In Dallas, most restaurants and clubs close shop by 2 a.m. — if not much sooner. But, a few nocturnal souls buck the trend and break on through to the other side of last call.
Starting out as a cozy, close-quartered diner off of North Central Expressway before adding an expansive new location on Lemmon Avenue and eventually a third store in Deep Ellum last year, Buzzbrews Kitchen hums on high-octane pop art murals, as bright as Dick Tracy's signature trench coat and fedora, fueled by all-you-can-drink coffee and a can-do attitude. With brains and brawn owner/GM, Ernest Belmore, at the helm, the Deep Ellum location has just celebrated its first birthday, propping up the heart and soul of Dallas' historic arts neighborhood with breakfast, brunch and southwestern diner cuisine made from all-natural and fresh local products that have helped carve out a niche as the community's go-to hang out.
How does this, the third Buzzbrews location, reinforce or expand upon what has, over the last few years, become Dallas' signature late night joint?
There are so few late night places, especially that are independent and springboard from the idea of all organic, all natural, all local. All of those components. Everything else that is 24 hours is big corporate.
This [store in Deep Ellum] is an evolution. The core values and concept were in play [in the other two locations], but this store is closer to the footprint we're going to use in moving forward. Though Buzzbrews is designed to be a chameleon and really take on the energy and the flavor of the particular neighborhood, we want to bring our own flair. And, this [looks around] really is our flair.
The pop art theme definitely lends itself to the Deep Ellum neighborhood, or vice versa.
For the Lemmon one, I use the work "schwank." It's a little swankier because of its geographic location between the Gayborhood and University Park. And, wherever we are, we want to reach out to a neighborhood, make them comfortable, give them what they want.
So, you'd say the Deep Ellum location is a little more ... low key?
More organic, maybe? More local. More plugged into the social economy of this neighborhood. Whereas Lemmon is a bit more split between two cultures, and they don't have quite such an established social system in place that is one collective effort moving forward, they really have that down here in Deep Ellum. It's a really great little community. And we want to be a good force in moving this community forward. I'd say it took us a good two years for the Lemmon Ave. location to be really embraced. Deep Ellum was almost instant, because we are building a community here, and this store can set a foundation for that — I had a plan and we stuck with it. Whereas with Lemmon, we were coming into a situation that required more adaptability and more convincing on our part. This one was a totally different philosophy.
Have there been any challenges because Deep Ellum isn't quite "back" yet? Everyone's anticipating a new heyday for it.
Actually, the timing was perfect for this location. Deep Ellum is poised to come back. The social scene — i.e. the music scene and all the other artistic portions of this district — is a much needed element in the city of Dallas becoming whole. The infrastructure is already kind of here, and it's even a little bit fortunate for Deep Ellum that we had this economic downturn, because Deep Ellum would be something totally different right now. There had already been — I think — 40 million square feet that were under contract, but permits were pulled during the downturn. They were basically going to chain Deep Ellum to Big Money. And, when they all pulled out, it was kind of good.
When I first decided to come down here and started doing the finish out on the property, people would pop in and say, "Hey, what's going on ... Buzzbrews, great." And, every single one would say, with a big question mark on their face, "You think Deep Ellum's going to come back?" That was their question, with a kind of positive anticipation. By the time we opened — it only took 38 days to turn this one around, we have an incredible crew and they worked night and day — by the first month we were open, we already had people popping their heads in, but they no longer had a question mark on their faces. It was an exclamation point, "Deep Ellum's really coming back, isn't it!" It's funny how the tide changed in such a small amount of time, and now a year later it continues to be positive. That positive energy and positive interpretation is what will make it come back.
And, you're really catering to the Deep Ellum ethos — you recently installed the bike racks.
Bike racks, patio, late nights. Everything here is local. All the art work on the walls is local — and for sale. Our coffee's local, our bread is local. Even our bar and our spirits are as local as we can get. We have a huge Texas beer collection. We're really embracing the Texas alcohol movement.
Are you in here every day?
