We spoke this week with the owner of Clark Food & Wine, the very Texas restaurant located on Greenville Avenue that features smoked meats, interesting charcuterie, and flatbreads and so much more. Monday, February 2nd the chef-owner Randall Warder opens his second restaurant, C’Viche which will actually be located next door to Clark, and share the same patio separated only by a few potted plants. C’Viche will feature, of course, ceviche, tacos, and a few appetizers that are interesting like elotes en vaso and smoked brisket stuffed jalapenos. The new fast casual restaurant also hosts a fantastic bar with a good assortment of tequilas.
Warder has an interesting background, beginning his career busing tables and washing dishes at a place in Michigan called Uncle John’s, which was a family owned IHOP-style restaurant.Eventually Warder moved up the ranks to cook and he was hooked for life. Warder went on to attend Michigan state and finally graduated from UTD with a bachelors in business, but always knew what he wanted to do with his life, which was to be a chef. He went on to work at a bakery that eventually was sold and a friend who sold seafood wholesale asked where he might want to work. Warder immediately rattled off the A-list of restaurants and chefs in Dallas, and was soon on the staff at the Mansion on Turtle Creek working for Dean Fearing as a vegetable cook. There he worked his way up the ranks to sous chef. Warder stayed with the Mansion for 9 years before moving on work a year with Mark Miller at Red Sage in Dallas when the Rosewood called him to work at a luxury resort in Cabo called Las Ventanas al Paraíso where he managed the kitchens for the property for two years.
From Cabo he worked in Vegas as a chef and a consultant opening restaurants in casinos, cruise ships and hotels. Eventually Warder made it back to Texas to open his two restaurants, with the anticipation of many more to follow.
We chatted with Warder to find out more about his latest creation, both Clark and C’Viche.
What is the inspiration behind Clark?
It’s real simple. I love how the Europeans dine. I love ow they are focused on product quality, simplicity, easy execution, sharing… they really have not lost that love of dining to where you share with friends or family. It’s still there, but we’ve lost that. When you are in Europe it’s loud, people are talking, they’re drinking an clinking glasses, sharing food. I have traveled a bunch throughout Europe and we just don’t dine like that here anymore. I wanted to create something with that feel of a high energy bistro, and has that edge food-wise, but all about Texas.
To me the food has to be all about that style. It has to be American, Texas, and all that. It doesn’t scream Texas, it is subtle. I wanted to use smoke as an ingredient of the food. And there is so much European heritage in Texas. There is the Czechs, the Spaniards, the Germans, all those cultures that came together. Obviously the Mexican influence which brought us their culinary heritage to the state. And you see a lot of that in the menu at Clark.
It’s funny that I once said in an interview somewhere that we are still trying to figure it out, and some of the media took that as I don’t know what our identity is. That is so not true, I know what exactly what we are doing and it is very focused. There’s nothing Asian on the menu, there’s no curry, there’s no Indian. Everything is about smoke, Texas and something European. Everything on the menu applies to Texas. Everything fits in that box, but the box is so big. That’s why when I say I am trying to figure it out, it’s not about the concept it’s just narrowing the focus.
You are no trying to be all things to all people, it is a fun menu.
No, we will never do a chicken fried steak, even though that is a great Texas thing. But we do have our smoked fried chicken for brunch.
How did the C’Viche thing come about?
The funny thing about C’Viche is that we have the space next door, and thee is this small space that the landlords were looking at a variety of tenants to put something in. There is this common patio here separated only by a liquor license and plants. So I offered a concept that I knew would work. it is ceviche and tequila, and they loved it. I didn’t even have a plan written at that point. I called my partner and told him what i had n mind, and he immediately said lets do it. And it does make sense. This is an edgier neighborhood, the people are young, and this is totally different than Clark, Nora, Blind Butcher. It is different.
Tell us about a few of the dishes on the menu.
Chicken Tinga. My wife will tell you that four or five Sundays in a row I would go to the store and i would buy a chicken and make chicken tinga, and we would have enchiladas, or tacos or whatever. It is such a great, soulful food. It is rich, flavorful, healthy, it’s good. It’s something I always made for the family. And obviously I have the smoker next door and I was wondering how we could utilize that product. There is a taco joint down the street at Gaston and Garland road that has these amazing suadero tacos. They aren’t smoke, they are braised. And I thought how amazing would it be if we did the same thing except smoked them.
And the ceviche?
It is something since living in Mexico I have always done. In the summer it is a ritual, I go by the fish and make a batch and we eat it all weekend. When we vacation in Padre we eat it all week. There are certain ones I like better than others, and for sure it’s the Aquachiles. In Mexico City they use red wine vinegar and red onion. It is served raw and is kind of funky. In coastal cities they do it more with lime juice, jalapeno, a little bit of garlic and cilantro. The first time I had it in Cabo I was blown way. You mix up the sauce and pour it over the shrimp, wait five minutes and you serve it. Te shrimp barely turns pink. The first time I had it I thought it was awesome. We make it a bit more for the American palate, just a bit.
But your ceviche is more than just Mexico, you take us through the South and Central Americas.
Yes, ceviche is found everywhere you are near the water and it’s not cold, cold weather. We went the equatorial route with ceviches found in the Caribbean, Peru for sure. And I was thinking how do we pay an homage to that in a way that is approachable and not one dimensional. The menu is small, and it is easy. There are 40 seats in here, and its fast, so that’s how it needs to be.
There are some great cocktails here too, which you might not normally find in a fast casual restaurant. And you like tequila a lot.
Tequila is my favorite spirit. But when you start to think about what spirits g with what we are doing here, for me it started with just tequila and beer. But then I thought that is a bit narrow minded of me. So we ventured into pisco, rum and the cachaças. So we have drinks that go great with the ceviches, and we have drinks that go well with suadero tacos. It’s been a cool building block. We squeeze our own juices here. It is a labor of love. Our bar manager Jones has been a great collaborator just as Jonathan has with the food.
What is your favorite tequila?
It depends on my mood in a sense. I am a silver tequila aficionado because I like tasting the agave. It has this beautiful, clean finish. Dulce Vida Blanco is really good. It’s a Texas based company that is 100% organic. Then there are these companies barrel aging the tequila, then refined to take the color back out. They are really good because they have that little bit of wood edge. I love Tequila Ambhar, another Texas tequila company.
It is really good to be part of the lower Greenville area, and be part of this explosion. I have seen Dallas take off to this really great culinary center for food, bu then sort of fall off. I think what has been started in the past few years will really take off and continue to make Dallas this amazing restaurant city.
Check out the opening C’Viche menu here: C’Viche Menu