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DENTON County NOVEMBER/ DECEMBER 2020 $5.95

FOOD & HOLIDAYS GIFTS FOR EVERYONE ON YOUR LIST

HOLIDAY DECORATING TIPS FROM THE PROS

Plus Survivors! Nine local eateries that take the cake for surviving the pandemic

GIVING HOPE TO THE HOMELESS You can eat this check... and everything else you see here. It’s all icing and cake!


May your holiday season be filled with warmth and generosity.

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NOVEMBER/ DECEMBER

DENTON County

Volume 3, Issue 6

FE ATURES

21 44

The Survivors

Restaurants and dining establishments that beat 2020

Enjoy the Season!

Holiday decor, gifts and a family adventure

COU NT Y LINE

What defines our county today

9 Messina Hof Wine

Seven generations of expertise

10 Quakertown

Deck the halls with our holiday decorating tips

44

History worth remembering

14 Nonprofit Spotlight

Giving Hope of Denton County

IN E V E RY ISSU E 8 About This Issue

Photo by Sam Davis, courtesy Denton County Christmas Lights

On the cover: Haley Popp of Hive Bakery created this remarkable custom cake for our cover. Learn more in our Survivors feature.

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A BOUT THIS ISSUE

Goodbye, 2020!

W

hat a long, strange year it’s been! As we wrap up our last issue of 2020, we pay tribute to the restaurants, bakeries, food halls and breweries that have found ways to make it through this difficult period. The dining and food service industries have been hit harder than most by the pandemic, and the locally owned businesses that we’re highlighting in this issue adapted with creative, safe new policies and approaches. Turn to page 21 to learn more about the restaurants and businesses that are still standing despite the hardships of the year, and the next time your stomach rumbles, consider paying one of them a visit or calling for curbside pickup. It is also, of course, the holiday season. (And a happy one to you and your family!) In past years, we’ve given you a run-down of all the festive activities happening in Denton County. But in 2020, as you know, things change fast. As we put this issue together in October, we didn’t want to risk giving you inaccurate information, so we are, instead, bringing you some tips to turn your own home into a personal holiday wonderland with decor and lights. And we know you’ll still be looking for presents to put under the tree, so we scoured Denton County for COVID-safe shopping experiences. You’ll find our gift guide on page 44. In the true spirit of the season, we’re also spotlighting Giving Hope of Denton County, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the homeless. In other news, after helping to start this magazine in July of 2018 and editing it ever since, I (Kimberly Turner) am passing the reins on to the publication’s next editor after this issue. New editor Annette Fuller has spent more than 30 years reporting and editing at major daily newspapers across the country as well as in Asia and Africa. She has wonderful ideas for the magazine in 2021 and will continue bringing you fascinating, engaging Denton County stories that you’ll love. I’m excited to read her work, and you should be too! If you haven’t already, please visit dentoncountymagazine. com to get this magazine delivered to your home six times a year for just $25. As always, we welcome story ideas, photo submissions and feedback of all kinds. Email us at editor@dentoncountymagazine.com.

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D E N T O N CO U N T Y N OV E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 02 0

PUBLISHER Bill Patterson

EDITOR Kimberly Turner

S A L E S M A N AG E R Shawn Reneau

EXECUTIVE EDITOR Sean McCrory

ACCO U N T EXECUTIVES Becci Hendrix Joanne Horst Danielle Thompson Shelly Vannatta

DESIGN DI RECTOR Ben Carpenter

MAILING ADDRESS 3555 Duchess Drive Denton, Texas 76205 EDITORIAL 940-566-6879 A DV E R T I S I N G INQUIRIES 940-566-6843 C R E AT I V E PA R T N E R madison/miles media

CO N T R I B U T I N G W R I T E R S Kristy Alpert, Abigail Boatwright, Jessica DeLeón, Mary Dunklin, Nicole Foster, Annette Nevins, Rachel Hedstrom, Ellen Ritscher Sackett, Leslie J. Thompson, Kimberly Turner CO N T R I B U T I N G PHOTOGRAPH ER Abigail Boatwright PROOFREADER Wendy Angel

SUBSCRIPTIONS Subscribe to Denton County magazine for $25/year. Subscribe online at DentonCountyMagazine.com or mail a check or visit us at 3555 Duchess Drive, Denton, Texas 76205. For subscription questions, call 940-387-3811. S T O RY I D E A S editor@dentoncountymagazine.com LETTERS TO TH E EDITOR Write to editor@dentoncountymagazine.com. Please include your full name, city and phone number. Denton County magazine reserves the right to edit for length and clarity. L I K E U S FAC E B O O K Facebook.com/DentonCountyMagazine FIND US ONLINE DentonCountyMagazine.com

© Copyright 2020: Denton County magazine is published by Denton Media Company, publishers of the Denton Record-Chronicle. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part of any text, photograph or illustration without written permission from the publisher is strictly prohibited. Editorial content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the publisher.


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What defines our county today

INSIDE: u Remembering the history of Quakertown u Giving Hope to those in need u Pouring a glass of Texas wine

COUNTY LINE TEXAS WINE

UNM ASKED After years disguised by personalized labels, the Bonarrigo family finally brings its Italian winemaking heritage to your holiday table under its own name. BY KRISTY ALPERT

Y Photos courtesy of Messina Hof

ou may have enjoyed Messina Hof’s offerings without even knowing it. The label may have depicted an anniversary logo, a smiling family, a corporate thank you or even a private love letter, thanks to Messina Hof’s popular personalized labeling program. But it is this family-owned winery’s own label that will appear on holiday tables this year — a proud stamp of the family’s winemaking heritage. A Proud Heritage The Bonarrigo family has been making wine for seven generations, beginning in Messina, Sicily, more than 200 years ago and taking root in Texas in 1977. The Bonarrigo family has produced award-winning Texas appellation wines, including more than 90 of their own labels from more than 30 grape varieties. But it’s the winery’s two new Italian vintages, grown in Texas, that will be the first to bear the family’s name on the label. “Everything in an Italian household revolves around the family and being able to experience food, wine and fellowship together, especially around the holidays,” says Karen Bonarrigo, co-owner of Messina Hof Winery. “With this new label, the Bonarrigo Family was able to further embrace our heritage and honor

the heart and passion that generations of Bonarrigos have poured into the home, the kitchen and the art of winemaking.” Feels Like Christmas The collection’s 2019 Heritage Select is a refreshing dry white made from 83% Pinot Grigio and 17% Trebbiano. It provides a perfect pairing for antipasti, lemon risotto or even roasted turkey with its crisp citrus flavors and bright acidity. The 2018 Heritage Reserve is a dry red blend of 55% Sagrantino, 30% Primitivo and 15% Sangiovese. It pairs well with Bolognese sauces, roasted lamb and slowroasted prime rib to bring out the wine’s dark fruit flavors and elegant complexity. “With the variety of dishes served at a traditional [holiday] feast, it’s important to have both a red and white wine that can pair with a variety of flavors,” Bonarrigo adds. “As people who spend our days immersed in wine, we still think there is something special about gifting a fine bottle of wine. For us, enjoying [wine] together can make it truly feel like Christmas.” Visit messinahof.com for more gift ideas.

The Bonarrigo family’s own creation

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COUNT Y LINE TIME MACHINE

Remembering

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Denton County’s original African-American community is gone but should not be forgotten. BY NICOLE FOSTER

oward the end of the 1800s, an African-American community was built within Denton. Quakertown — named after the Quakers who assisted slaves along the Underground Railroad — thrived for nearly 40 years before it was dismantled and forgotten.

A Booming Community The flourishing working- and middle-class enclave of almost 60 families had paved streets, electricity, phone lines, well-tended gardens, stylishly dressed

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citizens and automobiles. Businesses and organizations included Ford Crawford’s general store (located where the Emily Fowler Library parking lot is today), Joe Skinner’s shoe shop, Alice (Joe’s wife) Skinner’s daycare, Henry Maddox’s boarding house, plus cafés, restaurants, tailors, barbershops, churches, a grocery store, funeral home, confectionary, drug store and a doctor’s office where Dr. Edwin D. Moten practiced. The Frederick Douglass School was chartered in 1878 but was burned down under suspicious circumstances in 1913.

