Attention Dallas foodies: Bowery – an upscale hot dog restaurant on McKinney Avenue – is opening its doors to the public today. The restaurant’s menu includes a host of American classics, such as an upscale Korn Dog and a spicy Chili Kicker, with a number of global renditions as well, such as a Royal Wagyu Dog and a Banh-Mi Dog. These savory handheld edibles will come partnered with a menu of beer and champagne cocktails, including a Basil Shandy and a Champagne Sangria.
Richard and Tiffanee Ellman of Oak and John Paul Valverde of CampO Modern Country Bistro worked together to create Bowery’s unique, refined dog concept. The trio of restaurateurs talked with TEXAS MONTHLY about morphing a classic fast food into upscale cuisine, the Dallas’ culinary scene, and the story behind their new restaurant’s name.
I feel like I’ve recently seen a lot of Texas restaurants opening up that focus on sourcing one specific dish. With that said, where did the idea for hot dogs come from?
Richard Ellman: It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a long time. We wanted to target the simplicity of doing one core item and doing it very well. So, at its core, Bowery is about the hot dog. We really love hot dogs, but haven’t been able to find a great place to get gourmet, high-quality hot dogs, so we knew there was an opening in the marketplace… Before we thought of opening Bowery, my wife and I were constantly going to the store to get quality sausage, but there weren’t a lot of options to choose from. We did some research to find some out there, but there just wasn’t anything like we imagined or hoped for. I always think the best ideas come from knowing that if you really want something and you can’t get it, then you are probably not the only person that wants that item.
Explain the culinary inspiration for the menu. From what I understand there are a lot of global culinary influences in your dogs.
John Paul Valverde: When we sat down and talked about the concept, I started envisioning all the different combinations we could do. We threw out some ideas and critiqued each other here and there. We wanted to keep the inspiration behind the classic dog that people know and expect, like the Chicago Dog, but we wanted to showcase our backgrounds and what we expect from food we get when we go out. In this case, we started talking about doing the classics that people expected like our Korn Dog with grits and cornmeal, but also having these more adventurous dogs like the Croque Madame with Paris ham, béchamel sauce, swiss cheese, and a fried egg. The menu is crazy-unique, and people will know they aren’t just eating something like a corn dog they would normally throw ketchup, hot sauce, and mustard on top of.
Richard Ellman: I want to add to that. This is something that we tried to do at our restaurant Oak, which is bring global elements into the mix. As John Paul said, there are dogs on our menu that we feel represent different cultures. We have a Banh-Mi dog that is Asian-influenced; we have an Italian dog; we have a dog that has Mexican influences. We wanted to push the boundaries a little bit on getting a global component on our menu and expanding the reach that people are used to when it comes to their hot dogs.
Is there a specific reason you guys chose the name Bowery for the restaurant?
Richard Ellman: Bowery, according to some people, is the first place hot dogs were commercially sold in the United States. It’s in New York. German immigrants came in there and were selling hot dogs off of street carts. The hot dogs were essentially bratwurst and sauerkraut dogs, and that led us to thinking about the history and tradition behind the hot dog in America. To my mind, it hasn’t maintained that place in society and culture as an essential part of the restaurant world. That’s why we wanted to elevate it back to its historical level.
John Paul Valverde: When we chose the name Bowery, we decided to design the restaurant to fit the name. Bowery is in an old residential structure that has turned commercial, so it’s in an actual house. We went with an old wood look so we would have some grit in there. We didn’t want a clean modern version of it. We wanted something more traditional, so in this case we did some vertical wood that goes from the floor to the ceiling. We also did some custom lights that run from one entry to the middle of the dining room, and it’s all steel. It reminds me of the rail system in New York. It’s dark. It’s gritty. But at the same time, it feels like you are in Bowery as soon as you walk in. Everything is a little darker than you would expect going into a restaurant like this.
What are each of your favorite dogs on the menu?
Tiffanee Ellman: I have to go with the Moroccan. It’s got some great ground lamb, plus Richard and I got engaged in Morocco, so I’m rather attached to it. It’s a very sophisticated dog.
Richard Ellman: My favorite is called the Overstuffed Dutchman. It’s got a whole bunch of ingredients and is packed full of flavor. The baguette is hollowed out, and all these different ingredients like bacon bits, chives, cheese, and the dog – of course – are all shoved into there. It’s an interesting take on something we’ve seen in other parts of the world, primarily in Europe.
John Paul Valverde: I have a few favorites. One of mine has to be the Croque Madame, only because when we developed I wanted to make sure we used classic ingredients, and that’s what we’ve stuck with in the end. Plus the presentation is gorgeous. The Korn Dog is phenomenal, too.
I feel like the Texas culinary scene as a whole has evolved tremendously. How have you seen Dallas’ culinary scene change in recent years?
John Paul Valverde: I think the beauty of Dallas is that a lot of credit is starting to be given to the customer, and they are now willing to try more than just steak. People are embracing certain foods, as opposed to being afraid of them. You see it at places like Underbelly in Houston and even in Austin. It’s sort of envious when you go to places in New York that have the menu items you do, and the restaurants are completely full all the time and there is no need to have chicken or steak on the menu at all. The exciting part of it for me is seeing people come in and embrace what’s on the menu.
- 1 week