by Steven Doyle photos by Joy Zhang
Jon Stevens is the crazy good chef that has more than proven his stock in the Dallas food scene, and beyond. He recently opened his first restaurant in the Bishop Arts District, Stock and Barrel.
Stevens is originally from the San Francisco area, one of the great food cities in the United States and was mostly self-taught. The chef starting cooking at the age of 19 with his uncle who was also in the business. It was this uncle that gave Stevens the advice to pass on formal training as the city was bursting with great culinary experiences and the best way to learn was to do.
The young chef sat at the stoop of great culinary masters such as Traci Des Jardins of San Francisco’s Jardiniere. He also worked at Mecca and French regional Flytrap before landing at the Ritz Carlton where he worked up to a sous position just years later. It was then that Stevens found himself in Dallas as sous for the wildly understated but powerful talent, Chris Ward at the Mercury where he worked for a few years before hopping the fast moving Kent Rathbun train cheffing at Abacus, then opening Jaspers in 2003. It was there Stevens finally opened as chef at Aurora for Avner Samuels working for 2 years.
Stevens found himself missing California and moved back to work at the beautifully frenetic Bungalow 44 in Mill Valley just North of San Francisco where he stayed for 4 years honing his craft. But made his way back to Dallas where he opened at Neighborhood Services.
“I learned a lot about running a restaurant from Nick [Badovinus], he definitely has his pulse on the Dallas restaurant scene,” said Stevens.
It wasn’t too long after opening the Royal Lane location of Neighborhood Services that Avner Samuels was looking at his latest incarnation. Just weeks after Aurora closed and he called on Stevens once again to help run the restaurant, develop the menu and be a percentage partner in Nosh Euro Bistro that closed its doors some months after Stevens left that post to open his own restaurant in Oak Cliff.
It is here where we pick up with Stevens once again to chat about his new restaurant, Stock and Barrel.
Crave: Your first restaurant. What is it all about?
Stevens: Stock and Barrel is simply classified as a modern American wood fire grill. We were shooting for the finish out to be this contemporary, organic design. We took the old Safety Glass building ehre in Bishop Arts that was quite dilapidated and completely gutted it. It is basically a new building. It would have been cheaper just to tear it down, but we wanted to maintain the integrity of the architecture.
I was able to do a lot of the resourcing on the finish out myself, and put some sweat and tears, and decisions as far as the tables, chairs and patio. We used a lot of the wood from the old roof in the design, including the planter boxes and tables on the patio which are made from the trusses. We didn’t go knock a barn down to have reclaimed wood. I think some people take the reclaimed thing a little too far.
Crave: How are the acoustics?
Stevens: The acoustics are great. In the ceiling between the trusses we installed soundboard, so they are very absorbent. We have got a nice, sound building. All the walls are blown in with insulation, it’s tight. It feels good to know the right thing to do and make it happen, especially when it comes out in a positive way.
Crave: Talk about the cuisine.
Stevens: 65 to 70% of the menu is based on the wood fire grill. We also have this rotisserie that we will be using more. But a lot of the proteins are coming off the grill, with some saute items . A lot of fresh, light salads. A lot of lighter fare in general, pairing with the things coming off the grill. We are doing our own house-smoked bacon. We cold smoke some fish for some different things on the brunch menu.
The menu is small and tight to start off with, but that leave us with some room for different features each day. Tonight we are starting with a scallop and avocado tartare with a roasted scallion mayo and fried Brussels tossed with a little chili garlic we make here in house. It is a nice little sweet, salty and crunchy playful little dish. And we are doing a hand-cut pappardelle with roasted pulled chicken, a house-made Mexican chorizo and ruby red shrimp in a little brown stock and braising greens. Nice and light.
Crave: What have been the standouts so far?
Stevens: Without a doubt, the meatloaf. We roll them, wrap them in foil then bake them, then slice and finish on the grill. I serve it with a bacon, potato caramelized onion hash, and serve a cream peppercorn sauce. The sauce is a standout. A nice balanced dish. It is killing it so far.
Then we are doing these lump crab fritters, and a whole section with fries which we are changing all the time. It is not just potatoes, but also things like chickpea panisse. We use chickpea flour and make like a polenta, chill then cut out in its shape. Then we fry it and serve with a little harissa cream. Those have bee a big hit. Then of course the handcut Kennebecs, the Russets, and the potato brava style like the crushed Yukons served with a paprika mayo. The mayo has been a big hit on the fries. You do something different with mayo and people are just all over it.
Crave: How is your burger?
Stevens: It’s really good. We have this egg washed hallah style bun from Empire [Baking Company] that is light and airy, not too dense or too much bread, but it holds up. We add our tomato jam that adds this nice herbal tomato flavor without just adding a regular slice of tomato. Two kinds of cheddar, a white and yellow. Then our burger sauce which is made with mayo, whole grain mustard, sriracha. You know there are tons of sauces on the menu, and we are getting requests for sides of sauces. We don’t mind that at all, and don’t charge extra for these. I am all about giving the guests want they want.
Crave: What is really wonderful out there coming from our local farms?
Stevens: Well, we are using a lot of fava beans right now. We are doing a a crushed fava with marscepone and a little shaved spec ham on toast with a drizzle of balsamic. The asparagus, we are using a nice little pencil asparagus grilled with a little saffron cream, goat cheese and a gremolata on top. We have a whole section of vegetables, and they are vegetables that everyone will want to eat, not just vegetarians. That was my idea from the start. An app section for everyone to share, a vegetable section that are kind of like sides but a little more interesting. Then our fries section, and our standard section that has the pasta dishes we are making in house, the staple dishes that everyone will recognize as a Stock and Barrel items.
Crave: You have plenty of recognizable faces both in the front and back of the house.
Stevens: We do, and I am so fortunate to be surrounded by this amazing group of talented people. I am fortunate to have my sous chef Tom Youngling who has this great resume and worked around the world. He has been a great support of knowledge, and does this terrific job with pastries.
Crave: The wine list looks great.
Stevens: You know, it does. Price point wise everything is between $30 to $130, and a few higher. But it is ever changing. We are in the business of selling wine, not storing it. We are bringing in array of different things. I have personally tasted everything on the list.
Crave: You are doing great things for brunch.
Stevens: Our brunch is fun and we are actually doing it Friday through Sunday.
Crave: Who is doing brunch on Friday?
Stevens: You would be surprised. We have a lot of foot traffic here in Bishop Arts, and I want to give them what they want.
Stock and Barrel is located at 316 Davis Street in Oak Cliff. Make your reservations by calling 214.888.0150.