They say the best way to make a friend is by being one, and the old adage couldn't seem more true in the cases of Matt Tobin and Josh Yingling, co-owners of Goodfriend Beer Garden and Burger House. Tobin first made a name for himself in the Dallas bar and restaurant scene with the dearly beloved Vickery Park, and he and Yingling have since established a strong connection with East Dallas denizens by simply doing what they love — drinking beer and shooting breeze.
In fact, based largely on Tobin and Yingling's respective good karma, Vickery and Goodfriend have been so successful that the duo is set to open a new retail beer project, tentatively slated to open during the last half of 2012. We sat down with the loquacious and fun-loving brewtrepreneurs to see if we could get them buzzed enough to drop some juicy deets on what regulars and new fans can expect in the coming months.
Word on the street is you're opening a new place. How much can you tell me about it?
Josh Yingling: Some. [Grins]. We have two spots across the street [from Goodfriend] and we're waiting for one current tenant to move out so we can begin our construction. We're going to focus on the craft beer side slash kind of what we do here, but on the retail side. Basically, a retail beer store, but a little more involved – we'll carry more imports that we do over here. Because we'll have the space for it. We'll do build-your-own-six-packs. I think the one thing that will be really amazing – we have a gentleman in mind who's basically going to run it. We can't tell you who that is right now. He's a super beer nerd and that's one thing we wanted more than anything. You know, someone who knew what we were talking about. So, if you want to go in there are get worn out by beer, he can definitely do it. You know, someone who's knowledgeable.
Matt Tobin: He's sort of a Beer Hero. He's really great, and we're thrilled.
So, we're not talking food at the new place. It won't be the kind of place where you can sit down and dine?
JY: We are going to do a small sandwich shop up in there as well, but that's as far as it goes.
MT: We're working on a lot of different ideas, but we don't want to pigeon-hole it yet, but we are thinking a sandwich counter.
JY: It won't be as much come in and hang out. It will be more retail oriented. Come in, grab. There might be a couple little small tables if you want to sit there and eat?
MT: But, there won't be any drinking allowed.
Are you building an empire or what?
MT: I don't know, is “two places” an empire?
JY: Talk to me in ten years!
MT: I've got Vickery, too, but I still wouldn't call it that.
JY: We're just trying to keep moving. We've been fortunate that we have a lot of great people here working for us and that gives us the opportunity to explore new things and concentrate on things in addition to running around here for a hundred hours a week not sleeping and all that kind of fun stuff. We think the new place will be a little bit easier to run, but I could be totally wrong.
MT: Everything's a new adventure. We just like to stay busy, more than anything.
If not an "empire" you have to know that your fans are rabid, die-hard fans, right? A Vickery fan and a Goodfriend fan is a fan-for-life it seems. You've got a solid base that I imagine will make getting the new place off the ground that much easier.
JY: We've always been big believers in not burning bridges. We don't set fires. If you treat people right, they're going to see you're genuine about it and appreciate that more than anything else. Since I've been working with Matt, I’ve met so many amazing people who I would call friends for life and who, if I didn't work in a bar, we might not be friends at all. You know, but it's cool. It's like, hey man – this guy is a regular of mine, you want to go grab beers? It turns into a great friendship because it's based on something you really like, something as easy as beer.
MT: We know a lot of folks who “in another life, would we have even met?” Our regulars are all great.
JY: Were both lucky that they're in our lives one way or another.
Will the new place be beer only?
MT: We'll probably do a handful of wines. A little bit. No liquor. We have a great interest in Texas things and we're interested in Texas wineries, and it's cool that there are so many things going on here. I don't want to put it out of the realm of possibilities that we would take advantage of some of the local offerings. We're beer guys. We like wine and we respect wine, but we're not specialists. If we know that something is good and it's local, it's got a story, something interesting about it, we'll probably feature it. I've gotten that question a lot, and I think that the neighborhood is receptive to it, which is part of what we're trying to do. Yes, we're fulfilling our aspirations and our dreams, but we're cognizant of what the people who live over here want. Goodfriend has been really malleable, and we've sort of formed it to what we love but also what the neighborhood wants. The new place will be the same way. I won't go so far as to say, "we're opening a beer and wine store," because I don't want people to get the wrong impression. It's a beer store with a sandwich counter and "oh, look they've got some wine, okay cool."