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Those who didn’t work within the neighborhood offered their talents and credentials outside Quakertown’s borders, contributing to Denton as nurses, gardeners, stable workers and janitors. According to the Denton County Office of History and Culture, researcher Letitia DeBurgos wrote that most Quakertown residents owned their homes, cultivated vegetable gardens and raised livestock. “Hunger was not known. The churches were a strong influence on the citizens, and there was very little crime.”

Photo courtesy of Denton Public Library via The Portal to Texas History

Quakertown


BUSINESS PROFILE

S

Advertising

Classic of Denton

ince 2004, Classic of Denton’s goal has been to make the vehicle buying experience second to none with prices and service that can’t be beaten. Classic Chrysler, Jeep, dodge, Ram and Mazda’s virtual dealership offers a wide variety of new and used cars, incentives, service specials and savings on parts. What’s more, Classic if family owned and operated. For the customer and the Denton-area community, that means you can still walk in the front door and shake General Manager Rick Wick’s hand or meet owner Richard Allen. Both live in the area, with Richard living in Argyle and Rick having settled in Denton. Rick boasts that he makes himself accessible as much as he can and even has his cell phone number on his business card. Classic is also proud of the fact that it doesn’t have a high employee turnover, which means you have a great chance of working with the same smiling faces for years to come. “I’m a people person and I love it when someone comes in and they say, ‘Hey Rick, this is my fifth car from y’all,’ “ Wick said. “Or maybe someone will walk in and says, ‘I’m bringing my wife to you for her car because of the way you’ve always taken care of us.’ “It’s also cool when you drive around and you see that Classic logo on a car driving by,” he added. “We know right then that it’s one of ours. At Classic, it’s customers, employees and then profitability.” Every year it seems Classic receives more and more awards. Classic Mazda of Denton was awarded the 2020 Dealer of the Year, the 2020 Consumer Satisfaction Award by Dealer Rater for Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and has been the Factory Authorized Mazda Gold Cup dealer since 2008. As if that weren’t enough, Classic Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram was presented with the 2019 Customer First Award for Excellence, certified by J.D. Power. And Classic of Denton is the only Jerry Reynolds “Car-Pro” Authorized Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram and Mazda Dealer in North Texas.

board games to the Gonzalez School for Young Children in Denton. Classic also adopted 134 people, to include mothers and children from Adopt-a-Family, through Friends of the Family in Denton, an organization that assists mothers and children who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Classic of Denton’s giving campaign didn’t stop there. It adopted 19 children along with supplying arts and crafts and kitchenware through Cumberland Presbyterian Children’s Home, which offers healing and hope to vulnerable children, teens and families. More donations included sheets, gift cards, backpacks and hoodie sweatshirts to the Monsignor King Outreach Center of Denton. Their generosity also included a cash donation of $3,000 and prepaid gift cards to Our Daily Bread, which provides nutritious meals, special services and referrals for other services to those in need. The Friday before Christmas last year, all Classic managers contributed over $2,300 as a gift to the Monsignor King Outreach Center of Denton, on behalf of owner Richard Allen. Allen then matched it with his own donation of $2,300, for a total of $4,600.

Beyond the business side, year after year the folks at Classic of Denton continue to be generous benefactors, giving back to their community by partnering with organizations like Giving Hope of Denton, Serve Denton, The Wheeler House, Denton Independent School District, Cumberland Presbyterian Children’s Home of Denton and Friends of the Family.

Last but certainly not least, each year Classic of Denton participates in the Fix My Ride program with Cross Timbers Church, and in 2019 donated a 2010 Mazda3 to a family in need. Fix My Ride is an event designed to assist single parents, the unemployed and underemployed, as well as those are unable to afford minor vehicle repairs and maintenance such as wiper blades, tire rotations, headlight and taillight bulb replacement, belts batteries, starters, tune-ups and brakes.

In 2019, Classic of Denton’s Christmas Drive adopted 134 homeless children who attend DISD schools and provided 62

“It is part of our culture,” said Wick. “I expect our 2020 Christmas Drive for the community will be even bigger.”

4984 South I-35E, Denton, TX 76210 • 940-498-9800 | www.ClassicofDenton.com


Trouble Begins Though Quakertown was self-sufficient and tight-knit, trouble was looming. Just beyond the community’s border was an all-female school, the College of Industrial Arts (CIA). Its president, Francis Marion Bralley, believed the school’s proximity to a Black district would prevent it from obtaining accreditation. According to UNT alumna Chelsea Stallings, accreditation wasn’t the only concern: “He [Bralley] was aware that many parents were hesitant to send their daughters to a school that bordered a Black neighborhood.” In November 1920, Bralley began advocating for a city park to be placed exactly where Quakertown stood. The 1921 city council vote was 367 to 240 in favor of the park. Six months later, Quakertown’s residents were presented with a proposition. They could either sell their property to the city and find someplace else to live, or have their home transported to Solomon Hill, land in Southeast Denton allocated for the community. Solomon Hill had

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no paved streets, trash pickup, running water, electricity or phone lines. Sewage tainted the air. It was misery compared to the tidy neighborhood the residents had built for themselves. Klansmen from Fort Worth and other people bullied residents into moving. The city underpaid many Black citizens for their homes. One citizen, Will Hill, threatened to sue for under-compensation, but dropped the lawsuit when his family faced increased threats. Others, such as Dr. Moten, the area’s first Black physician, simply moved away (his family returned to Indiana). Unearthing History According to the Office of History and Culture, all residents had relocated by 1923, CIA was granted accreditation, and Denton began constructing its new park. Stallings wrote, “Due to its location near the college, the different branches of the power structure in Denton came together to secure the removal of what they perceived as a threat to white womanhood.”

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For more than 60 years, Quakertown was excluded from local history. It wasn’t until household items were unearthed in the 1980s that people realized Denton harbored a buried community. “Citizens had forgotten about Quakertown and its removal, yet were curious in 1989 when a cistern was discovered in Civic Center Park,” wrote Stallings. “In the years following, the story of the former community slowly came to life. The local historical society and college students conducted research, professors and librarians wrote various articles and books, and historical markers were erected by the city, county, and state.” The 32-acre Civic Center Park was renamed Quakertown Park in 2006. Those who would like to learn more about Quakertown’s history can visit the Denton County African American Museum, which is housed in an original Quakertown house that was moved to Denton County Historical Park in 2004. Another original Quakertown home, the Woods House, was moved to the historical park in 2018.

Photos courtesy of Denton Public Library via The Portal to Texas History

Above: Quakertown residents John Amus Clark and Maude Woods Clark Hembry. Top right: Photo of Ida Spikes Hill, Will Hill, Ada Hill taken at 421 Oakland Ave. Near right: Dr. Edwin D. Moten, Denton’s first Black physician. Far right: Woods Clark Hembry house, built in 1905 at 97 Terry St. and later moved to 1129 E. Hickory St. in Solomon Hill.


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COUNT Y LINE NONPROFIT SPOTLIGHT

GIVING HOPE

The Denton-based nonprofit organization that helps combat homelessness has seen the need grow during the coronavirus pandemic. BY JESSICA DELEON

The Night of Hope is Giving Hope’s largest annual fundraiser.

Attendees enjoy awards, live and silent auctions, music, dinner and more.

Executive Director Tyheshia Scott speaks at the Oakmont Country Club event.

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Yes, We’ll Help You The teacher and her family had just one week left at the hotel when she reached out to Giving Hope, Inc., a Denton-based nonprofit that helps combat homelessness. The organization taps community resources so those who are struggling can get a new place to live. The organization found a landlord who had a place for the teacher, who is now back at work. “We were able to tell her, ‘Yes, we’ll help you,’” says Tyheshia Scott, Giving Hope’s executive director since 2016. “It makes you feel you are literally giving people hope.” The nonprofit was founded in 1986 by a group of churches that saw a need to provide a resource for those in need. It operated out of its own building from 2000 to 2019 then moved to Serve Denton, which partners with nonprofits to make their services more accessible to those in need. Giving Hope’s activities include: u Street outreach to assess the needs of those experiencing homelessness in the city u Early intervention activities to prevent homelessness for those whose stability has been placed in jeopardy by a job loss, medical emergency or family conflict

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Rapid re-housing to make room in emergency shelters and prevent prolonged homelessness from leading to substance abuse, non-adherence to healthcare instructions, school absenteeism and loss of employment u Permanent supportive housing for individuals with disabilities and those who need long-term supportive services u

The Great Equalizer Before the pandemic, Giving Hope averaged 20 to 40 applications a month. Since March, they’ve received 1,600 applications. “Just like the rest of the world, we shifted with COVID,” Scott says. “I call it the great equalizer. From the very start, we saw people who never asked for assistance.” One client had made $8,000 the month before turning to Giving Hope. After COVID hit, she found herself unemployed and needed help with her rent. Giving Hope analyzes clients’ bills and needs to help get them through the next 30 to 45 days. The organization receives money through grants, as well as fundraisers such as a virtual gala in September and a golf tournament in October. Jason Stewart, the board’s president and a volunteer since 2017, helps organizes these events. “Giving Hope is the perfect name for this entity,” Stewart says. “The board is lucky to be a part of it. To hear those stories, it’s just amazing.” If you’d like to help, donate on hopeincdenton.com or help provide move-in kits with cookware to help clients settle into new homes.

