District, the popular Northern California bar and restaurant, will begin serving drinks and eats this Friday at Village on the Parkway in Addison.
Founded 15 years ago in San Fransisco, District quickly became a happening after-work spot with locations that followed in Oakland and San Jose. The new Addison restaurant, called District Dallas, is the restaurant’s first venture outside California and was originally slated to open last fall. That, understandably, was pushed back due to the pandemic.
The interior of District Dallas evokes the original establishment’s brick and wood warehouse space. The menu’s roots are Californian, but with a fresh, North Texas spin. The bar also boasts an impressive wine, spirits and cocktail list.
Local Profile spoke with the location’s Chef Partner Aaron Staudenmaier about the new District. Staudenmaier worked at the Mansion on Turtle Creek and the Inn at Little Washington before opening the iconic Dallas restaurants Abacus and Jasper’s. More recently, he was concept chef at Whiskey Cake Kitchen and Bar. The following interview was edited for clarity and length.
Q. How did you get involved with the District team? What was the appeal for you to join?
A. I got involved with District while they were establishing a team to bring the concept to the DFW area. I was really drawn to the social and communal aspects of District. Essentially, the goal is to create a space where people want to hang out, have a few rounds, and enjoy some great food with people who make them happy. What’s not to love about working in that kind of environment every day?
Q. How will the new Addison location differ from the San Francisco original? Why was North Texas chosen as a new location?
A. In feel and atmosphere, I think the new location will feel really familiar to anyone who has been to a Bay Area District. The expectation of a great wine list and a creative, whiskey-based bar hasn’t changed a bit. The Addison kitchen will have a food menu that is about 50% Dallas and 50% California. Some of our Dallas dishes started as District items that we tweaked to take advantage of local farms and products. There are also some new items we created for Dallas specifically.
Dallas was chosen because it is a great restaurant city. We have an adventurous food culture, a diverse blend of cultures that contributes to both the food and social aspects of the city, and some of the best American wine culture outside of California.
Q. Are there any unique items on the menu?
A. I like to think that there is something unique and special about all of our dishes but there are a couple of items I really like. The mussels with Thai yellow tomato broth and the hamachi crudo with togarashi and yuzu are my seafood go-to bites. The Korean pork belly with kelp kimchi makes me super happy. There’s a dish where we stuff pasta made locally by Fresh Pasta Delights with duck confit, mascarpone, and herbs that’s really tasty. And, of course, I have probably eaten too many Cuban sandwiches and pizzas during testing. I don’t see that trend ending any time soon.
Q. You’ve had an amazingly varied career. How will you bring your training and experience to what you create and cook at District?
A. My career started off as super high-end and kind of unapproachable. It was all about the ingredients that you couldn’t get or the seventy-three-step preparation process that regular mortals could never do. Those things are all well and good but, if you apply that fine dining precision to ingredients and concepts that are a little more approachable, you get some pretty great and craveable stuff. So, I think that’s how you’ll see my career manifest on the menu. Global flavors, solid technique, embracing local and artisan products, all aimed at creating the kind of dishes that draw you in to find all the goodies hidden in there. Food doesn’t need to be intimidating or confusing to be really great.
Q. How important are drinks when planning a menu? Do you imagine possible pairings?
A. Drinks are super important. District is, at heart, a local bar where you want to meet up with your friends for a round or three. We have a collection of wine, cocktails, and spirits that is carefully curated and collected. My goal is to put together dishes that support our beverage program. We don’t have any plans for any formal wine or cocktail pairing programs at this point, preferring to let guests enjoy whatever combo makes them happy. Of course, if there is a big desire for us to move in that direction, it’s always an option.
Q. What inspires your cooking? I know you got into the restaurant industry from a young age, but how and why did you get involved?
I’ve been in kitchens since I was 14. It took me a couple of years to realize it was a calling, but, once I did, I committed to it and have never run out of new things to learn or experiments to try.
My inspiration comes from two things, really. First is that I am a tinkerer at heart. I made something good? Awesome. I’m happy with that for about five minutes. Then, it becomes, ‘How do we make this better/cooler/tastier?’ Sometimes that leads to new versions and sometimes it derails off into completely new dishes. Either way, the creative process continues.
The second thing is that I am a super curious guy. I hate not knowing things. For example, I realized I didn’t know how to make wine. So, with the help of some friends, I learned how to make backwood-style fruit wines. Hey, I learned a thing! Now, what do I do with that? Hint, check out the moonshine cake on the District dessert menu.
District’s Addison location seats 94 (including the bar) inside and has patio seating for another 40. Starting May 6, it will be open Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and from Friday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Check out District Dallas’ official site and Instagram.