You can turn into Local Traveler from the ever-contentious Gaston-Garland-Grand intersection if you dare, but you would be missing the best part.
The local traveler, if you will, would ride their bike from the Santa Fe Trail and park around back in the area shared with The Lot next door. Diners will find themselves walking along a trail bounded by greenery that leads to a large back patio with a great view of the surrounding woods.
Inside, the cement floors, exposed ceilings, dark colors and international artifacts create a balance between fine and casual dining. A bar flanks the seating area on one side and the “library,” which is an area with lounge furniture, a screened-in porch and large TVs that can be reserved, sits opposite.
Overall, the feel is one that nicely juxtaposes with its neighbor The Lot. The Lot’s yelps of childhood sandbox pleasure can be heard from the patio, but woods give patrons just enough escape. Jeff Burrow and Stan Vlasimsky are part owners of The Lot as well as Local Traveler, their newest venture. The restaurant seats 210 people and is suited for anything from date night to a post bike-ride happy hour.
The menu will feature creations from Chef Ross Demers, whose résumé includes time at the Mansion on Turtle Creek and Oak. His most recent restaurant was On the Lamb in Deep Ellum. Vlasimisky describes the restaurant as American fusion, but the menu will include ingredients and nods to palates from all over the world.
Demers was given carte blanche on the menu, which ranges from pizza and pasta to poached salmon. Chefs will make the pizza dough, noodles and ricotta cheese in house. He highlighted the Mexican-style prawns in aguachile, a great summer dish with influences from the Yucatan. “Fish is life to me,” Demers says. “It needs to be treated with complete care.”
He also is excited about the grilled chicken with curry and ancho chile powder and the bacon sherry lentils. Demers went to culinary school in Los Angeles, but credits his kitchen skills to growing up a Greek family where Thanksgiving meant sardines and dolmas rather than turkey and casseroles. “I was the one in my kitchen while everyone else was outside playing,” he says.
For those who like to imbibe, Local Traveler will carry 40 draft options and 100 wines, with a number of signature cocktails and a bar staff ready to make the classics. Carrie Darnell arrived from Libertine as the beverage manager. She has paired with general manager Joseph Waite, who helped run Hibiscus before it closed.
A number of creative cocktails will be on the docket. The Galileo is made from herbaceous vodka, Thai basil, black pepper and pineapple. The Zeppelin is champagne with activated charcoal, gin, locally made rose jam and lemon.
The restaurant’s soft opening was Thursday evening. The restaurant will take reservations for dinner for the next couple weeks as they ramp things up. If you just want to pop in off the trail for a cocktail, you can walk right in. They are only open for dinner right now, but will soon add lunch and weekend brunch service as well.
“A lot of people are looking for a place like this, a place they can hang,” Vlasimsky says. He has lived in East Dallas for more than 25 years, and he has seen the area change. “We want it to be a unique place in the neighborhood and to take the best elements of what’s around and what’s missing.”
Local Traveler is located at 7522 E. Grand Ave. and can also be accessed from the Santa Fe Trail.
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