Photos courtesy of Giving Hope

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ast fall, a teacher suffered a stroke in her classroom. It caused her to develop a speech impediment that prevented her from working. Meanwhile, her son found out he had a heart condition when he took a physical. She and her three children were living off their savings and coping with these hardships when her landlord decided not to renew their lease. They had to move into a hotel.


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Make an online toy donation. DentonHolidayLighhng.com


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DRC NEWS DAY. Don’t miss a single issue of your DAILY NEWS. We are STILL your 7 DAY A WEEK, local news source. Our commitment to independent, local journalism has never and will never diminish. We will continue to provide Denton County with the same quality reporting and integrity you expect. Always stay informed with our All-Access Digital subscription. Enjoy expanded local news, live updates and exclusive video content, interactive puzzles and games and have the flexibility of reading the DRC wherever life takes you!

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FINAL EDITION 3-DAY OUTLOOK | Weather, 2A

WEDNESDAY: Mostly cloudy, chance of a storm. Low 62, high 82.

THURSDAY: Mostly cloudy, chance of a storm. Low 63, high 81.

Man told police he’d kill wife upon jail release / Blotter, 2A Baker recalls Sutton’s impact after his death Sports, 16A

FRIDAY: Partly cloudy. Low 65, high 83.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020 || Denton, Texas || Vol. 116, No. 299 || DentonRC.com

Community teamed up, took music online Denton Time, 18A

20 pages, 1 section || $1.00

‘It’s like going to war’ Local nurses who aided in NYC’s COVID-19 crisis detail workplace horror By Simone Carter For the Denton Record-Chronicle

It was like a war biopic, horror flick and zombie apocalypse film all rolled into one. That’s how North Texas nurses Maybelle Anderson and Courtney Waddle described their experience bat-

plored nurses nationwide for their help. Anderson and Waddle joined thousands of others to answer the call, risking their own lives to save countless others. “It’s like going to war; you know that it’s going on, but you’re not there, so you can’t really comprehend what these people are going through unless you’ve seen it yourself,” Waddle said. “You don’t want this coming here.” After elective surgeries were deemed nonessential, Anderson and Waddle were furloughed from their

Woman’s University graduates decided to charge straight into ground zero. According to The New York Times, New York leads the country in confirmed coronavirus cases. Anderson and Waddle tried their best to ready themselves for the fight ahead. But Waddle, who lives in Argyle, said she was shocked by the chaos unfolding in the city’s hospitals.

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Nurses Courtney Waddle left and Maybelle Anderson, both graduates

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T

he dining industry has been hit even harder than most during the COVID19 pandemic, losing more than $120 billion between March and May, according to the National Restaurant Association. A study by Compass

Lexecon and the Independent Restaurant Coalition reported that 75% of dining establishments were unlikely to be profitable in the next six months, and that a shocking 85% of independent restaurants could permanently close by the end of the year without direct aid.

In a year with so much bleak news, these nine Denton County restaurants, bakeries and food halls have managed to adapt, survive and even thrive. From a business that opened at the height of the outbreak to Denton Square’s oldest restaurant, they shared their pandemic survival stories with us.

BY ABIGAIL BOATWRIGHT, JESSICA DELEĂ“N, ANNETTE NEVINS, ELLEN RITSCHER SACKETT, LESLIE THOMPSON AND KIMBERLY TURNER N OV E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 02 0 D E N T O N CO U N T Y

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1845

Taste Texas

Founded: 2020 In 5 words: Sophisticated steakhouse serving comfort food Price point: $15 to $75 COVID status: Inside dining, and patio and curbside pick-up Address: 2401 Lakeside Parkway #150, Flower Mound Online: 1845tex.com

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Spirit of Texas

The significance of the restaurant’s name isn’t lost on Texas history buffs. The year 1845 is when the Republic of Texas was annexed by the United States — or rather, as General Manager Amy Masey explains, it’s “the year Texas invited the rest of the United States to join its nation!” 1845 Taste Texas found its home in Lakeside DFW, Flower Mound’s massive mixed-use development on the north shore of Lake Grapevine that turned the low-key bedroom community into an upscale destination spot. In close proximity to DFW International Airport, 1845 Taste Texas blends the best of Dallas and Fort Worth: a lively, urbane vibe typical of Big D with the western flavor of Cowtown.

Photos courtesy of 1845 Taste Texas

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t’s one thing to run a restaurant during the pandemic — it’s quite another to open one. But that’s exactly what co-owners Marty Bryan (of Marty B’s fame in Bartonville) and Alan Mann (co-owner of Rustico) did by adding a third restaurant, 1845 Taste Texas, to the Circle Star brand. “We were in full swing, in the middle of construction, in the beginning stages of remodeling” when the spread of COVID-19 halted most business operations last March, COO Brian Gasperson remembers. “We kept building. Marty and Alan never slowed down. We never stopped once.” Renovation complete, 1845 Taste Texas officially opened its doors on June 25.

Smoked pork chop glazed with spicy plum sauce


Throughout the dining space, glamorous chandeliers and sputnik light fixtures hang overhead, casting a glamorous glow against the sophisticated backdrop of deep blues and grays and rich golds. The opulent finish-out was designed by Melissa McKean, who also fashioned 1845’s sister restaurant, Rustico. Centrally displayed on the main dining room wall is a framed State Seal of Texas with the number 1845 below. “1845 is a steakhouse … but we also want to capture some other cool elements of Texas,” Bryan explains in a video produced by Foodie Friday DFW. The music, for example, is all Texas-inspired. On any given night, the playlist may include some Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan or Leon Bridges. Hang out on the outside patio on a Thursday through Saturday night, and you’ll be sure to catch a live local band onstage performing originals or familiar covers by musicians with Texas ties.

The bar, which seats 26, features Texas-themed cocktails made with Western Son fruit-flavored vodka from Pilot Point and whiskey from Oak & Eden, based in Bridgeport. Wine connoisseurs can choose from 40 varietals and an assortment of domestic, imported and craft beers that include the popular Texas brands Lone Star, Shiner and Deep Ellum Brewing Company. Dining room designed by Melissa McKean

On the Menu

The menu is both modern and eclectic and leans heavily toward steak: a standout dish is the thick Tomahawk ribeye, which is at least 36 ounces. Smoked meats include prime rib, wings, pork sliders, salmon and a 30-ounce bone-in pork chop. Purveyors include 44 Farms beef, Compart Duroc pork and Red Bird Farms chicken. “We really focus on providing meat that’s hormone-free, antibiotic-free, [and from cattle that is] humanely raised and fed an all-natural diet,” Bryan says. “It makes a difference in the quality of the meats.” The meat is seasoned with 1845’s proprietary salt-and-pepper seasoning blend created by Bryan, a capable chef himself, and a veteran of Outback Steakhouse and Cotton Patch Cafe. What could be more Texan than calf fries or pork belly with a Dr Pepper glaze for starters? 1845 is also a great place to grab a cheeseburger, grilled salmon, good old-fashioned fried chicken or chicken fried steak. Those with lighter appetites may prefer filling their forks with a choice of shareable salads. Sides — such as mashed, baked or sweet potatoes; French sweet or truffle fries; or mac ’n’ cheese with a jalapeño kick — can easily satisfy one’s comfort-food cravings. All dishes are made from scratch. “Our goal is to provide all varieties of food and different price points to any guest within a 15- to 20-mile radius,” Gasperson says. N OV E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 02 0 D E N T O N CO U N T Y

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Blackened redfish with signature crawfish cream sauce

The 26-person bar showcases Texas-themed cocktails.