What's your favorite beer right now?
MT: Loaded question.
MT: I'll take the first stab. I try to never have a favorite beer. Right now we put on the Dogfish Head Festina Peche; it's awesome. It's made with real peaches. Whole baskets of peaches. It's really light and refreshing and has this really summery peach aftertaste. And, it's Dogfish so you know it's going to be good quality. And, it's low-alcohol, under 5%, which means it's sessionable and you can drink quite a few and still be fine. Which is important. We love drinking beer, but we don't have a ton of time. A lot of times, Josh will pick up a Highlife because it's easy. You can hang out and talk to people – we can hang out with customers and have some beers and not be just falling over. Because a lot of people want to have a beer with us – I don't mean that to sound arrogant, but it's true, "Let me buy you a beer," and that happens again and again and before you know it, you're just hammered. We don't have time to do that. So, right now I'd say [the Festina Peche] is my favorite, but tomorrow ? if I don't have something different I'm loving every day, I'm probably not doing something right. I don't think we should play favorites.
JY: Mine is occasional. It depends on what I’m doing, where I’m at, who I’m with. You know, obviously if I’m at the lake, I’m not going to want to drink 10% beer. If I’m going out to have a lot of drinks, I can’t drink a 10% because I love whiskey, and a 10% and whiskey just don’t mix. Been down that road a couple of times, ends terribly. [Laughs]. At that point, I’ll just get a Highlife and a Jamison – and people look at me like you drink Highlife and you run this place?! But, I think that’s the great thing about beer. There are so many for each occasion. If I had to pick a favorite right now, it’s probably ? yeah I don’t have one. Maybe the Clown Shoes Supa Hero. It’s delicious and hoppy and bitter and fantasticness.
MT: A lot of people have this impression that they’re not supposed to like Miller Highlife. They come in and they say, “I’m embarrassed to say this, but I’ll just have a Coors Light.” Man, we don’t care! It doesn’t matter. And, anyone who does care, I don’t think you should be hanging out with them. We’re big on “Do you like it? Does it make you smile when you drink it? Then cool, drink it!” We think it’s cool to try new things and good to branch out, but if you end up and Bud’s what you like, drink it.
JY: We like beer in general. We’re definitely not beer snobs. I think we’re just happy that you’re in here drinking. You know, it’s a social thing. Chances are, I might sit down next to you and have a Budweiser, too.
Have you thought at all about making beer?
JY: I think we enjoy drinking beer too much to actually get into the science behind it. I love people who do it, I think it’s great, the chemistry; I almost think it might ruin it for me, though.
MT: In my life, the only thing I’ve ever been really good at is talking to people. I don’t know that I’d be good at making beer. I like to take what other people have done and trumpet it to the world. I like recognizing greatness, taking it and telling others why it’s great. It really makes me happy and it’s why I do what I do. Even if I made this amazing beer, I wouldn’t want to trumpet it myself. I like taking other people’s accomplishments and shouting from the rooftops.
I know you can’t talk too much about the new place, but what are some important details for those of us already anticipating it?
MT: It’s going to be a retail craft beer store. We won’t have neons, it won’t be a 7-11, we won’t have Budweiser - we’re not trying to compete on that level. The grocery stores and Sam’s are already doing that at a price we can’t match. If you’re looking for a twelve pack of Bud on the way home, we’re not that. But, if you want a mixed six-pack of some of the best beer you’ve ever tasted – maybe you’re having a buddy over for dinner and you want to try something different, we’re your place. I don’t want the neighborhood to get the wrong impression. We’re really careful about what we tell about it and how we’re planning it because if you just say, “Yeah, we’re opening a beer store,” well there are so many negative connotations. That’s certainly not what we’re doing. It won’t be intrusive. It’s not going to be bright. It’s going to be a really cool boutique little place. Not a bodega; we’re not going to have cigarettes. You get what we’re talking about [laughs]. We just want the neighborhood to understand that we live here. We want to make it an even better place to live, not worse.
Josh Yingling and Matt Tobin. [Photo: Brentney Hamilton/EDFW]