Thursday, March 31, 2011

Love Shack Denton, Denton, TX

Love, actually

The man, the myth, the menu promise to make dining on the Square a while lot juicier
01:32 PM CDT on Thursday, March 31, 2011
By Ellen Ritscher Sackett / Staff Writer
Chef Tim Love is running behind. His executive assistant calls to say he will be 20 minutes late. He’s on his way from Fort Worth to talk about Love Shack Denton, his latest restaurant about to open just east of the Square. For months, passers-by have peered through the windows, observing the building’s transition from barbershop to burger joint. It’s almost ready — but not quite.
DMN file photo
DMN file photo
Tim Love, pictured in 2007 just before the opening of his first Love Shack at the Fort Worth Stockyards, is preparing to open the burger joint’s third location, in Denton.
The 2007 Iron Chef America winner, instantly recognizable for his many television appearances on cooking and morning shows, walks through the front door without his crisp chef’s coat and signature white Stetson. Despite his busy morning, he appears relaxed in faded jeans, cowboy boots and a worn T-shirt that reveals a tattoo inked on a buff upper arm. He sits down and leans back in his chair as construction workers keep the place hopping, with sparks flying and the sound of drills and saws buzzing, and hammers pounding away.
This will be Love’s third gourmet hamburger establishment by the same name, Tim Love’s Love Shack, one of several restaurants he has owned over the years that run the gamut from casual to fine dining. But this one is special. It’s Love’s first venture in his hometown.
“My mom wanted me to do a restaurant in Denton — that’s the main reason I’m here. She’s excited,” says the 39-year-old culinary rock star who spent the first 18 years of his life here.
“I wanted to bring something back.”
Long before Love became a celebrity chef, he spent summers in Tennessee working on his father’s farm.
“I’ve raised almost every vegetable under the sun growing up as a kid, and same with animals,” Love says. “I raised chickens and rabbits and lambs and goats and steers.”
After Love graduated from Denton High School, he went back to Tennessee to earn double degrees in finance and marketing at the University of Knoxville. While making a little cash in various restaurant jobs, he found his calling.
“I fell in love with it,” he says. “I wanted to cook for a living.”
Love never went to culinary school, but he gained a solid foundation based on experience.
“You learn from every ingredient you touch.”
Love spent his mid-20s in Colorado, snowboarding when he wasn’t cooking for crowds. He scooped up the Taste of Breckenridge Grand Award three times and the Taste of the Mountains Award, four. He met his wife, Emilie, at the Uptown Bistro in Frisco, Colo., where he was chef. Eventually the two moved back to Texas, making their home in Fort Worth, where they now raise their three children.
• Address: 115 E. Hickory St.
• Phone: 940-442-6834
• Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday;
11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday
• Opening date: early April
• On the
In 2000, Love opened Lonesome Dove in Cowtown’s historic downtown Stockyards district, once the Grand Central Station of livestock, where visitors can still witness daily cattle drives. Love, who calls himself a “huge meat guy,” made his mark serving what he calls “urban Western cuisine” — not only traditional high-end steaks, but rabbit, elk, rattlesnake, wild boar and even kangaroo.
Love says people often try out-of-the-ordinary meat just to say they did it.
“But can I take it and turn it into something people really like?” he says. “That’s the challenge.”
More than a decade since opening, Lonesome Dove is packed and critics rave; in fact, just last week The Dallas Morning News published a four-star review of Love’s upscale restaurant.
Just around the corner from Lonesome Dove is the original Love Shack — all 140 square feet of it — next door to the White Elephant Saloon, which is also owned by Love. The second Love Shack is located near Fort Worth’s Trinity Park and the museum district.
“We’re a different breed,” Love says. “We’re not a fast-food joint. We’re a really cool, hip, burger spot.”
The concept was born out a “what the heck” situation, he says. Love wanted to offer food to White Elephant Saloon customers, and he also needed to find a way to use the leftover trim from Lonesome Dove’s popular garlic-stuffed beef tenderloin.
“We have a lot of it,” Love says. “It’s expensive meat to just throw away.”
It took about five months for Love to develop the perfect grind and mix for his unique burger.
“We do 50 percent prime brisket and then 50 percent of tenderloin,” Love says. The combination makes a “tremendous meat patty.”
The Love burger itself is simple.
“It’s not like we have all these crazy things on the burger,” he explains. “It’s not a burger made with foie gras and blueberries or whatever.
“It’s made from really top-notch, high-quality ingredients that are all house-made,” including the pickles and the ketchup and mayonnaise that go into Love’s special Love Sauce.
The Dirty Love Burger “gets a little more exciting,” topped with wild boar bacon and a quail egg. “It’s a beautiful thing,” he says. “It’s even better with a fried portobello on it. We call that the Love and the Boom Boom. It’s awesome. It’s what I eat.”
The next order of business was developing fries that are “not like anybody else’s,” Love says. “We do a thin, plain french fry that gets pretty crispy. They’re different.”
Love devotes a huge amount of time creating the perfect eating experience, down to the width of the tomato slice.
“All of it involves the texture of one bite,” he says. “It’s hard to develop a burger where [when] you bite into it, it still tastes the same all the way around.”
The three Love Shack menus vary. The Denton menu will include chicken, fish, hot dogs, soups and salads in addition to burgers, fries and onion rings. The Denton location is the only one that will serve grilled, cured pickles. Every Love Shack serves root beer on tap and milkshakes, too.
“We don’t have five shakes on the menu, we have today’s shake,” Love says. “And today’s shake could be anything.”
The same fare will be served from opening to close. The lunchtime crowd will order at the counter and seat themselves, whereas after 5 p.m. diners will be served by waitstaff, and to-go orders will be available for pickup at a window on the west side.
Bartenders will man a full bar and pour “fun, funky cocktails,” he says, and there will be a daily happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. Several flat-screen TVs are mounted overhead on nearly every wall.
“I’m a big sports guy. I don’t like missing any sports,” he says.
But the main focal point will be the stage flanking the east wall.
“You should be able to see the music from anywhere in the restaurant,” he says. Love says he’s a big proponent of live music, and the bands will “run the gamut.”
He says he wants his restaurant “to get heavily involved in the Denton music scene.”
“It’s such a great music town.”
Love envisioned the building to have “a spacious feel” with lots of windows and two 30-foot glass garage doors.
“The place is created to feel like you’re outside all the time,” he says.
The walls are constructed from reclaimed farm wood from South Texas. Patio seating with two giant maple trees will shade the north side, and diners can play outdoor pingpong, washers or cornhole. Love wants to create a relaxed atmosphere where customers will want to hang out for a few hours.
“The Love Shack is all about having fun,” he says.
Looking around on a recent afternoon, one can see there’s still plenty to do. Construction is not quite complete. The tables and chairs are stacked on top of each other. The staff has yet to learn the art of the food preparation and will be trained by Love himself. The city still has to give its stamp of approval, and is in the process of ensuring that the building is up to code and the health department is satisfied. So when does it open? Early April, Love says, but there’s no firm commitment yet as to an exact date.
“It’s got to be perfect,” he says. “My goal is for the food to be perfect, the service to be perfect, and whenever those things come together, that’s when we open.”
ELLEN RITSCHER SACKETT can be reached at 940-566-6845. Her e-mail address is .

