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A TCU foodie plans to put the name “Dutch” on everyone’s lips.
By Brian Abrams '06
When Jons Grille closed in December, a mild case of depression hit the neighborhood. The 18-year-old eatery never did offer much nightlife, but any denizen of the 76109 zip code who woke up before sundown knew Jons as a Fort Worth institution, a place where TCU students and faculty could sit at adjacent tables, scarf down baskets of burgers and fries and find their names written on the walls.
So when the beloved lunch spot locked its doors during the holidays, foodies sensed a gap in the TCU restaurant scene. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop has Baja fare covered, and Potbelly Sandwich Works and Einstein Bros. Bagels move deli dishes with abandon, but what about the meat and bun?
Here’s the answer. Let’s go Dutch.
In May, a culinary powerhouse — a former executive chef for Crestline Hotels and Resorts, and the chef at the original Reata — reopened the Jons space serving an array of roadside diner food, from chicken strips, Frito pie and pastries to corn dogs, breakfast tacos and, naturally, hamburgers.
The joint — called Dutch’s after the larger-than-life Leo “Dutch” Meyer, who was TCU head football coach for almost two decades — fills that culinary void on the University strip.
The menu may not come off avant-garde, but that’s obviously not the point. The partnership behind Dutch’s wants to recapture the neighborhood-y vibe that Jons put out for so many years.
“It’s what’s needed in the area,” said co-owner Louis Lambert ’81. “I went to TCU. My father and my brothers did too. There’s personal sentiment attached to the area for me, sure, but gearing the restaurant toward the campus and the neighborhood, that’s what will make this place a success.”
His grandfather, Ewell McKnight ’15, went to TCU when Woodrow Wilson was president. His father, Hal Lambert ’54, still lives by campus. But the creature comfort of going into business near his old stomping ground isn’t the only reason Lambert decided to chomp at the burger house bit.
The service industry veteran has a pretty solid record when it comes to effectively conceptualizing restaurants. Eight years ago Lambert opened Jo’s Coffee (joscoffee.com) in Austin, and in 2005 he added a second location. His third A-town endeavor was christened just five months ago, a downtown barbecue venue with the imaginative handle Lamberts (lambertsaustin.com).
So the longtime Austin resident is on a roll, fielding press queries from brow-raising publications like Food and Wine and Texas Monthly, but Dutch’s won’t be fazed by his schedule, he says, because Grady Spears will be there running it.
Spears, an icon in the Southwestern cooking trade, calls Lambert his mentor, and the former Reata chef and author of multiple cookbooks saw eye to eye with Lambert on serving straightforward “1950s San Angelo cafe” cuisine.
“It’s not about being tricky with menu items,” Spears said. “We want everything to be quality. No canned products, no microwaves. Lou and I like using those simple terms and then wowing the people with the product … letting the food speak for itself.”
Watch for daily dinner specials, like roasted chicken, tamale platters, chicken fried steak, meat loaf, and chicken and dumplings. With beer and wine available, Dutch’s might embellish the Jons niche by attracting an after-dark crowd.
“We’re going to see what the traffic is before we decide how late [to stay open],” said Spears, who initially planned to close around 10 p.m. “We’ve got to immerse ourselves in the TCU culture as well as the neighborhood first. We’ll do it quietly, building customer relationships one by one and through word of mouth.
“There are no egos involved in this project. It’s just about fresh food, and good product and superior service is really all it will take.”
More at www.dutchshamburgers.com
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