I typically, as the owner, I work it 24/7 for the first couple months, and then I still stay attached to that new store as the general manager — I'm the acting general manager of this store, I'm here three days per week in that role. Through it, I develop my relationship with the neighborhood and area groups while I'm training and implementing all those values and virtues into my staff. I do that three days per week and then I bounce between the other two throughout the week. I won't back away from a store until I'm really confident that I can cut those apron strings and put my energy into the next one.
So a next location is already in the works?
It's in the plan, as in the "spirit" of it. I haven't actually said, "Boom, that's the one, let's sign on the dotted line," yet. I'm looking at four or five things, always. I'm kind of an opportunist in that regard — I'm waiting for the right one to surface in an area that I want to go into. Because I think we really bring a lot to an area, a neighborhood, a district, and that's really who we want to be known as. That's what we've done in Deep Ellum. We've tried to carve out our own niche here, and we are the neighborhood place because of our extended hours and all the elements we offer. There's coffee, free Wi-Fi, hang out. It's social, it's meetings, it's a bar. It's art, it's live music. And, casual. Not pretentious.
What's the best thing on the menu?
I don't think there is a "best" thing. It's all the best. I do analysis of the menu every six or eight months to see if I should drop something off or bring something new on, but from a sales point of view, everything is strong. From a taste point of view, it's all good.
Guests can just put a finger on the menu and be good to go.
I think so. If they don't have dietary restrictions, I guarantee everything on that menu is good. I'm a classical French chef by trade — that was my first vocation — so the way I look at it, it's not what we do to the product, sometimes it's more about what we don't do. We find great products; we bring those through the door and respect them.
That's such a hard question, because I'd turn it back to you: Where are you in your life? Trying to gain weight, lose weight? Getting ready to run a marathon? What's going on with you? What do you do?
Totally, I've been in before while on a diet and I get an egg white omelet with veggies, whereas so many other places are all deep fried. There are options here you might not find elsewhere.
We have a friendly staff who are trained to help you through choosing something if you do have a diet. We're very quick to recognize if you have needs - because we have a lot of special requests. That's who we are. Because we have all that great product, we can be flexible. We have a couple of fried things [laughs].
I love fried things; that's why I'm on the diet!
Chips and French fries. They're good. The French fries aren't on the menu, so you have to be in the know [laughs], and they are awesome.
What can newcomers expect as far as the live entertainment?
We have kind of a structured open mic on Saturday nights, it's called "Pass the Mic," with about 6 or 8 different acts that will come and play 20-30 minute sets. Friday nights we run the stage. We have music from 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. all the way to 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. Sunday — this is really cool, it's our fourth week — we have this thing called The Rebel Alliance, a 17 piece big band that comes in. This is all free, of course. It's A) local stuff, B) stuff that's not "regular" — off the beaten path, kind of, to give people a different experience, you know.
Do you have regulars?
Ohmygosh. Yeah. I know what they eat, what they drink. We have people who come in, like, 12 times per week. I'm serious. There's a girl — Friday night, I saw her. Saturday morning, Saturday night, Sunday morning. She brought in her parents, her friends. It's affordable, and we have enough variety where you can really have a different experience every time.
Usually, I ask what the wait is at 7:30 on a Saturday night, but I'm not even sure what you're really busy time might be. How hard can it get to get a table?
We are still building the business to the point where we're at a wait. Saturdays and Sundays we go on a wait, a little bit, but our turnover is so good, that it's really not long. We have been on a wait during some of our functions — like, we do ArtLoveMagic the first Friday of every month, so that gets really busy. But, we don't take reservations, and we have quite a few seats here — 165 in Deep Ellum. So, we haven't yet had the luxury of being on a wait, but that is a problem that we want to have.
How does it feel coming out of the first year?
Good. Great. I'm so happy. I was actually going to do Deep Ellum as the second location because I really wanted to be down here. I felt the energy. But, it was a little too soon - two years too soon, probably. When we were ready to do number three, we were looking at a bunch of different areas, and this one just felt right. For all the reasons why I wanted to come here, this first year has exceeded those expectations. Just the welcoming into the neighborhood has been much more than I expected. It's been fuzzy. Real warm and fuzzy.
. [Photo: Brentney Hamilton/EDFW]