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Right now, the restaurant is open for dinner only, but lunch hours will come back after COVID-19 restrictions lift. The restaurant has taken every health precaution recommended by local, state and federal authorities. “We go above and beyond to make sure our customers are comfortable and even ask them directly what they want us to do,” Gasperson says. “That’s what matters.” All employees wear masks, and the tables and chairs are sanitized between seatings. In addition, copper door handles — which help deter the spread of COVID-19 — were installed, and weekly, Bryant sprays all three Circle Star properties, including 1845 Taste Texas, with a disinfectant after the restaurants close. “All of our booths have high backs, which helps with social distancing,” Gasperson says. “People gravitate to our outdoor space, where they can social distance easily.” No matter where they sit, Gasperson wants customers to know, “There’s a place for you at 1845.” Despite the pandemic restrictions, 1845 Taste Texas opened because of the owners’ belief that “if we offer great food and great service, we’ll be successful,” Gasperson says. “Customers have passionately supported us and the concept from the beginning,” he says. “That’s what has kept us going through COVID. We are very thankful for their support.” Masey agrees. “We have been truly blessed with the overwhelming support from our community here in the Flower Mound area,” she says. “To open a restaurant is not easy at any time, but to have the success we have had during this time is a true testament to how a community can pull and stand together through anything!” —Ellen Ritscher Sackett

Photos courtesy of 1845 Taste Texas

2020 Survival Story


E

ven when each person in your party wants something different — barbecue, fish and chips, coffee, beer — you don’t have to make multiple stops to please everyone. Head over to Roanoke, nicknamed “The Unique Food Capital of Texas,” and stop by Oak St. Food & Brew.

Photos by Abigail Boatwright

Food & Brews

You’ll find a great selection of eateries grouped in this spacious food hall, with plenty of indoor seating and patio space for outdoor dining. With backgrounds in real estate, construction and customer service, John and Irene Dancer opened Oak St. Food & Brew last year with Roanoke’s first brewery, Soul Fire Brewery. They soon added the space next door and more eateries. “We wanted an eating area that was family-friendly and reasonable — something different,” Irene Dancer says. Currently, five food vendors are located in Oak St. Food & Brew, ranging from hefty burgers and British-style fish & chips to mouth-watering barbecue, authentic Mexican tacos and loaded potato fries. The venue also includes a coffee house and, of course, a brewery. Soul Fire Brewery, owned by Aaron Bennett and James Brown, anchors the food hall, offering its own brews and other local beers as well as cocktails and a full bar. Oak St. Food & Brew hosts live music on Thursdays, and most Fridays and Saturdays you can sing karaoke.

Soul Fire Brewery anchors the space.

2020 Survival Story

Founded: September 2019 In 5 words: Craft brews, foodtruck-style cuisine Price Point: $10 to $24 COVID status: Dine-in and outdoor seating, takeout. Brewery bar has recently opened with pandemic regulations. Contact: 206 N. Oak St., Roanoke Online: oakstreetfoodandbrew.com

The coronavirus has hit the restaurant industry hard, but Oak St. has rolled with the punches. Although it lost one of its restaurants, and the bar at the brewery had to remain closed until late August 2020, the food hall has been able to accommodate social distance regulations thanks to its extensive patios and seating. “My husband and I spent two days measuring everything and making sure everything was six feet apart,” Dancer said. “So we were lucky on that account. Other than for a while, people just didn’t come out. COVID has affected us greatly. We had to adjust quite a bit.” Oak St. Food & Brew found welcome support from the city of Roanoke with loans designed for small businesses, and Dancer said the assistance was helpful in staying afloat. Even though Smiley’s Barbecue opened just weeks before the pandemic shutdown, the eatery’s perfectly prepared Central Texas-style barbecue has been featured in Texas Monthly, on HGTV and on Fox 4. Pitmaster Brendan Lamb says Smiley’s adapted during the tight shutdown, and as things are opening up, he’s feeling positive. “We started out with just running [takeout] orders outside for customers, and as soon as we got to open back up to 25% capacity, we were able to have people come inside and sit down again,” Lamb says. —Abigail Boatwright

Smiley's Barbecue's beef rib, handmade sausage, brisket balls and jalapeño cream corn

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Founded: 2018 In 5 words: American grill for casual dining Price point: $8 to $18 COVID status: Dine in, curbside to-go Address: 3140 FM 407, Highland Village Online: hillsidefinegrill highlandvillage.com

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Mahi Alexander with sautĂŠed shrimp and white wine sauce


wner and restaurateur Rick Valley says Hillside is “approachable and casual, but it can still be a dressy date-night place. We want people to feel like they can come more than once a week. Not only because of the affordable price point, but because of the variety.” Valley, who is one of Hillside’s seven managing partners, describes it as “a family, community-type restaurant.”

Supporting Each Other

And that community focus has been reciprocated in the form of support. “The community has been fantastic” throughout the pandemic, he says. “They very much supported us — one, two, three times a week. They tipped the staff handsomely and were very concerned for us so that we would thrive and stay open.” Hillside Fine Grill also gives back to the community that supports them. “We heavily support the Marcus High School and all the schools in the region,” Valley says. “We are big into supporting Highland Village’s initiative, Kid’s Place,” a playground built by and for the community. “We are a five-year sponsor.” Executive chef Ron Fletcher creates a menu that includes steak, pork chops, ribs, fish and seafood, chicken, pasta, burgers, sandwiches, soups, salads and more. A kids menu is available, and adults can enjoy hand-crafted cocktails and a full bar.

Photos courtesy of Hillside Fine Grill

2020 Survival Story

the restaurant’s financial risk. Slowly, as restaurants across the state reopened, they were able to bring inside dining back, from 0 to 25% in May, to 50% in June and now to 75% Hillside has a strong community focus. capacity. While the dining room is now open for its regular lunch and dinner hours, customers can still order to-go, including family packs that serve four. “Since the beginning, we’ve taken the temperatures of staff, installed hygiene stations all over the restaurant, required masks on all employees and practiced social distancing,” he says. “We’ve followed the guidelines to the T.” “More than anything, we get thanked by our customers for keeping our distance,” Valley says. “The community is very sensitive. It’s important to them. They need to be reassured that we’re going to keep them safe.” “Hillside has a good reputation,” Valley says. “It was the impression we made during the 18 months before this [pandemic] that allowed us to survive.” —Ellen Ritscher Sackett

The popular triple dip appetizer

Hillside Fine Grill in Highland Village had only been open for a year and a half when the pandemic brought the restaurant industry to a crashing halt. “We had to pivot fast,” says owner and restaurateur Rick Valley, one of Hillside’s seven managing partners. “We went from full-service dining only to to-go curbside in seven days.” Fortunately, because of his 21 years of corporate experience working as a multi-unit director for P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Valley knew how to adapt the restaurant’s offerings for to-go service. “We limited our menu and hours of operation for only curbside pickup,” he says, to minimize N OV E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 02 0 D E N T O N CO U N T Y

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H Founded: 2015 In 5 words: Elaborately decorated cakes and treats Price point: Single-serve items, such as brownies and cookies, run $2 to $6. Custom cakes start at $150 for 10 people and can go into the thousands. COVID status: Curbside pick-up and contactless payment only Address: 360 Parker Square Road, Flower Mound Online: hivebakerytx.com

Owner and artist Haley Popp

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H

aley Popp won’t get any rest during the holidays. “It’s equal parts exhilarating and dreadful,” says the owner of Flower Mound’s Hive Bakery. The bakery sold thousands of cupcakes for Halloween. For Thanksgiving, it will create hundreds of pies, cinnamon rolls and dinner rolls. Christmas brings countless breakfast items, pounds and pounds of fudge and thousands of cookies and pies. Popp and her seven co-workers have stayed at the store until 4 a.m. making pies. “It’s a freaking riot,” she says. Hive Bakery, located in Flower Mound, has drawn lines of visitors for its pastries, scones, breads, 1-pound cinnamon rolls and, most famously, its artistically designed cakes, which are as much a feast for the eyes as they are for the palate. Popp’s creations have even grabbed the attention of the Food Network, which put the baker/food artist on shows such as Halloween Wars.

A cake!? Who would've guessed?

