Last night I ventured out into the too-warm-for-December air to dine at Nick Badovinus' new restaurant, Neighborhood Services, where I was to meet my old friends Renee and Jason. At the urging of Renee that we MUST arrive early (because this restaurant is apparently the new IT place), I pulled up to a valet line that wrapped around the curb and onto Lovers Lane at 5:50 p.m. Surely, all this excitement couldn't be over a restaurant, could it? Before 6 o'clock? But what was I thinking? This is Dallas, a place where local chefs are gods and people flock to their latest offerings like pidgeons on stale bread.
Having arrived first, I trotted inside and was greeted by at least 50 eager patrons, most of whom seemed at least 20 years older than me. I pushed my way toward the host stand, where I nervously glanced at a list that covered almost an entire legal pad. "How long is the wait?" I asked timidly. "Well," replied the well-dressed host, "I am about to seat the dining room, and then they have to EAT. Then we can seat you. So... probably an hour." I said "okay" and gave him my name and party number. I found Renee, second to arrive, in the same valet predicament I had just escaped from. "One hour," I mouthed.
Once we were both inside among the throngs, Renee and I planted ourselves two feet from the bar and peered at two women who appeared to be readying themselves to be seated. We were right, and before long, we had shimmied our way into a comfy post at the bar, where I ordered a "Beauty School Dropout"--St. Germain Hanger One mandarin blossom vodka, elderflower syrup, and crushed raspberry rose champagne. A tiny, plastic monkey was hanging from the edge of the martini class. I started to like this place.
Jason arrived, and we were seated sooner than expected. For the next hour and a half, we munched on food that rivals Badovinus' other Dallas restaurants, The Porch and Hibiscus, and marveled at the large number of over-40s that filled the dining room. At one point, we noticed Nick himself, dressed in jeans and a white apron, his blond surfer hair flowing freely, chatting with the four-top sitting next to us. It wasn't until we were getting up to leave that Jason noticed that one of the diners on the four-top was no other than Cowboys great Roger Staubach. I stared at him and his steak for a moment before vacating the place. For the people-watching and cocktails, I highly recommend Neighborhood Services. The concept of the place and the food, of course, are nicely done too. The waitstaff are dressed in ivy league-style sweaters, and the dimly lit atmosphere reminds me of what a bar near Harvard University might look like or Greenwich Village in New York City--it's long and narrow with lots of wood accents. I also love the storefront, which is styled in a very mid-century mod kind of way.
But I must plead with Mr. Badovinus: Please start opening larger restaurants.
Photo by Carter Rose, DMN.