One recent Saturday evening, I was sent to World Market on a mission of mercy by my lovely and talented wife of 33 years. The mission called for me to procure their world famous dark chocolate with sea salt. It led me to experience North Greenville Avenue on a hot summer night—something I have not done in … a long time.
Old Town shopping center, home to the first T.G.I. Friday’s in Dallas and many happening nightspots, and Greenville Avenue itself was sleepy on this evening, although it was still early by that neighborhood’s standards. After all, the frozen margarita was invented at Mariano’s Cantina some 40 years ago in Old Town (an off-street location with terrible visibility), and the eatery stayed there for an eternity.
Legendary restaurateur and Texican philosopher, Gene Street, opened his third Black Eyed Pea at Greenville Avenue and University Boulevard and perfected his home cookin’ concept that spawned a 270-unit chain and multiple successful concepts while mentoring and training hundreds in the industry, including me.
On this night, I saw a line at McDonald’s on Southwestern Boulevard with 11 cars in the drive-thru lane. It was not the California newcomer, In-N-Out Burger, but basic old McDonald’s, with a significant line at 8:45 p.m. I remember when they bought the corner from the Houston-based Ninfa’s Mexican restaurant family for a million bucks. McDonald’s tore the building down and built their burger joint, which was undoubtedly the highest and best use for the real estate.
The relocation of the Black Eyed Pea from University Boulevard to north of Lovers Lane, located adjacent to Sigel’s Fine Wines & Great Spirits on the west side of Greenville Avenue directly across from Old Town, was a major decision to ‘go north’. The Black Eyed Pea lasted there for more than 20 years; it was a transaction where I represented the Black Eyed Pea to Alden Wagner Sr. in 1988. It is now becoming a medical “doc in the box,” taking away another indigenous eatery and nightspot in the corridor.
Several other newer offerings—Baker Bros American Deli, Another Broken Egg Café, and Sweet Tomatoes soup and salad bar, all of which thrive on the daytime business of the Central Expressway office population—were characteristically slow. Yet these successful concepts see the value of a Greenville Avenue address.
In a recent conversation with my comrade and friendly competitor, Jack Gosnell at UCR, we talked about how interesting it is to see concepts change, restaurants evolve, and players come and go; yet good real estate only gets better. North Greenville Avenue, as that great Texican philosopher once told me, “is a chicken dinner winner.”
Some things change … and some actually get better.