3 Dallas chefs offer exciting pop-ups with one-of-a-kind experiences

The coronavirus is the worst but Dallas’ restaurant world hasn’t 86’d yet. Instead, we’re witnessing a proliferation of alternative pop-ups, ghost kitchens, chef projects, and all-around creative experimentation.

Here are three new chef offerings, plus a bonus wine event:

Carte Blanche
This unique pop-up dinner series is from husband-and-wife team Casey & Amy La Rue, who’ve worked in some serious restaurants across the U.S., including Michelin-starred Daniel, Per Se, and Joel Robuchon.

The couple moved to Dallas in 2019 with an eye towards opening a restaurant, and began doing dinners in August. The events are now weekly, every Saturday. Despite little word of mouth, they’ve all sold out. “We’re thinking about doing them now on Fridays, too,” Casey says.

It’s like a 4-star “floating restaurant,” and it features a high-end tasting menu experience focused on native Texas ingredients, prepared in a modern way. Dinner runs anywhere from 9 to 13 courses, paired with matching high-end wines served in fine crystal Riedel glasses. Pricing is $135 for dinner or $175 with wine pairing. You can book a seat at Exploretock.com.

One cool angle that LaRue takes is that he doesn’t serve beef. “My main courses are smaller animals, like duck, pork, or quail,” he says. “Smaller is better for the environment, and you can get beef anywhere.”

The meal also includes a full dessert program which, like the rest of the meal, reflects fruits and other ingredients in season. They recently acquired a melanger, a tool to grind chocolate. “We’re grinding the cocoa beans ourselves for our chocolate program,” he says.

You can find glorious photos and menus on his Instagram page. The menu at one recent event included fried green tomato with Dungeness crab, chicken Ballotine, smoked hamachi with ratatouille, and 21-day dry-aged duck, plus a dessert trio that included s’mores, Thai tea creme caramel, and Meyer lemon chiffon with lemongrass cremeux and citrus sorbet.

The location varies, although it is often at another restaurant.

“We thought we might have a restaurant open by now, but the way things are happening, this turned out to be for the best,” Casey says.

The Grape Ape
New delivery & pick-up service offering frosé and Italian eats is from Julian Barsotti and Glen Collins, who had such success with their similar concept Ritas & Queso.

Now their focus is on Italian cuisine. Three kits include:

  • Standard Kit for $65 with Frosé, Vino Tinto, or Chianti Classico Riserva plus antipasto and garlic bread
  • Baked Ziti Kit for $105 which starts with the Standard Kit then adds Baked Ziti alla Vodka with Meatballs and a Caesar Salad
  • 200-Layer Lasagna Kit for $120, which includes the Standard Kit plus 200-Layer Lasagna and Caesar Salad

Call 469-724-1787 or order at grapeapedfw.com.

Burrito Jamz
New venture from chef Nick Badovinus is located at Vantina, which is itself a pop-up at his Greenville Avenue restaurant Desert Racer. And it’s only available on Tuesday nights from 4-10 pm. So, a one-night one-off at a pop-up.

Basically, it’s like burrito night, but this is Nick Badovinus, so it’s called Burrito Jamz ’03, because Nick would not be caught dead using a pedestrian phrase such as Burrito Night.  Come on people, get a grip.

There are two styles of burritos:

  • Poke Style ‘Ritos. These have sushi rice, seaweed, slaw, avocado, cucumber, pico, corn, and dynamite sauce. Options include ahi & shrimp, fried shrimp, or BBQ blackened fish.
  • Mission Style ‘Ritos. These come with Mexican rice, charro beans, slaw, avocado, pico and lime crema. Options include pork shoulder Adobada, Ropa Vieja, Ese Pollo, Bacon Cheeseburger, or Taco Salad.

The burritos are served in 12-inch La Nortena flour tortillas, and are $14. You can eat them there or take them to go.

The rest of the week, it’s Vantina’s menu of ceviche, poke, burgers, tacos with seafood and smoked meats, and soft-serve ice cream.

Bullion To-Go
There’s no chef involved in this new series of virtual wine tastings being hosted by downtown Dallas restaurant Bullion. Instead it’s all about the sommelier, as Bullion: To-Go’s team of Certified Sommeliers Andrew Schawel and Julie Braunstein do an event via YouTube live stream every other Thursday, featuring four wines, each with a theme such as regional exploration, grape varietals, or food pairings.

The sessions are $85 and include four tasting glasses of wine delivered to your doorstep.

The next tasting, Renegade Winemakers, explores winemakers who adventure outside of the traditional styles and methods of their regions, and takes place September 11.