FT33 is making some serious waves in the Dallas dining scene. Open for just a month in a tucked-back corner of the Design District, Chef Matt McCallister's "season inspired modern cuisine" is garnering early raves from critics and diners alike. The food is irrefutably fine dining, but the atmosphere is dialed back a few notches, avoiding any pretension or stuffiness—servers wear jeans and the bathroom is decked out in full-on graffiti. (We definitely heard some Wu-Tang Clan playing in there recently.)
Affable general manager Ryan Tedder also acts as the sommelier, and can be found constantly pacing the dining room, chatting up guests and helping them pair wines with McCallister's artistic plates.
[Photo credit: Kevin Marple]
Say I come in at 8:00 on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table of two? Can I get right in?
Well, it depends. We actually try to maintain a bit of an overflow area in our bar space—we've got ten seats at the bar that people can eat at, and then four tables of two in the bar area, so another eight, so that usually allows people to just walk in and get seated. We probably had ten or fifteen people eat this week at the bartop, so if you come in between 6:30 and 8:30 when we're really busy you can always sit there. We are pretty small, we only have about 60 seats in the dining room, so we do fill up fast. If you are walking in, it's generally easier for us to do 8:30 rather than 8, just because our dining process does take a little bit longer because we are a little more laid back—not inefficient, but more like a relaxed, take your time, enjoy your meal kind of setting. If you call the day of between 11 and 4, there's usually always that hole that needs to be filled from people who have cancelled.
Have you guys gotten any strange requests from guests yet?
Not so much strange, but we do get very large groups trying to come in for celebrations—like 20 people at 7:00, so that's a little difficult. And then we do get a lot of people with food allergies—some of them I think are pretty accurate but then some of them I think it's just people not liking certain things or not being adventurous, but that's fine—that's their prerogative, so we definitely take care of everybody. But not anything too crazy as far as these things go.
There was a night pretty soon after you guys opened when the dining room was filled with practically every food critic/writer in town. Were you guys aware of all that and was that a nerve-wracking process?
You know, we were aware of a couple, if not all, of the people being there but it's kind of like we knew they were all going to come eventually, so it was kind of a silver lining that they all showed up at once. (laughs) We were all minding our p's and q's, as we always do. It was a little nerve-wracking but we just do what we do, try to do it at a very high level and keep getting better every day. It was an opportunity to perform under pressure and hopefully we did well, but at least it's out of the way, at least until next time! (laughs)
So there's been some recent chatter about a diner attempting to steal four place settings off a table. Does that kind of stuff happen a lot?
I don't know what it is, but we have these leather bands on the table that are our napkin holders and people walk out with those as bracelets all the time! I guess maybe there's not an awareness that everything really does cost money. I mean you try to get really nice glasses, really nice plates, really nice silverware because you want to have a really great dining atmosphere, so it kind of makes it hard to do it at a reasonable price point if people take all your shit! (laughs) It's funny because one of our other guests who is also a restaurateur who was dining at the time kind was the one that alerted us to what was going on, and I think the couple overheard him so they ended up putting at least some of the forks back. But I guess it's just one of those things with restaurants, you know? Maybe now since the napkin rings are getting some notoriety, we'll just charge people three or four bucks if they want them. [According to a post on FT33's Facebook page, the suede napkin rings are now available for $4 for diners who just can't resist.]