BEFORE 2011, everything was different. The Lowest Greenville area, the 0.4-mile stretch of Greenville Avenue sandwiched between Ross and Belmont avenues, just northeast of downtown Dallas, was a tinge too rough-and-tumble. In the wee hours of the night, police broke up fights. Seedy bars drew a tough crowd, frequently catering to minors. More often than not, the area could count on a steady stream of crime. But things began shifting when a new ordinance forced local businesses to apply for a specific-use permit to stay open past midnight. The result? Businesses with less-than-stellar track records packed up and left the scene. And slowly, so, too, did the crime.
For Dallas natives Sammy and Molly Mandell, it was like witnessing a dead log sprout leaves and come back to life. In a way, quite literally: To beautify the block, greenery was brought in, and sidewalks were widened to accommodate foot traffic. In an effort to draw more businesses and the people back to Greenville Avenue, the city added bike racks, park benches and decorative streetlights. Evidently, it worked.
In 2013, Trader Joe’s—a big and desirable name in retail—settled in the vacant lot where the fabled Arcadia Theater once stood. Seeing the area’s untapped potential, a slew of new restaurants took up residence shortly after that, and business owners formed the Lowest Greenville Collective to lend one another a hand and to foster community engagement. It was laboriously earned, but that section of Greenville was elevated to the status of “hip.”
Even longtime favorites, such as Greenville Avenue Pizza Co.—a pizza shop that opened its doors back in 2007 with Sammy and Molly at its helm—rebranded with the block. “When new businesses came in, we saw the opportunity to really hire a branding company to redo our image, as well as our interior and exterior,” says Sammy, whose plans included a complete face-lift—a new logo, lighting, wallpaper and paint. Before the wave of change, Sammy and Molly had to construct a makeshift sidewalk using pizza boxes.
Now, the Lowest Greenville Area is abuzz with activity. There’s no shortage of hungry masses exploring the area’s culinary scene, especially on weekends. Molly and Sammy’s joint even stays open to 4 a.m. Saturdays to help night owls ward off late-night cravings.
The best part? The area still has the potential to grow. “We’re really working on trying to encourage people to come in [with] retail shops,” Molly says. “There are so many restaurants and bars, but it would be great to have more shopping. We’ve talked to a few people about doing a weekend market or some sort of art gallery—anything that would get more people to come and enjoy the neighborhood.”
Hope you’re hungry, because this neighborhood knows how to eat (and drink)
If You Just Want to Unwind
The Blind Butcher
“Oh, man,” says Molly. “Their sausage and sauerkraut is my favorite thing. And the pastrami egg rolls are amazing.” Also amazing: the Blind Butcher’s rotating sausage board, which boasts favorites such as beer-cheddar-jalapeno brisket, bacon bratwurst and an English-style banger, all made in-house. And even if you turn an, ahem, blind eye to the food (which is, like, really hard to do), this neighborhood staple prides itself on its libations, offering two dozen drafts and killer cocktails. Adventurous imbibers, take note: The latter sometimes unite beer and booze—their new old-fashioned infuses rye whiskey with a stout reduction. (1919 Greenville Ave.; theblindbutcher.com)
If You Want A Burger with a View
HG Sply Co.
HG takes its motto seriously: “simple, clean food, classic drinks and humble hospitality.” The modern-but-rustic decor features wood tables and red-and-white tiles, while the paleo-inspired menu boasts everything from ahi tuna poke and cochinita nachos to a killer cheddar-bacon burger. Though HG’s dishes are mostly carnivorous, there are plenty of equally delectable gluten-free and vegetarian options. And the view from the eatery’s rooftop patio ain’t half bad, either. (2008 Greenville Ave.; hgsplyco.com)
If You Need Options
Some days, you get a hankering for something specific—a slice of pizza, say, or a plate full of crispy potato skins. Other days, you’re just plain hungry. Truck Yard is for those kinds of days, when you’re open to a little bit of this and a little bit of that. And cold beer. “It’s such a fun place to go, says Molly. “It’s an outdoor beer garden, and they have three food trucks that come in every day. They’re always different, so they rotate.” Head over to Truck Yard’s website to see what food trucks will roll into town when you will. (Or don’t, and live a little.) (5624 Sears St.; truckyarddallas.com)
If You’re Not Feeling Cool Enough
Botolino Gelato Artiginale
If a hefty serving of rich and creamy gelato is on your mind (if it wasn’t before, it probably is now), take a detour to Botolino Gelato, which serves up scoops such as maple gelato whipped up with maple syrup aged in bourbon barrels. Everything is made in-house with locally sourced ingredients and is dreamed up by Carlo “Botolo” Gattini, who hails from Tuscany and claims he was “born to make gelato.” We don’t doubt it at all. Not one bit. (2116 Greenville Ave.; botolino.com)
If Your Hotel Coffee Situation is Lacking
Walk into Mudsmith at any point during the day, and you’ll likely find something that tickles your fancy. Morning cup of joe? Try the Contessa—two shots of espresso, generously topped with foam and drizzled with honey. A cold cool-down drink after an afternoon workout? They’ve got kombucha on draft. A pint after it gets dark? Mudsmith has a rotating selection of beer. “It’s a great place to go get coffee,” Molly says. “The owner is actually a fan of our pizza, so we go there for meetings and stuff.” Meetings, homework, work, no work at all—this hunting-lodge-esque spot fits the bill. (2114 Greenville Ave.; mudsmithcoffee.com)
If Your Folks Back Home Expect a Souvenir
“I buy everyone’s Christmas and birthday presents at Bullzerk,” says Molly of this Dallas-centric gift shop, where hard-core Dallas pride unabashedly covers hats, outerwear, coasters, notebooks, glasses, mugs and the like. Which is fine, really, because owners Dan and Kari Bradley bring a lot of humor into it. One T-shirt recently featured on their Instagram claims, “American until Texas secedes.” Another says, “A little bit of Dez, and a little bit of Dak.” And even for those out-of-towners who don’t get the inside jokes or follow the Dallas Cowboys enough to get the Dez-and-Dak reference, there’s still plenty to enjoy—and take home. (1909 Greenville Ave.; bullzerk.com)
If You’re Not Feeling Fancy-Shmancy
The Libertine Bar
Situated just a stone’s throw from Mudsmith, The Libertine Bar elicits a strong, enthusiastic reaction from Molly—and for good reason: It’s the kind of low-key, no-frills place you’d want to go to after a long day’s work to fill up on booze and bites. The kind of place that offers humble mac and cheese, as well as a flavorful hanger steak sandwich packed with Gruyere, caramelized onion, au jus and horseradish cream. “When we go over there after work, we usually get a beer and a cheese board,” Molly says. “It’s just a relaxing, come-as-you-are place to wind down with friends or co-workers.” (2101 Greenville Ave.; libertinebar.com)