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The Biggest Dallas Dining Stories of 2020

From a viral twerking controversy to the arrival of Italian market Eataly, here’s what struck a chord with Eater readers this year

Dallas’s True Kitchen, the site of the year’s biggest con-twerk-versy
True Kitchen/Facebook

In 2020, the news in pretty much all sectors moved at a truly breakneck pace, and the world of Dallas dining was no exception. Throughout the year, despite a pandemic raging on, the city’s restaurants inspired some truly wild stories, ranging from a viral twerking controversy to the iconic Cheese Wife meme.

There was so much going on, in fact, that it’s easy to have missed out on some of the year’s biggest dining stories. Here’s everything you need to know to catch up:

A viral twerking controversy at Downtown’s True Kitchen

After it went viral, Dallas restaurateur Kevin Kelley yelling at a room full of diners about their behavior dominated the conversation on social media for days. In the video, Kelley admonished the crowd at True Kitchen after two women were caught twerking on the furniture, igniting a firestorm that ended up with Kelley going on TMZ to defend his actions. Later, he told the outlet that business was booming at True Kitchen despite the controversy.

The depressing results of Mark Cuban’s secret shopper study

In May, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban sent out a fleet of secret shoppers to investigate how restaurants and other businesses were complying with the state’s reopening guidelines, and the results were less than inspiring. In the survey, Cuban’s shoppers found that 96 percent of businesses weren’t enforcing the rules.

Finally, restaurants can reopen

After weeks of COVID-19 related closures, Dallasites were stoked to hear that restaurants would be allowed to reopen their doors at 25 percent of normal capacity. Since May, capacity has been ratcheted up to 75 percent, and then dropped back down to 50 percent for establishments within Dallas County as the pandemic drags on.

Chef’s outburst at an Austin restaurant sparks outrage

Just before the pandemic began in earnest in March, Dallas chef Peter Barlow found himself in hot water after an incident at Austin restaurant Comedor. After dining at the restaurant with his then-girlfriend and Dallas Observer food editor Taylor Adams, Barlow sent “insulting” text messages to former Comedor chef Gabe Erales and failed to tip a server.

The controversy became more complicated once the two chefs addressed the issue on social media, with Barlow expressing “fucking major dissatisfaction” with his meal at the restaurant, and Erales criticizing the chef on his Instagram account. Ultimately, though, the two resolved their differences and Barlow issued an apology for his behavior at the restaurant. Erales has since left Comedor, departing this month after “repeated violations” of the restaurant’s policies.

The permanent shutter of Five Sixty

Situated atop Downtown Dallas’s iconic Reunion Tower, the closure of beloved date night destination Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck was especially tough in a year full of brutal closures. The building was set to undergo “scheduled improvements,” but the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic turned a temporary closure into a permanent one.

Enterprising service industry workers sell nudes to raise cash for colleagues in need

When restaurants were forced to close their doors due to the pandemic, a couple of enterprising hospitality workers came up with a seriously genius way to help their colleagues in the industry who’d lost their jobs: selling nude photos. Called Nudes for Industry Babes and Dudes, the initiative was the brainchild of former bartender Katherine Doolittle, who was inspired by an Australian woman who raised more than $1 million for wildfire victims.

Cheese Wife

Wow, remember Cheese Wife? Back in June, a Dallas woman was transformed into a meme after a meal at Mi Cocina in Allen went wrong thanks to a lack of shredded cheese. A viral tweet from the woman’s husband complaining about the missing ramekin of cheese that was supposed to be served with her fajitas inspired countless jokes, dunks, and pleas for sympathy for struggling restaurants.

And, of course, COVID-19

There was no bigger story in the Dallas dining scene this year than the brutal impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry. Take a look back at this bizarre year with a timeline of everything that happened, from the initial shutdown in March to the summer’s rocky reopening and, most recently, a capacity reduction for restaurants in Dallas County.

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