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How Dee Lincoln Entered Dallas’ Steakhouse Market On Her Own Terms

With charisma and grit, the restaurateur went from a small-town Louisiana girl to a major player in the male-dominated Texas steakhouse business.
| |Photography courtesy of Kathy Tran and Dee Lincoln
Southern Hospitality: Dee Lincoln has solidified her reputation as the “Queen of Steaks” with her latest venture, Dee Lincoln Prime, at The Star in Frisco.

Dallas has a long tradition of over-the-top steakhouses. And Dee Lincoln Prime at The Star in Frisco is no exception. The vast dining room boasts a luxe aesthetic reminiscent of old Hollywood, featuring ornate slatted ceilings, dark wood tones, and gold accents. Banquettes covered in shimmery silver fabric and booths with crushed black velvet add glamour, while a grand glass-enclosed wine library greets visitors with more than 2,000 bottles of fine wine.

The restaurant serves fresh seafood, sushi, a premium Japanese beef program, and prime cuts of steak—including The Cowboy Way, a 35-ounce dry-aged prime tomahawk. And founder Dee Lincoln didn’t earn her famous nickname, “The Queen of Steaks,” by being timid or demure.

The woman behind the famous Del Frisco’s brand is a firecracker who blazed a trail in the male-dominated steakhouse business. Among her numerous accolades is being named the Texas Restaurant Association’s Restaurateur of the Year and earning Restaurant & Institutions magazine’s Ivy Award. 

Still, Lincoln says her biggest achievement isn’t an award, the sale of Del Frisco’s for a reported $23 million to a national restaurant chain, or building her personal brand during a 40-year career. Instead, Lincoln says giving birth to her daughter, Bella, in 2000 is what she is most proud of.

“It’s not all fine wine and chandeliers,” says the battle-tested 64-year-old restaurateur. “You don’t get to where I am without a few bumps in the road along the way. But like the old Sinatra song, ‘I’ve found when my chin is on the ground, I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.’”

Lincoln was born in New Orleans and raised in Des Allemands, Louisiana, to a blue-collar family. Her father worked for a drilling company for 30 years and her mother ran local lounges and a club for The Royal Sonesta New Orleans hotel. 

Lincoln credits her work ethic to her father, who modeled determination and discipline by performing backbreaking work in the oil fields of eastern Louisiana. Her tenacious spirit, Lincoln says, is the product of growing up with four brothers. “I wasn’t treated any differently because I was a girl,” she says. “My dad always reminded me not to limit myself, and I grew up fostering this unwavering can-do attitude about everything I did.”

When her parents divorced, a teenage Lincoln moved to the New Orleans suburb of Gretna with her mother. That’s where her love of dining flourished. “The Big Easy is known for its fabulous food,” Lincoln says. “I’ve always had a passion for cooking, good food, and big flavors. Growing up in Louisiana, everything is tied to food and wine. It brings people together.”

Without the financial means to attend college after high school, Lincoln found a job with an offshore marinetime company. At 22, she married George Lincoln, who ran a tugboat business. She eventually found her way into hospitality, where her personality was tailor-made for the front of the house. “What I love most about restaurants is that they are a lot like a family,” Lincoln says.

Then, tragedy struck. In 1988, just eight years into her marriage, Lincoln’s husband was killed in a car accident. She says she relied on her close-knit family and extended restaurant family to continue forward. Looking back, she says her most significant career opportunity came out of this tragedy.

In the early 1980s, Lincoln met her future business partner, Dale Wamstad, in Louisiana. At the time, he was looking to expand a Kansas City steakhouse into New Orleans. In 1989, Lincoln moved to Dallas to open a pair of Del Frisco’s Steakhouses with Wamstad. She oversaw the restaurant’s Belt Line Road venue as part of the business arrangement, while he led the Lemmon Avenue location. Both locations were successful, grossing total revenue of more than $3.5 million each. By 1993, the partners decided to co-found the iconic Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse on Spring Valley Road.

“Those early Del Frisco days were a lot of fun,” Lincoln recalls. “I look at how it all came together, with the two of us co-founding this beautiful, independent, freestanding steakhouse. We had people coming in from all over the country—Los Angeles, Chicago, and even New York—to dine with us. That’s when we really got on the map.”

The next two years, Lincoln says, were financially robust, so much so that it attracted the attention of Jamie Coulter and Wichita-based Lone Star Steakhouses, which was looking to expand its national footprint. After an ownership buyout in 1995, Lincoln stayed on with the company as vice president of operations of Lone Star, while Wamstad left to pursue other ventures.

Coulter was her mentor from 1995 until he died in 2022, Lincoln says. “What I always admired about Jamie was that he worked his way up in the industry,” she says. “He was a very hands-on leader. He grew Lone Star from eight locations to almost 400 at its heyday.” 

Together, the duo opened steakhouses in four national markets over the next dozen years. A highlight was Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse’s debut in New York. Opening in 2000, the buildout of the three-story, 16,000-square-foot location overlooking Rockefeller Center cost more than $15 million.

“New York is another level,” Lincoln says. “We were competing against some of the titans of the industry at the time.” The brazen Texan proved she meant business; New York City is where she famously received her iconic nickname as “Queen of Steaks,” being so dubbed by the late co-owner of Sparks Steakhouse, Pat Cetta.

In 2009, Lincoln developed a wine bar concept for a space on the silver suite-level of the new AT&T Stadium, which offers bubbles by the glass and fine wines on tap. She went on to parlay her decades-long relationship with the Jones family, which began in her early Del Frisco days, into the current Dee Lincoln Prime location at The Star in Frisco. “Every single steakhouse in the country was jockeying to be part of The Star,” Lincoln says. But Lincoln had a fan in Dallas Cowboys owner, president, and general manager, Jerry Jones.

“When we were conceptualizing The Star in Frisco, we thought we could build a ‘star within The Star’ with Dee,” he says. “With her pure tenacity, enthusiastic spirit, and relentless work ethic—there are few like her. What she has built has been a complete honor to witness and work alongside her all these years as a treasured friend and trusted business partner.” The venue on Winning Drive is on track to surpass $14 million in revenue this year, with alcohol sales surpassing $500,000 in the month of May alone. But complacency and success don’t work for Lincoln. In 2020, she successfully petitioned two Frisco mayors and the city council for approval to add Havana Dee’s, a 50-seat speakeasy lounge that allows cigar smoking, to her eponymous restaurant.

Lincoln admits there have been hiccups along the way: She founded Lincoln Steak & Burger Bar in 2013; it shuttered within two years. (“It was too casual to be called a steakhouse and too pricey to be a burger joint,” she recalls.) A short-lived wine and champagne bar concept at The Crescent in Uptown debuted in 2010 in the space that is now Tipsy Alchemist.

But the Dee Lincoln brand marches on. Lincoln is proud that her daughter, now 22, is pursuing a career in hospitality. Lincoln also developed a Napa Valley private label partnership and entered the highly contested tequila sector. She also is conceptualizing a high-end, private-label bourbon venture and a possible expansion of a second location of Dee Lincoln Prime. “Next, I need to make a really outstanding bourbon,” she says. “We’re seeking out partnerships that make sense for our brand, and we’re fighting off newer competition to stay relevant with our customers. 

“That’s exactly what gets me excited and keeps me getting out of bed each morning,” Lincoln adds. “Heck, I hope I’ll be doing this well into my 80s.”