Photos courtesy of Hive Bakery

Eye-Catching Creations

The business has also given Popp the satisfaction of using her art skills in a new way. She was a freelance graphic designer when she saw the lavish concoctions on the TV show Ace of Cakes. With all her experience in art, she figured she could transfer her skills to food. She sculpted with clay, so she could work with fondant. She painted with acrylic, so she could use gel. For her son’s first birthday, she attempted a whimsical Alice in Wonderland-type cake with stars, stripes, confetti and rainbow colors. It wasn’t how she imagined it. “I didn’t know it needed supports under the first tier,” she says. “I didn’t know it would start sagging after a few hours. It was absolutely atrocious.” But that didn’t stop her. She took online classes and taught herself along the way. “I’m one of those people — if I put my mind to it, I’m going to master this skill,” she says. “I got really good at it.” The cakes she made for family events soon brought requests from strangers, prompting her to start a home-based business in 2015. She opened the Parker Square location — named for her love for bees — in 2018. Her creations often feature 3D elements, such as a French bulldog and a tiger. She’s made cakes that look like sushi, a bird’s nest with eggs and even an ocean scene, but she can’t talk about the hardest cake that she’s ever made. It came while shooting a new show for the Food Network, which will air in November.

“It was the biggest, most difficult cake endeavor ever in the history of making cakes,” she says. “It almost kicked my ass.” But she loved it. “I thrive on challenges. I enjoy a good competition. Knowing it was a super difficult thing to do, it pushes me.”

2020 Survival Story

The coronavirus pandemic presented another challenge for her, but thanks to updated policies, the store has been able to remain open. It now offers curbside-pickup and contactless payment only. “No one in, just me coming out, hands washed, hand sanitizer up to my eyeballs, gloves and all,” says Popp. “We’re busier than ever,” she says. “We have been supported by Flower Mound and it’s incredible to know you are that important to that community and to know that during a pandemic, you are thriving.” —Jessica DeLeón N OV E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 02 0 D E N T O N CO U N T Y

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Founded: 2007 In 5 words: Best burgers in Denton County Price point: $8 to $24 COVID status: Dine in, curbside to-go Address: 2430 S. I-35, #172, Denton Online: rgtexas.com

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f you’re hankering for a “real good” burger, you’ll find it at RG Burgers & Grill. After all, “real good” is what the RG stands for, and customers who voted its burgers the Best of Denton County think so too. RG's doesn’t advertise. Word of mouth alone has kept the casual dining spot in business since it opened in Southridge Village shopping center 13 years ago.

Bark Once for Left

The road to Denton was long and winding for founders Rene and Manmeet Schober. The two — he, from Austria; she, from India — met when they were both working at a resort in Jamaica. They married and moved to Canada before coming to the U.S.

Photos courtesy of RG Burgers & Grill

Any burger can be transformed into a salad.


“We entered from Detroit, and we just drove south. We did not have any clue where to go,” Rene says. “We had a little dog with us. I told the dog, ‘Bark once, I turn left. Bark twice, I turn right.’ So we ended up crisscrossing the states!” They ended up in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, where Rene managed a vineyard before the couple eventually landed in Texas and opened RG’s. While RG’s offers other fare, including hot dogs, chicken, fish and salads, most people order the hand-crafted burgers. Toppings provide variety and transform the classic burger into a gourmet experience. The unlimited steak fries (or skinny or sweet potato fries, available for an upcharge) make it a meal. A turkey or veggie patty can be substituted for the half-pound USDA 100% inspected beef. For the more adventurous, a Burger of the Month is featured — about 25 specialty burgers on two-year rotation.

Up for a Challenge?

RG's founders, Rene and Manmeet Schober

If you’re up for a gastronomic challenge (and have a hollow leg), consider tackling the King Kong burger — twice the “Double Trouble” burger — with two pounds of hamburger, four times as much the cheddar cheese as the classic and approximately 12 slices bacon — piled high on RG’s sweet sourdough bun. Those who can finish the King Kong within 30 minutes get a T-shirt, and the photos of recent winners are hung on the wall. “Someone’s always trying,” Rene says. “At least one or two win every month.” So far, out of the hundreds of winners since RG's opened, only two have been women. “It’s always the skinny guys!” Rene laughs.

2020 Survival Story

While the pandemic hit many restaurants hard, RG's was not hurt as bad as some, according to founder Rene Schrober. “Initially, it was a big shock,” he says. “We had to close down for five days.” When they reopened, customers could order take-out, and for a few weeks, he and Manmeet offered personal delivery service. Now, the restaurant is open for dining with slightly reduced hours and limited capacity. “Social distancing is the key. It limits us to about 30%,” Rene says. Masks are required for service. “We need to keep the customers and the staff safe,” Rene explains.

Few can finish the King Kong burger, but many try.

—Ellen Ritscher Sackett N OV E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 02 0 D E N T O N CO U N T Y

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Staff: Chris Moler and Abby Messerli

riginal Chestnut Tree owner Valeree Clegg and her mother, Betty, started their business in 1994 with an intimate tearoom at the back of an antique shop. Over the years, it evolved into a full-service restaurant that has become a keystone of Denton Square.

A New Leaf

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`

2020 Survival Story

When COVID-19 began impacting businesses in March, Johnson jumped into action. “We knew we needed to do something to set ourselves apart,� she says. So she reached out to her friends,

Photos courtesy of The Chestnut Tree

Founded: 1994 In 5 words: Oldest restaurant on Denton Square Price point: $15 to $20 per person COVID status: Dine-in, to-go, in-house delivery, small private events, small caterings, meal kits and market items Address: 107 W. Hickory St., Denton Online: chestnuttearoom.com

Around the same time the Cleggs were starting The Chestnut Tree, Suzanne Johnson was a teenager, flipping burgers at a local spot. It was the beginning of a restaurant career that would lead her to first work with Valeree Clegg as head chef at The Chestnut Tree and then to take over ownership six years later. With the support of her husband, Daniel, and her friend/partner, Ryanne Reid, Johnson upholds the Cleggs' traditions and honors their history while offering new and exciting menu options and events. Customers can order popular specialties such as the famous chicken salad on beer white bread, homemade soups and made-from-scratch brunch online or in the restaurant. Another favorite is The Dentonite, a savory French toast sandwich with ham, Swiss cheese, mushrooms and tomatoes, topped with hollandaise, a poached egg and balsamic glaze, and served with breakfast potatoes.


other downtown business owners who helped her transform the quaint tea house and bistro into an online community market offering items like eggs, bread and other staples for shoppers who didn’t want to go to the store or who couldn’t find what they needed there. Now The Chestnut Tree keeps busy with orders for a wide selection of items, including produce, loose leaf teas, herbs and spices, wines, Salted Sanctuary Soap and more. Soon it began offering a limited to-go version of the regular menu. A new category of “Help Get Through This” sweets offers a satisfying assortment of homemade pies, cookies and scrumptious chocolate-chip banana bread to soothe pandemic anxiety. Also popular are family and individual meal kits and small catering packages for events like baby showers and birthdays. Limited dine-in services have also been expanded. For the future, Johnson says she plans to keep the market and meal kits going in addition to going back to business as usual. “Whatever that means,” she adds. “Like everyone else, the biggest coping challenges we have faced is knowing that there will be another side to this,” Johnson says. “My heart hurts for those who have lost loved ones and for those businesses that have shuttered,” she says. “No one planned on a pandemic when they went into business for themselves.” What has gotten her through it all, she emphasizes, are her customers, other business owners and friends. “The community has been phenomenal. I have so many new friends that have supported us through these difficult times. The ones I have never actually met, I can’t wait to have our first face-to-face. I can’t wait to hug my neighbors who made the decision to move on to new things.”

A variety tray of meats, dips and vegetables The Square's oldest restaurant

—Annette Nevins

Made-fromscratch pizza

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F

lower Mound steak and whiskey lovers can thank a chance meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the Yellow Rose Steak & Chop House. Even after falling in love with a Texas boy living in Russia, Svetlana could never have guessed she’d end up running one of the top steakhouses in Denton County, Texas.

The main dining room seats 75 while a private space can host 28.

