True Kitchen + Kocktails in downtown Dallas opens with ‘elevated comfort food’
Much of the work on True Kitchen + Kocktails in downtown Dallas took place during the pandemic: construction, menu development, hiring and opening.
“As crazy as it sounds, it was great to open during a pandemic,” says owner Kevin Kelley. “We had to be the best we can as a company. We have taken security measures that would not have been taken before COVID-19. “
Owner Kevin Kelley, left, with General Manager Rico Spears, opened True Kitchen + Kocktails in downtown Dallas on August 21, 2020. “I hope this inspires other minority groups or women entrepreneurs that they can [open a restaurant]too, “says Kelley.(Ben Torres / Special Contributor)
The restaurant opened on August 21, 2020 on Elm Street in Dallas. Kelley describes it as a restaurant with “high comfort”. Menu items include shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, ruck lamb chops, and fried chicken. Sides are candied yams, mac and cheese, and cabbage vegetables.
Kelley opened the restaurant “because I like home-cooked food,” he says. “It’s one of my favorite things, but I don’t like where I have to travel to get comfortable food.”
He announced the soon-to-be-released restaurant on June 19 and said in a statement: “Not only is black life important, black business is also important.” Since opening the restaurant, Kelley has wanted to be an “open door” to entrepreneurs seeking advice on opening a business in downtown Dallas.
“I hope this inspires other minority or entrepreneurial women to do it too,” he says.
True Kitchen shrimp and grits + cocktails (Ben Torres / Special Contributor)Watermelon Rose from True Kitchen + Kocktails is served with flair.(Ben Torres / Special Contributor)
Kelley owns the building and the law firm above the restaurant. He decided to convert the 5,000 square meter space into a comfort restaurant in late 2019 and then didn’t hesitate when the pandemic hit.
While many restaurants experienced significant lost revenue in the spring of 2020, Kelley points out that opening a restaurant in the middle of the pandemic does not present that problem.
“We served zero people two months ago,” he emphasizes.
However, the restaurant experience will look and feel different than what he once expected. Customers step on a carpet that disinfects their feet before entering the restaurant. All customers also have their temperatures checked. A special wand is used on the tables to kill germs.
“COVID-19 is a challenge, but most things in business are challenges,” says Kelley. “And that is a challenge that we have accepted.”
The focus is on the True Kitchen + Kocktails bar.(Ben Torres / Special Contributor)
The restaurant has three bars, including one on the mezzanine, which can be used for private parties. (Currently there is room for 15 people instead of the 30 people envisaged, as the restaurant is 50% busy.) Kelley hopes that the restaurant will be comfortable with its seven TVs and seats, but also elevated with its ace wall of Spades Champagne, Kelley’s favorite.
Strawberry Jalapeño Margarita from True Kitchen + Kocktails(Ben Torres / Special Contributor)
Kelley enjoys the True Flame, a rum cocktail inspired by a trip to Colombia. The drink is delivered to the table and then set on fire.
“It’s fun,” he says. “It’s a great presentation and a great show.”
The restaurant can currently only be reserved on weekends. Walk-ins are welcome on weekdays.
True Kitchen + Kocktails is located on 1933 Elm St. in Dallas. Open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner.
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Text from Jay-Z and Kanye West’s hip-hop track “Otis” hangs over the lounge area of True Kitchen + Kocktails in Dallas.(Ben Torres / Special Contributor)