Photography by Kathy Tran.
When Misti Norris was cooking with her grandma and eating homemade pickles, she had no idea how far what she learned would take her.
“I just wanted a neighborhood spot — some place that people around here would be proud of,” she says.
The James Beard Award semifinalist has a love of fermentation, pickling and zero-waste cooking that started in her family kitchen. But things started to click in her 20s as she devoured food and restaurant blogs.
“I saw so many chefs that were really connected with the earth,” Norris says. “It totally sparked something in me. That’s what I wanted to do. It just made sense to me. That’s what you should be doing. Why would you do it any other way?”
The food at Petra and the Beast isn’t just earthy in taste. It’s also environmentally friendly. Norris goes on trips foraging ingredients like seaweed and lotus root. Fermentation and pickling extends the life of produce so there is less food waste. Her love for whole-animal butchery means nothing goes to waste — even unconventional cuts such as pig tail and chicken hearts.
Don’t worry. There are options for the more traditional taste buds.
“Fun food for us is good and unpretentious,” Norris says. “I opened this concept because I wanted it to be approachable for anybody. We don’t have $20 items. I think our most expensive thing is $15. The whole idea is to do really good food and have it be very graspable.”
The chicken hearts dish isn’t the only thing about Petra and the Beast that is a little unconventional. Norris didn’t want to be tied down by investors’ expectations, so she put everything she owned as collateral and opened the restaurant herself. Being a female restaurant owner has exposed her to some of the sexism she didn’t see in the kitchen. But Norris says she has a great support system in Dallas.
“I have been fortunate to work under some chefs that don’t care what color you are,” she says. “They don’t care if you’re a man or a woman.”
Norris has seen much success in the year Petra and the Beast has opened, but she has big plans. She has a list of projects for the restaurant, such as painting a mural, but she also wants to become more engrained in East Dallas.
“We started doing a lot of charity events,” she says. “We did one for the Promise of Peace Garden. That’s something we’re trying to do more of. Our idea is to become even more connected with the neighborhood.”
Petra and the Beast
601 N. Haskell Ave.
Hours: Wednesday-Friday, Sunday noon to 9:30 p.m. Tasting menu on Saturday by reservation.
More info: petraandthebeast.com