Amy McNutt, founder of vegan restaurant Spiral Diner, jokes that she’s either going to be in a five star hotel or a tent – nothing in between.
“I love comfort but then also love luxury,” McNutt said.
That’s the same mindset she’s taking as she develops a two hour dining experience at a fine dining vegan restaurant, where every detail of the restaurant is being planned, and the menus won’t immediately be on the table. She wants to create a place where customers can feel both fancy and comfortable.
As McNutt closes the doors to the Oak Cliff location of the diner, she’s getting ready to open three more restaurants next year. The Dallas location was old, and it would take a lot of money to repair. On top of that, things were rapidly changing in the neighborhood.
“In Dallas, everything was built up so fast and everything around our little location just kind of boomed really fast in a direction that really didn’t really fit our style and it got so expensive,” McNutt said.
Now, McNutt and her team are leaning into the Near Southside neighborhood in Fort Worth, where the original Spiral Diner has been open for the past 20 years on 1314 Magnolia Ave.
McNutt’s team has big plans: A vegan ice cream and doughnut shop called Dreamboat Donuts and a fine dining restaurant, Maiden Fine Plants & Spirits. They also are opening another Spiral Diner in Arlington, which will be the third location next to Fort Worth and Denton.
Samantha Ofeno, CEO of Spiral Diner, said she hopes the new restaurants coming to the new PS1200 building on Magnolia will attract people across North Texas.
“I’m hoping for at least some people it can be like a little vegan village over here because we have the fine dining, we have your comfort food and then you have your dessert shop,” Ofeno said.
Another Spiral location is opening in Arlington, which will be the third active location next to Denton.
Philip Kafka, the president of Prince Concepts, wanted the vegan restaurants in the new PS1200 complex. He knew he was bringing a new aesthetic with the building, and spoke with Megan Henderson at Near Southside Inc. to find an established business to move into the building.
“There was just so much about their business and about them as people that was exciting to me,” Kafka said. “And I thought that they were going to be a great way for me to both maintain the alternative nature of the project, but also immediately fit in and kind of offer a handshake to the predominant culture that was in that neighborhood of Fort Worth.”
McNutt, who stepped away from in-store management a few years ago, said she will be the chef for Maiden. She was inspired to create Maiden when traveling around the country and going to restaurants with vegan tasting menus.
McNutt wants Maiden to be “design forward,” she said. Dining at the restaurant will be a two hour experience with several courses. While menus won’t be a secret, it won’t be on the table when customers sit down. She wants each menu item to be a work of art, McNutt said. They are currently working on the interior design of the restaurant.
“Every tiny little detail is planned to feel like an elegant but comfortable space,” McNutt said. “Where you can sit for two hours and feel cozy and a little fancy.”
Ofeno adds that while Maiden will be fancy, there won’t be a dress code. The fanciness will be balanced with the fun-natured doughnut shop, Dreamboat. The vegan doughnuts will be “extra and messy,” she said. The goal is to show customers vegan doughnuts can taste the same as one that’s not vegan.
Parker Howard, executive chef at Spiral Diner, calls the experience of making the two to three recipes for the doughnut and ice cream shop a big science experiment. Some recipes take a day to perfect. Others take weeks and months of trial and error, he said.
The flavors will likely rotate seasonally. Making some of the recipes is selfish, he said. Personally, he’s looking forward to making a chocolate eclair doughnut, which is something he had before taking on a vegan diet.
“It’s very much like, oh, I want to eat this but there is no vegan version,” Howard said. “How do we create that? Let’s make that a reality.”
Much of the ice cream flavors will borrow from the 20 years of recipes developed at Spiral Diner, he said. The doughnuts and ice cream could work together – with menu items such as doughnut ice cream sandwiches and doughnut sundaes.
“We want to use the donuts as a vessel to get the ice cream into your face,” Howard said.
Doughnuts will be available for online pickup at Spiral Diner before Dreamboat opens, Howard said. McNutt and Ofeno are hoping Maiden, Dreamboat and the third Spiral location in Arlington will open next year.
“Hopefully people, since we have our roots set in here, can just see us trying new concepts and just try it out,” Ofeno said. “Because we have so many regulars, we have so many people that love Spiral that we’re hoping that they love our new stuff just as much and ultimately those spots can get busy too.”
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.