Steve and Brandy Spence met each other in their fourth year at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He always knew he wanted to own his own restaurant and went to the CIA to get the total understanding of how restaurants work. Brandy, on the other hand, wanted to be a surgeon and was pre-med at the University of Texas in Austin when the restaurant bug bit her. She went to her father and claimed she wanted to be a chef. Being the good father, he helped her find the best culinary school in the United States.
“I always thought that I would work the front of the house, but in the back of my mind I want to be in the kitchen,” said Brandy at a recent interview.
Interesting enough, they both now own their own kitchen at the Corner Bar, which they recently purchased. Both were working at Shinsei in Dallas; she was bar manager, he was general manager, and now they have their own place. In addition, they hired the former chef from Shinsei, Jason Czaja, who had already resigned his post and spent time staging at different restaurants around the country.
Czaja spent time in various states working in and out of some restaurants, including New Orleans where he said that it brought him back to center before starting back up in Dallas at The Corner Bar.
The Corner Bar started as Chealsea’s Corner back in 1974 and has always performed well in its hidden alcove on McKinney Avenue at Montecello. It had gone through a few ownerships, and the last owners bought the bar strictly as an investment with no intentions of running the bar long term. That is when the Spences decided to take it over. It had been a hang out for Steve in his early drinking days.
“We had looked at some other places to buy, but this place has a soul, and I fell in love with it the moment we walked in,” said Brandy.
So they bought the bar and closed the deal at 8:00 on a Friday night, and by 8:30 they were in the bar making introductions. They spent the next month giving the bar a good scrubbing. They also removed the three freezers that were in the kitchen, and tweaked the menu to remove all the items that were not actually made from scratch in house. They also opened for lunch.
Although they were very clear they did not want to make drastic changes, it only took a few days for the new owners to realize they did not want people coming into The Corner Bar and ordering frozen chicken tenders.
There is a large amount of space at the bar that is not generating revenue, so the couple plans to make that a neighborhood fine dining concept that will co-exist with the bar. There will actually be a separate entrance for that new restaurant, and the menu will be uniquely different than the attached Corner Bar. The menu will change weekly depending on what is fresh and available, and sport a price point starting at $15 for entrees. Look for this addition later in 2013.
Meanwhile the bar menu has already been kicked up, and they serve some amazing sandwiches and a few fresh fish entrees. Look for an Italian Beef sandwich and a terrific meatloaf sandwich that is in place instead of a burger.
The bar is still rocking, and on any given Wednesday night you might catch Brandy at the karaoke mic with her angelic voice.
The Corner Bar | 4830 McKinney Ave, Dallas | (214) 219-8002
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