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Soup's On ~ Soups in Denton

SOME LIKE IT HOT: A little spice, a lot of warmth served up in local soup

Published in the Denton Record-Chronicle, Thursday, January 13, 2011

Text and photos by Ellen Ritscher Sackett

What better way to stave off the wintry chills than a piping hot bowl of homemade soup? Almost every Denton restaurant offers at least one soup on its menu, and many have revolving selections that change daily. Narrowing down this list was a challenge, but here are a few you can count on to warm you up when the temperatures drop.

Mr. Chopsticks

$7.25 for a large bowl.
1663 Scripture St. 940-566-5671.
Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

This slightly sweet, slightly spicy Vietnamese rice noodle soup makes more than a meal. Pho lovers can add chicken or beef to Mr. Chopstick’s version, which is made from a chicken-based broth rather than the more traditional beef stock. According to owner Chai Tamprateep, the quality of the broth is “crucial.”

“To have good soup, you have to have good broth,” he said.

His pho is steeped with onion, garlic and spices, which include anise, cinnamon stick, cardamom and fresh ginger. Limes, bean sprouts, jalapeno slices, cilantro and plum sauce sides come served on a plate covering the bowl, ensuring the soup will be hot when it arrives at the table. Other condiments, such as soy sauce and chili paste, are already on the table available for additional soup doctoring.

This 25-year-old Asian restaurant, which moved from Hickory Street to its current location north of the University of North Texas campus, features Chinese, Thai and Japanese cuisines. Other best-sellers? “We sell a lot of hot and sour and egg drop soup,” Tamprateep said.

Los Toreros
2900 Wind River Lane, Suite 134. 940-390-7693.
Open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.

Those who live on the south side of town can indulge in this healthy pick from Unicorn Lake’s new upscale Mexican restaurant, Los Toreros, which took its recipe from its big sister restaurant, El Matador.

The two versions are virtually identical. They both start with chicken cooked in a tomato-based broth chock full of vegetables, including corn, carrots, celery, onion and red and green peppers. Each is topped with crispy tortilla strips and avocado.
The only difference? The cheese. El Matador’s version is laden with mozzarella, while Los Toreros comes with a slice of queso fresco. Los Toreros’ portion is for smaller appetites, but it also comes with a side of Spanish rice. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Cup $4, bowl $5.
219 W. Oak St. 940-565-1638.
Open 10 a.m. to midnight daily.

Tomato basil ranks right up there as the most popular soup in town, if the number of restaurants that boast a recipe is any indication.