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Svetlana met Sky Schoggins in St. Petersburg and soon moved to Lubbock, Texas, to start a family. Five degrees and two kids later, the couple settled into their new home in Flower Mound and put an offer on a restaurant that was for sale in Parker Square. “The idea of owning a business sounded scary and exciting at the same time,” Svetlana Schoggins recalls. “This was an opportunity to get away from our lives in corporate America and have some flexibility. We were able to build our business with that in mind, which brought us joy and plenty of time with our young kids.” In 2013, the Schoggins became the new owners of Yellow Rose Steak & Chop House, and their determination and passion became the driving factors for the restaurant’s immediate success. Though the duo holds multiple degrees in electrical and computer engineering, economics, accounting and literature, neither has formally studied the culinary arts. But years of fine dining, home cooking and drinking good (really good) whiskey gave them the inspiration and knowledge they needed to make the right changes to the restaurant’s offerings when they bought the business. The steakhouse is now home to quality cuts of beef (sourced from the top 2 percent of U.S. meat), an extensive wine and beer list and more than 200 whiskeys, ranging from the rare to the downright hard-to-find (i.e., Garryana, Thomas H. Handy, Blanton’s, Weller Antique, Little Book, Angel’s Envy Rye). Side dishes like loaded baked potatoes and spinach artichoke dip are made from scratch, and the restaurant’s homemade bread pudding and cheesecake put the ultimate finishing touch on a delicious meal. The Schoggins host a Whiskey Wednesday Club and began offering virtual whiskey tastings once COVID-19 hit.

Photos by Kate Marie Portraiture

Determination & Passion


2020 Survival Story

“COVID-19 greatly impacted many lives, and our business was not an exception,” Svetlana explains. “We had to shut down our dining room for the month of April, and limited capacity and diminishing confidence of our guests since reopening have not brought us half of the expected revenues for this period. Staffing has been difficult as well for many reasons and even more so through these times.” The Schoggins are focusing their efforts on finding the right balance between operating the business, keeping their employees, guests and families safe, and providing for the patrons who depend on the restaurant. On the bright side, these strange times have offered a great opportunity to test new recipes, and the family-owned business has begun whipping up creative dishes that may be included on future menus. “Our kids are very much involved in taste testing, and we are looking forward to when they are old enough to help out at the restaurant,” Svetlana says. “They have become fierce critics though!” The restaurant is currently open for dine-in and curbside delivery, Monday through Saturday from

4 to 9 p.m. It will also continue to offer virtual whiskey tastings monthly (more info on their Facebook page). “The community has been more than supportive, and we can’t thank everybody enough to help us keep going with what we love to do,” she says. “We have received so many words of encouragement, won some awards and get to see our guests’ smiling faces every day; we are blessed.” —Kristy Alpert Half-pound burger with handcut fries

Founded: 2008 (purchased in 2013) In 5 words: High-quality steak and seafood Price point: Sandwiches, $10 and up; entrées, $15 to $65 COVID status: Open for dine-in and curbside delivery Address: 890 Parker Square, Flower Mound Online: yellowrosesteakhouse.com

Angus New York steak

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Something Different

Founded: August 2019 In 5 words: Soulful, chef-inspired American cuisine Price Point: Average entrée: $16 to $40 COVID status: Curbside, delivery, takeout, dine-in (50% occupancy) Address: 800 W. Eldorado Pkwy Suite 127, Little Elm Online: savorykitchendfw.com

Located near Lake Lewisville, Savory Kitchen is a welcoming, bright and spacious restaurant with a variety of made-from-scratch food options, as well as a full bar. Choose from the lunch and dinner menu, or go for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. “We’ve got a neighborhood feel, with great food,” Hatcher says. “I have a food truck and I do catering, so I needed a place with a kitchen. But we also have entertainment, music and food. We have something a little different here.” The menu, personally crafted by Chef D, features salads, burgers, brisket, flame-grilled ribeye and tomahawk pork chops, shrimp scampi in garlic butter sauce, panko-crusted cod, hand-breaded catfish and fried chicken, pastas and other chef-inspired dishes. For brunch, enjoy bottomless mimosas, chicken & waffles, shrimp & grits, omelettes and more.

2020 Survival Story

When COVID-19 shut down in-person dining, Hatcher’s team quickly pivoted, offering takeout while the dining room was closed. “We got a flood of calls, but we only had one phone line, and it was always busy,” Hatcher said. “So we ended up

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getting two more phone lines to help with the congestion of the to-go business. But a lot of it was just staying creative and giving people value for what they’re paying for. People just want some good food in the middle of COVID.” Social media was a huge help for Savory Kitchen. Facebook and Instagram kept up interest in the restaurant and gave potential diners valuable information about changing hours, daily menu offerings and shifts in procedures due to pandemic protocol. Hatcher says videos of him cooking that he’s posted on TikTok (@chefdTexas) have brought new customers from as far away as Prosper. “The biggest challenge is keeping up with the day-to-day news, basically riding the COVID wave,” Hatcher says. “One day we were back to 75% capacity, and a couple of weeks later, we were back down to 50%. It’s hard to make your rent payment when you can’t get consistency on the business. And when people can’t come to the restaurant, how can we reach them? People are still eating, so that’s where the catering aspect came in. I like being able to create menus that sparked people’s interests and helped them feed their families.” Supply shortages added another layer of difficulty to keeping operations going, but Hatcher saw it as a challenge — a way to learn more about food and different products. Little Elm offered vouchers for residents to use at local restaurants, which helped keep customers flowing into Savory Kitchen. “Keeping the community engaged, informed and fed during COVID has been incredible,” Hatcher says. “I just have to thank God that we’re in such a great community that’s been so supportive.” —Abigail Boatwright

Top and right photos by Abigail Boatwright. Left courtesy of Savory Kitchen.

D

yrell “Chef D” Hatcher is the founder of Pappy’s Food Truck and Chef D’s Catering, but Savory Kitchen in Little Elm is his brick-and-mortar location for seriously good American food.


Dyrell "Chef D" Hatcher

The flame-grilled, bone-in tomahawk porkchop

White chocolate espresso cheesecake

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The bar offers cocktails for every taste + 51 beers on tap.

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Photos courtesy of Verf's Grill & Tavern

Founded: June 2015 In 5 words: American, Mexican and Italian favorites Price point: Brunch $10 to $18, dinner entrĂŠes $15 to $25 COVID status: Dine-in, pick-up and delivery (not taking reservations) Address: 2221 Justin Road, Suite 101, Flower Mound Online: verfs.com


F

lorencio Benitez started in the restaurant industry as a teenager, working for former owner Jim Verfurth at Flower Mound’s Village Grill in the late 1990s. When Verfurth decided to open a new eatery in 2015, he hired the now seasoned Benitez as executive chef and commissioned him to create a menu of madefrom-scratch dishes using fresh ingredients.

Impress the Guests

Since then, Chef Florencio has helped Verf ’s Grill & Tavern earn a loyal following in the community by serving up exceptional food and memorable experiences. “You’re always trying to impress the guests,” says Chef Florencio, who updates the menu regularly with elevated versions of American, Mexican and Italian favorites. “People appreciate having a little bit of everything,” he says. Nestled at the corner of Justin and Morriss Roads in Highland Village, Verf’s is a popular lunch option for local professionals, and attracts dinner guests from nearby Lewisville and Lantana. Friends and family gather to enjoy entrées like thick-cut salmon steak, bone-in pork chops, and Verf ’s chicken, made with hatch chiles and roasted corn. For brunch, the Mexican chorizo migas, breakfast enchiladas with smoked habanero sausage, and pecan-crusted French bread toast all are big hits. Verf ’s also offers 51 different beers on tap, more than two dozen wines and cocktails for every taste.

2020 Survival Story

This popular spot to linger over food and drinks was hit hard when bars and restaurants were shuttered in an effort to curb COVID-19. “We never were big on to-go [orders], because you don’t have the time to really interact with the customer,” says Chef Florencio, who also is director of operations. Connecting with guests is important to him, but so was the welfare of the restaurant staff. “For a week, we were shut down completely, until we realized we had all this food and all these employees that really needed a job,” he says. The restaurant quickly set up accounts with DoorDash and other delivery sites and brought back their loyal workers. Chef Florencio was especially impressed with the response of younger staff members, who eagerly volunteered to spread the word that the restaurant had reopened. “I always tell our employees, this business is owned by you, because you’re the ones who make the difference every day,” he says. Equally surprising was the outpouring of support from the local community. “A lot of our regulars have been placing orders and emailing and calling us, asking, ‘What can we do for you guys?’” With the recent announcement that restaurants can operate at 75 percent capacity, the sociable chef looks forward to seeing patrons face-to-face for the holidays. “People will feel like we survived through this,” he says. “We did it together, and it’s time to celebrate.” —Leslie Thompson

Thick-cut salmon steak finished with garlic butter

Fine dining food in a casual dining atmostphere

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These Denton County shops offer a safe way to give fabulous gifts this holiday season — while supporting local businesses. BY RACHEL HEDSTROM

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he holidays are here, and we’ve got you covered with gift ideas for all of the special folks on your list. Whether you’re treating family, co-workers or friends (the human or canine kind), these locally owned Denton County shops have great options. In fact, these presents are so good, you just may need to order one for yourself! (You deserve it, right?) All shops on our list offer a COVID-safe way to shop. Place an order online, call the store for curbside pickup or browse in person with COVID-compliant safety procedures. Happy holidays and happy shopping!

