with contrasting flavors, textures, and techniques.

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Sautéed kale, raw greens, bacon, peas, pickled onions, and a turmeric-poached egg make for a lively salad at Little Daisy. Brian Reinhart

We were less excited by the Hemingway burger. (Ernest Hemingway lived in Paris for a little more than six years. What dishes or drinks will they name after Bud Powell and Josephine Baker?) The description is intriguing—India relish rouille, Camembert—and the cooks leave a nice streak of pink in the middle, but flavors of the fancy toppings seem to cancel each other out into a nice, normal burger. I am not worried. We visited on just the third day, and Little Daisy is keen to make improvements.

The dinner menu offers more flair—seafood towers and more bountiful desserts—which makes this a nice middle-class option in the Thompson, between Monarch’s high-dollar panache and the ground floor’s Chick-fil-A. Dinner looks versatile and able to meet any hunger level, from $19 ratatouille to, on Saturdays only, a $102 showpiece beef Wellington. Little Daisy happily joins a growing class of downtown Dallas restaurants that can be dressed up for date night, or suitable if you just want to relax at the bar. That class includes the newly resurrected Mirador (more on that in our May issue), Fond, The Mitchell, and CBD Provisions.

I’ll admit to being skeptical before walking in, because Little Daisy seems to have one concept too many. Besides the French feel and New Orleans touches, the drinks program goes a bridge further: its signature cocktail is a $23 margarita. You know, that famous French drink.

But, after enjoying our first bite so much, the margarita thing feels more like a funny quirk. The Thompson Hotel needed a good, comfortable all-day restaurant, one you can visit without postponing your car payment, and now it has one. Pity about the sidewalk thing, but if Little Daisy is able to build on the promise its food and atmosphere showed in the first week, it will be able to take a joke.

Little Daisy, 205 N. Akard St., ninth floor

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.

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