Reata Asked for Suggestions on a New Home, and You, and Barry Corbin, Delivered

June 15,2022


See full Fort Worth Magazine article by John Henry here.

In March, Mike Micallef, president of Reata restaurant, announced that he was exploring alternative locations for his popular downtown dining destination after his Sundance Square Management landlords appeared disinclined to offer a lease renewal.

Micallef said this week that nothing has changed with the status of a lease renewal. Radio silence on that front. Micallef said he has a handful of locations he is beginning to zero in on and has set a timetable of the next two to three months to make a decision.

He gave no real hints on where that might be, but it’s believed that all roads lead to downtown because, well, all roads lead to downtown, where the restaurant has built its brand and a loyal following. Also downtown is a proven business model based on steady convention traffic, roughly 3,500 hotel rooms, and thousands more apartment doors within walking distance. Plus, a network of highways and byways that offer handy pathways of ingress and egress.

All that is speculation on the part of one writer.

Moving out of downtown is still very much an option, Micallef said, though moving into, say more suburban geography, would definitely be a different kind of business.

“I don’t think there are any bad locations,” Micallef said. At the heart of the decision is “what’s the best location to recreate this experience because unlike a lot of restaurants we’re not a cookie cutter-type business. I think the guys who have created those are geniuses.

“But here, nobody would say you need to create a restaurant that does as much as we do in catering and private dining rooms. And then three weeks in January we start three other restaurants at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. We’ve got to figure out how to make it work. It’s kind of a monster. But all those things have made us what we are. That’s a good thing.”

He said he has had discussions with architects and developers of projects downtown, but some of those options aren’t a good fit because the timeline doesn’t fit.

Reata’s lease is up in 2024.

“I think we have a great brand,” he said. “I think wherever we go, people will follow us. I know I can’t make everybody happy with the location decision.

“I think we have to make the best decision for us long term.”

Many of Reata’s customers have ideas, too. At the time two and a half months ago that Micallef said he would begin exploring his options, he set up a web platform for the masses to speak.

They have not been bashful. Among them: actor Barry Corbin, who chimed in. Over here by me would be ideal, Corbin wrote in.

“It’s nice to think that people like that are actually thinking about you,” Micallef said of Corbin, the highly acclaimed Hollywood character actor in the Western genre, who lives nearby.

“Some were very specific,” Micallef said. “‘I want deck, a view of the sunset, and an outdoor patio.’ Very, very specific.” Many had sentimental feelings about downtown. Others wanted to make sure the rooftop element wasn’t lost.

“People love the rooftop, but people also love the patio at Joe T’s,” he said. “We have to figure out what elements we can add to make [a new location] unique.”

Micallef said he has received more than 570 responses and recommendations from the throngs who have flocked to his restaurant, formerly in the old Bank One Tower and at its current location at 310 Houston St. Each and every one of them he has moved to an Excel sheet and grouped them by location.

Alliance, Argyle, Arlington, Bridgeport, Burleson, the Camp Bowie area, Cleburne, Clearfork, Denton, around Dickies Arena, Downtown, the West Seventh corridor, Frisco, Grapevine, Justin, Keller.

Mansfield.

In total, 170 from Mansfield.

“They had a whole campaign going for Mansfield,” he said.

Mineral Wells, north Fort Worth, Northlake, Parker County (and others specified Walsh Ranch and Willow Park), Rendon, Southlake, and Westlake.

“A lot of locations that might not be a bad location for a restaurant, but it’s probably not the home for this restaurant,” he said.

In Fort Worth, Micallef received a few votes for the historic Public Market Building, which will soon undergo redevelopment and become a senior living complex. Others suggested a site on the future Panther Island, which is still more vision than development. It wouldn’t be ready in time.

Others have asked about the site of the old restaurant on the hill on Interstate 30 near KXAS’s former home on Broadcast Hill. It has been through a few incarnations, but it’s view of downtown was always its upside.

The former Spaghetti Warehouse in the Stockyards was another submission.

“We had a fair amount of people mention the Near Southside,” he said. “I certainly think it’s growing. In five years’ time, although you have to cross I-30 some way, I think that’s a really exciting area because of the Convention Center and Texas A&M,” which is developing a several-block area in the southern part of downtown.

One of the most enjoyable for Micallef was from Ponder, who had an ambassador speak up for the town of almost 2,400, but in a booming part of North Texas. The township has a proud restaurant history with Ranchman’s Café, better known for decades as the Ponder Steakhouse. It has been temporarily closed for a while, the impact of the pandemic apparently still being felt.

“One of the funnest, for me, was getting the email from the chief of police of Ponder,” Micallef said. “Like you, I ate at the Ponder Steakhouse when I was little. Have not been there in a long time, although if you look at the housing development around there, it continues to grow. To get an email from the chief of police of Ponder, Texas, that’s hard to beat.”

In an email to Fort Worth Magazine, Chief Robert Genova said the Reata would be a perfect addition to his community.

“I described how we were once a go-to destination for dining; our Western heritage, there are working cowboys and farmers living in this area; we are close to I-35, and close to the Texas Motor Speedway. We are a growing community but still embrace our Western heritage. We would love for them come to Ponder.”


Location Mentioned: Reata Restaurant