Candy, Candy, Candy!

Price: Varies, according to selection Get it from: Atomic Candy, 105 W. Hickory St., Denton More info: 940-383-3780, atomic-candy.com Perfect for: Sweet treats can please everyone on your list and make perfect stocking stuffers! Shopping safety: To keep customers and employees safe, Atomic Candy is operating under the state guidelines of social distancing and 50 percent capacity. It has temporarily removed all bulk-scooped bins and replaced them with pre-packaged candy. With a selection of lunchbox-style tin totes ($14 to $20) that can be loaded with candy, toys or novelties, Atomic Candy has endless options. Even the most hard-to-buy-for family member will love nostalgic gift boxes with candy from the '50s to '90s. Atomic Candy carries all the retro favorites — wax bottles, cinnamon toothpicks, rock candy and Beemans, Black Jack and Clove gums. If it’s still made, Atomic Candy probably has it! Plus hundreds of soda pops, including 70 different kinds of glass-bottled root beers from around the country.

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Wine and Cheese or Beer and Cheese Delivery Set

Price: $30 to $50 Get it from: Ten:One Artisan Cheese Shop, 515 South Locust St., Denton More info: 940-320-5639, tenonecheese.com Perfect for: The foodie in your life Shopping safety: Orders can be placed online with curbside pick-up available. Christmas sets can be picked up on December 23 and 24. If you find it difficult to decide between all the wonderful cheeses to satisfy your holiday gift appetite, the experienced mongers at Ten:One can help. Choose from many different delivery sets and select a set with a virtual tasting for the perfect socially distant gastronomic experience. All cheeses are cut-to-order, and inventory is rotated frequently to bring in new cheeses and wines. The wine and cheese set includes one bottle of wine and three ¼-pound servings of cheese. A beer set includes the same, but with a mixed six-pack of beer in place of the wine.

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Custom-built Skateboard

Price: $100 to $185 (pictured is $100) Get it from: Incite Skateboarding, 713 Hebron Pkwy., #212, Lewisville More info: 469-771-3005, inciteskateboarding. com Perfect for: The adventurous at heart Shopping safety: Online ordering and contactless pick-up are available. Skateboarding has been growing in popularity with both kids and adults. Incite’s custom-built skateboard puts you in direct touch with owners Miguel Rivera and Mario Aguilar, who use their years of skating experience to guide you through the process of picking out the right parts to build your loved one a bespoke skateboard. Pre-built boards (great for kids ages 5 to 14) are also available in smaller sizes for an even more affordable option that still adheres to Incite’s stellar quality standards. The choices are endless. This is a gift you can roll with!

Morse Code Jewelry by Dot and Dash Design

Price: Necklace: $42, bracelet: $38, earrings: $36 Get it from: The Palm Tree, 119 N. Elm St., Denton More info: 940-383-4411, shoppalmtree.com Perfect for: This jewelry spells out a great gift for your mother, daughter or friend Shopping safety: Dot and Dash Design can be purchased in-store or online. The store offers shipping, in-store pickup or contactless curbside pick-up. Dot and Dash Design is a Texas company specializing in handmade pieces that feature a special word or phrase in Morse code. The Palm Tree has a large selection of standard words and phrases, but you can also order and fully customize your own necklace or bracelet. Simply choose your phrase and bead colors to create a perfect, personalized gift for a special person in your life! The Palm Tree also offers lots of other giftable clothing and accessories.

Photos courtesy of retailers

Your 2020 Holiday Gift Guide


Leopard Lux Train Case

Price: $95 (brush holder included) Get it from: Bella Designs, 318 East Oak St., Suite 110, Denton More info: 940-367-5754 Perfect for: The make-up lover in your life who loves to keep it all together Shopping safety: COVID-compliant in-store shopping and curbside pick-up Whether the ladies in your life are on the go or at home, keeping all of their favorite beauty products together feels as luxe as it looks. This Leopard Lux Train Case from HOLLIS features the brand’s attention to detail and function, with a spill-resistant interior, quality construction and a trendy design. With compartments for everything from mascara and foundation to eye pencils and lipstick, this stylish makeup case also includes a matching brush holder that allows them to keep their brushes together and their other items clean.

A Stay at Old Irish Bed & Breakfast

Price: $179-$279/night Get it from: Old Irish Bed & Breakfast, 3030 N. Trinity Road, Denton More info: 214-505-0754/940-323-1011, oldirishbb.com Perfect for: The adult or couple who needs a socially distant getaway and loves alpacas Shopping safety: Email-able gift certificates Old Irish Bed & Breakfast offers charming old-fashioned lake cabins plus an alpaca ranch! The unique oasis is seated on the banks of a beautiful lake with geese, catfish and fountains. This unique gift is perfect for that hard-to-shopfor person on your list. They can rock on their private porch, spend some time in the hot tub, get a massage in total privacy or just wander the grounds to meet the animals, including those adorable alpacas. Social distancing is easy on the ranch, which feels a world away from ordinary.

On Shoes

Price: $130 to $150 Get it from: JT Clothiers, 200 W. Oak St., Denton More info: 940-387-0761, jtclothiers.com Perfect for: Adults who want to move in comfort and style (running on clouds, anyone?) Shopping safety: Ladies and men’s sizes are available in-store and online. Shipping and curbside pick-up. Private shopping experiences are also available by calling 940-387-0761. Chasing the perfect gift for someone who loves staying active? On shoes are the consummate combination of performance and fashion. Designed with the goal of creating the perfect running shoe, On’s patented CloudTec technology is engineered to deliver a soft landing followed by an explosive take-off, providing a light running sensation without compromising cushioning or impact protection. Whatever your activity, On shoes are made to wear all day, every day, and are a big hit with JT Clothiers’ customers.

Personalized Pooch Crunchy Bones

Price: Dino Bone: $14, Great Big Bone: $4.95, Stocking Bone: $5.45 Get it from: Three Dog Bakery, 5810 Long Prairie Road, #600, Flower Mound More info: 214-285-3161, threedogdfw.com Perfect for: Your canine companions Shopping safety: Call to place your order for easy curbside pick-up. Let your furry family member know who's top dog! These personalized treats are baked fresh daily with simple, wholesome ingredients like unsweetened applesauce, dried eggs, crushed peanuts and baking powder. They're made without artificial preservatives, colorings or flavorings and are shelf-stable for up to a year. Does your dog have a sensitive tummy? Wheat-free and grain-free treats are available.

Vintage Silver & Decor

Eastern Lowdown BMX Bike

Price: $280 (additional for assembly/delivery) Get it from: Bullseye Bike Shop, 700 W. Hickory St., Denton More info: 940-435-0488, dentonbikeshop.com Perfect for: A family member who wants to get out and ride Shopping safety: At-home delivery for an additional fee. Contactless pick-up upon request. The Eastern Lowdown is an outstanding BMX bike that delivers bang for buck, with quality components and features such as a three-piece crank set, sealed rear hub and sealed bottom bracket. Some other great accessories to consider are the kids’ Giro “Dime” Helmet ($45), the Kryptonite Keeper 21.6” Chain Lock with $500 anti-theft guarantee ($35) and the Sunlite Phaser USB Headlight ($25).

