The former Lucia space will become an Australian cafe open all day

0

The Bishop Arts District is about to take on an Australian accent.

Isla & Co., an Australian all-day cafe, will open this fall in one of Dallas’ most iconic addresses. Lucia left the small space and around the corner in early 2021; Isla & Co. hopes to debut in September.

Although an Australian company, the cafe started in Brooklyn and is rapidly expanding across the country, with openings coming soon in Connecticut, Atlanta and South Florida. Some Dallas foodies may frown upon the arrival of yet another chain from the coast, including an address long occupied by one of Dallas’ most famous independent restaurants.

But Isla & Co. looks very interesting. (Speaking of sounds: it’s pronounced “eye-la.”) The restaurant’s leadership group is eager to spread its vision for a laid-back, all-day neighborhood gathering spot.

“We’re trying to have a really high quality product, but we’re trying to have a really relaxed Australian style of service,” says David Orr, who is temporarily living in Dallas to oversee the project.

“People go to Australia for the natural beauty and to see Sydney, the harbor and the Outback, but when they come back they talk about the people and the experience, how laid back everything was.”

The restaurant’s goal is to create a sense of community around its everyday mentality. Drop in for coffee and breakfast, then come back for a cocktail after work. The Orr team chose Bishop Arts in part because the neighborhood already has such a tight, walkable fabric.

Brunch at Isla & Co., with lox benedict in the background and rigatoni alla vodka in the middle.
Alex Loayza, courtesy of Isla & Co.

Orr compares the mixed-race cuisine of Australia to that of America, pointing out that each has influences from many historical waves of immigration. “Australia was colonized by Europeans, but we are also close to Southeast Asia.” There are also Italian touches on the menu, courtesy of executive chef Matt Foley, former executive sous-chef at Marea, two Michelin stars, in New York. (No, he is not a motivational speaker.)

The New York location’s menu shows influences from the Mediterranean (whipped feta with vegetables, fried halloumi cheese) and UK (sausage rolls, fish and chips), as well as a vegetarian Thai curry. Dallas’ menu may differ, of course, but it rings true to the concept. Incidentally, the crispy halloumi is Orr’s favourite: “It’s Mediterranean but it’s huge in Australia.” It should be huge here too. Is there a better food than a slice of grilled cheese?

Aussie food doesn’t mean loads of steaks or a crocodile and kangaroo meat menu. That does, however, mean plenty of great coffee — Isla & Co. operates its own roasting facility — and cocktails with an accent. The Wizard of Aus cocktail includes Australian whiskey, lemon, egg white and a Shiraz wine float. There’s also a Negroni, using gin that’s been steeped in Shiraz grapes, and an alcoholic combination of bourbon, amaro, and eucalyptus bitters.

Space Lucia was famous for its small size, one of the reasons its owners, Jennifer and David Uygur, decided to move around the corner. Isla & Co. is looking at ways to maximize this space, including expanding outdoor seating along the block. Oh, and they have a secret weapon.

“Coming from New York, we’re pretty used to dealing with tight spaces,” says Orr. “It’s definitely the smallest side of where we can operate. Our New York team designed every square inch of space to maximize it.

Orr, who grew up in the rural Outback, calls Dallas home. “I think the climate is quite similar,” he says. “I think people are much more similar [than in New York]. It’s a more relaxed and friendly environment. I get a lot more pride from people in Dallas. People want to show you around, get to know you. It’s the same with me. When there’s someone new, you like to show them a good time, find out what they’re up to and why they’re there. Minutes later, he adds, “Also, golf courses play a little more like home.”

He’s also been around the corner for dinner at the new Lucia, which he says is “awesome”. He therefore knows the reputation of the new address of Isla & Co.

“We have big shoes to fill,” he told me. “We are damn excited. It is a difficult act to follow.

Isla & Co., 408 W. Eighth St. Opening scheduled for September

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

See profile

Brian Reinhart became D Magazine’s food critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.

Share.

About Author

Comments are closed.