Banter’s won this feature spot for being the most unique, with low-fat cream cheese blended with crushed tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil. The recipe came from Michelle Kuzov, who sold the restaurant to Stephen Johnson and Ellen Ryfle in January.

Ryfle said Banter lovers need not worry; the atmosphere of the artsy downtown hangout will not change. It will still offer live music, feature local artists and continue the Thursday open mic night, one of the few left in the area. The menu will undergo a slight revision in February, but favorite dishes, including the tomato basil soup, will remain.

Try these other deserving tomato basil soups when you’re out and about town: Bochy’s, for its superb garlic infusion, Hannah’s Off the Square, for its heavy, cream-based, don’t-start-your-diet-today concoction; and Round Belly Cafe inside the Antique Experience of Denton, for one unnamed ingredient that chef Baldemar Rivera says keeps customers coming back for more.

Ramen Republic Noodle House
Regular $5, large $6.50, monster $8
210 E. Hickory St. 940-387-3757.
Open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
This is not the curly, compact, low-budget ramen that goes on sale at the grocery store in packages of 10 for $1. These are long, thin, elegant noodles that swim in broth hot off the stove.

First-time customers to Ramen Republic are walked through the five-step process of building their noodle dishes. Picking the bowl size is the first big decision — big, bigger, biggest — followed by selecting an all-natural, low-sodium vegetable, garlic beef or ginger chicken broth.

Next, choose from one of four types of noodles and add the protein, either tofu, plain or sesame ginger chicken, slow-roasted pulled pork or Asian beef mini-meatballs. Tenderloin tips or the salmon filet are available for an additional charge as well as extras such as baby spinach, fresh basil, edamame or egg.

Lastly, a small bowl filled with your choice of veggies from the complimentary bar can be tossed into the mix while your soup is prepared behind the counter. In minutes, the meal is complete.

Ramen Republic is a place where strict vegans and shameless carnivores sit side by side, where the bland meets spicy, and hot meets cold. Owner Charlie Foster, who opened the Asian-inspired restaurant near the Industrial Street area last June, said, “There are over 1 million different bowl combinations available.” A meat-eater’s suggestion: Try the pork.

International Foods of Denton
609 Sunset St. 940-383-2051.
Open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.

For a simple soup that’s good and good for you, try the lentil soup from International Foods of Denton, one block south of University Drive. This restaurant, which opened its doors to Denton over 16 years ago, specializes in Mediterranean, Persian, Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine.

The lentil soup is “very healthy,” said Kim Pourmorshed, who owns and operates the restaurant with her husband, Ali.

“It’s good for your stomach, your body and your hormones,” she said. In addition to crushed lentils, the soup contains a blend of carrots and onions, herbs and some secret spices that make it special, Pourmorshed said.
The ingredients are blended into a thin, smooth soup that goes down easily, a good choice for a sensitive tummy, and reheats well. Customers can ask for a side of pita bread as well, perfect for scraping the bowl to get every last drop.

The Abbey Inn Restaurant and Pub
Cup $3.99, bowl $5.99.
101 W. Hickory St. 940-566-5483.
Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday.

The Abbey Inn’s French onion soup is made with beef and chicken stock added to a sweet onion, sherry and butter reduction. But what makes this version memorable is the homemade croutons — soppy-soft bite-sized pillows made from sourdough, wheatberry, pumpernickel and marble rye breads — covered by a thin layer of melted Harvarti cheese, which holds in the heat and contains the flavors.

Next time you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and check out the recent renovations in the lower level of the restaurant on the southeast corner of the downtown Square. What was once the Boiler Room, dedicated to live music, is now the Abbey Underground.

Co-owner Tim Trawick said they have added seating and are “trying to create a cozy pub environment,” which will feature 99 bottles of beer on the back wall of the bar. For now, the menu will be the same upstairs as down, so either way you can have your soup and eat it too.

Good Eats Grill
Cup $2.99, bowl $3.99, add-on to a meal $1.49.
5812 N. Interstate 35. 940-387-3500. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

It’s winter, so think summer, as in Indian Summer Soup — one of three of Good Eats’ soup offerings, which also include a daily special and tomato basil.

“It’s our best-selling soup,” said kitchen manager Eric Wright. The golden yellow comfort food looks as warm as it tastes, made with melted American cheese, chicken, onion, margarine, garlic, mushrooms and corn with an ever-so-slight kick from poblano pepper.

Denton is fortunate to be home to one of only three Good Eats restaurants left in Texas from a chain serving ranch-style food that started off with a bang in 1986 by E. Gene Street. Street also began the Black-eyed Pea country-style chain and several other successful Dallas-based restaurants and became a founder of Consolidated Restaurant Operations Inc., which oversees the operations of successful chains in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, such as El Chico, Cantina Laredo and III Forks as well as Good Eats.

Unlike other repeateries whose menu items are often at least partially premade, Good Eats uses all fresh produce and creates all of its recipes in-house from scratch, which makes its ranch-style meals particularly mmm, mmm good.