Price: From $6 for sugars and creamer holders to $45 for large silver trays Get it from: Vintage Bleu Home, 221 W. Oak St., Denton More info: 940-382-8670, facebook.com/ shopvintagebleuhome Perfect for: History lovers, thoughtful friends and eco-conscious family Shopping safety: Facebook and Instagram shopping, shipping on small items, curbside pick-up and a COVID-mindful atmosphere Vintage silver makes a wonderful gift (and it's not just for serving tea — try succulents in sugar bowls, bouquets in pitchers and more). Vintage Bleu Home offers a variety of one-of-a-kind vintage silver — polished and tarnished, big and small, matching and mixmatched. Also check out the store’s candles (poured in Denton), unique stocking stuffers, furniture to get your home holiday-ready and vintage bling for the special lady in your life.

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Brighten Up the Holidays Special events may be scaled back, but you can still go big at home with seasonal decorations. BY LESLIE J. THOMPSON

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or many local residents, 2020 can’t end soon enough. But before we wrap up the most trying 12 months in recent history and get a fresh start in the New Year, we still can count our blessings and spread some holiday cheer. Although gathering for larger events may not be an option, decorating your home can help put everyone in a more festive mood. So, why not go over the top this season and make your holiday display extra special?

Beyond the Basics

“The first thing anybody does is put lights on the perimeter of their house,” says Justin Lubbers, owner of Premier Christmas, which offers turnkey lighting services and products for residential and commercial customers across north Texas. “If someone has a tree that lends itself well to a branch wrap, that tends to be more memorable and a showstopper,” he says. Although labor intensive, wrapping each branch of a tree from trunk to tip with twinkling bulbs creates a breathtaking presentation. It’s important to ensure that adequate power is available, however, and to use commercial-grade lights that can stand up to the elements. Larger bulbs designated C7 or C9 are most appropriate for rooflines, Lubbers notes, while LED mini-lights made for outdoor use work well in trees. Similarly, bright bulbs strung along flower beds or around windows can add holiday curb appeal, according to Sam Davis, owner of Denton County Christmas Lights, and illuminated door wreaths give an entrance extra flair. Now in its fourth season, Davis’ fast-growing company serves clients from Decatur to Rockwall and across to Fort Worth. “We can build to any budget,” he says. Lights are priced by the foot, including installation, removal and storage. Adding greenery is another way to dress up your house for the holidays and give it visual appeal during the daytime. Ornaments and garlands strung around columns, doors and porch railings add seasonal bling and make a home stand out. If you need help creating a design scheme, vendors like Premier Lighting will present ideas to highlight your property’s best features and provide an estimate for a custom installation. There is “a significant difference in quality and overall appearance” between products that professionals can acquire and what is available in retail stores, Lubbers notes.

Christmas Lawn's decorations are uniquely Texan.

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Local businesses and homeowners associations can get in on the act, too, livening up their community with festive decorations that capture the spirit of the season. Denton County Christmas Lights has been hired by several HOAs to decorate neighborhood entrances with giant wreaths and garlands that can be lit up at night, bringing joy to residents and guests. Similarly, the brightly lit creations at Christmas Lawn Decorations are a hit with retail clients who want a unique holiday showpiece, says owner Chuck Cox. His garden center in northeast Carrollton features nearly 120 different metal sculptures covered in mini-lights — from leaping reindeer and life-size longhorns to cowboy Santas and oversized signs shaped like Texas with glowing letters that spell, “Merry Christmas, Y’all.” Cox has the sculptures made in Mexico and works closely with a company overseas to create custom LEDs for the funky décor. “I had one piece made with Rudolph in a ski boat, and behind him is Santa on skis,” he says with a chuckle. “People with lake houses love those.”

Photo courtesy of Ashley Kinney at Your Web Guys Photography

Neighborhood Sparkle


Denton County Christmas Lights makes spirits bright.

Dangers of DIY

Top photo courtesy of Sam Davis; bottom photo courtesy of Justin Lubbers

Whether you’re planning to decorate your home, neighborhood or place of business this season, hiring a professional is a smart move. “We’ve seen people use staples and screws and tape — anything you can imagine — to adhere their lights,” says Davis, adding that homeowners also cause fire hazards by stringing together too many strands or cutting through wires to adjust the length. “Let us do the installation and not cause damage to your house.” Justin Lubbers of Premier Christmas has also seen people modify electrical components to accommodate holiday displays and warns, “Those safety mechanisms are there to protect people.” He encourages homeowners to read the labels on ladders regarding weight capacity and proper placement, as well, to avoid injuring themselves or others when putting up lights or garlands. From an aesthetic standpoint, do-it-yourselfers often have inconsistent colors when they mix lights from different manufacturers. “They may have something on the house that’s a warm white and something on the ground that’s a cool white,” explains Lubbers. Homeowners should make sure any lights they buy have the same color temperature. But, even when they match, he says, strands purchased at the hardware store won’t be as bright and crisp as the commercial-grade products the professionals use.

Memories Made Easy

From hanging illuminated icicles along the eaves to creating a festive front lawn display, this is a great time to bring in a pro who can make your house shine for the holidays. As an added bonus, full-service vendors like Premier Lighting and Denton County Christmas Lights will take down your decorations at the end of the season and carefully pack all the items, so you can enjoy them for future holidays. Then again, you may want to leave a few pieces up year-round. After all, who wouldn’t smile at the sight of a steel longhorn covered in twinkling LEDs?

Premier Christmas makes your home festive without all the hassle.

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Mrs. Claus and her helpers welcome families.

Santa Adventureland

Plan some festive family adventures this Christmas at this 17,000-square-foot holiday wonderland. BY ANNETTE NEVINS

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anta’s Helpers will be working harder than ever this year at Santa Adventureland in Denton’s Golden Triangle Mall. Even the Grinch will be there in all his green glory, wearing a grimace of good cheer under a mask, waving from a safe distance.

Safety Measures

Look for smaller workshops with the elves and be sure to plan ahead for your family Christmas fun. The exhibit will be open for a shorter period of time this year, from Thanksgiving weekend through Christmas Eve. And to keep everyone safe in the world of the COVID-19 pandemic, only one family at a time will be allowed in each room at the 17,000-square-foot village of holiday cheer. “We’re going to have a lot of fun, just in smaller groups,” says Eddie Grant, who with his two daughters, Peyton and Kamryn, used their experiences managing childcare centers to conceptualize the seasonal exhibit, which is in its second year. Helpers will guide visitors through the exhibit, one family at a time, up to 10 individuals per room. Masks will be required of all guests, and hand sanitizer will be made available throughout the village.

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New safety measures are still being worked out for activities such as the snow room, where last year, children could romp through a sandbox-style feature full of real snow (made of nontoxic grains that freeze and act like the real thing). Things will be a bit different, but organizers emphasize that families will still be able to enjoy the sights, sounds, tastes and aromas of the holiday as they decorate and bake cookies to holiday tunes at personally distanced tables.

Reindeer and Gumdrops and Toys, Oh My!

Children will be able to see real reindeer in their barn, peer into a log cabin where elves are busy at work or take a class on making their own toy. If that doesn’t satisfy the wish list, they can address a letter to Santa and drop it into a special mailbox at the North Pole Post Office. A holiday disco and karaoke room is sure to shake the wiggles out. For a slower pace, venture through a gumdrop forrest of twinkling trees as animated characters tell the story of the Night Before Christmas. Grant, a 51-year-old Oklahoma resident who — thanks to his beard and twinkling eyes — bears a passing

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Masks and social distancing required, limited attendance Dates: November 20 through December 24, 2020 Hours: 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 7 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 6 p.m. Sundays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. December 24, closed Thanksgiving Day Cost: $20-$40 per child package Location: Golden Triangle Mall, 2201 S Interstate 35 E, Denton More info: santaadventureland.com Reservations: Call 405-496-2043

resemblance to Santa, has set up a phone reservation system that will allow families to spread holiday cheer without spreading germs. He is also working on a way to register online. Some admission packages for Santa Adventureland include a train ride where riders will encounter creatures from the Island of Misfit Toys — not too different from the robotic dinosaurs that greeted guests at Grant’s new Jurassic Land event earlier this year. There’s no time limit for patrons in Santa Adventureland, but plan to stay for an hour to an hour and a half to soak it all in. “Now is the time for families and all ages to get out, away from their computers and phones,” Grant says. “Let’s all come together to celebrate the season.”

Photo courtesy of Santa Adventureland

The elves love safety as much as they love fun.


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Profile for Larry McBride

Denton County Magazine November-December 2020  

The November-December issue of the Denton County Magazine.

Denton County Magazine November-December 2020  

The November-December issue of the Denton County Magazine.

Profile for lmcbride