Phil’s City: One man’s big dreams for the Big D

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Phil Romano has set his sights on Trinity Groves as a new area to establish more dining and entertainment options. (Courtesy of trinitygroves.com)

What do you do when you’ve created 30 restaurant concepts? When you’ve invented six national chains, including Fuddruckers and EatZi’s? When you’ve mastered the delivery of everything from BBQ to Italian?

There was nothing left for Phil Romano to accomplish.

 

Until Romano met West Dallas. Eight years ago, Romano and business partners Stuart Fitts and Larry McGregor found a crusty, dried-up barrio nestled up against the floodplain of the Trinity River. Despite its association with poverty and gang violence, its view of the Dallas skyline and proximity to downtown amenities made it the type of place that developers dream of patching up. And Romano knew he could do it if he started with food.

“Anyone will go anywhere for a good restaurant,” Romano said.

And with that, he planted the 80-acre seed to an over 1,000-acre project called Trinity Groves. At the base of the $182 million Calatrava Bridge sits a mecca of nine—soon to be 17—original restaurants spearheaded by entrepreneurs and backed by expert restaurateur Romano.

The concepts range from tapas at Casa Rubia to permanent pop-up Kitchen LTO. The restaurants will serve as the base for a mega-entertainment center featuring breweries, outdoor concert space, art galleries and high-rise residences.

Karen Williams, who manages Amberjax, the Trinity Groves seafood joint, sees Romano’s goals for Trinity Groves as the catalyst reshaping Dallas.

“When you have more money than God, what do you do? You build a city,” Williams said. “This is the only place left to build and expand, so they’re doing it.”

If Romano’s guess stands correctly (and so far it looks like it just might) Trinity Groves may just be the it-location for the city of Dallas.

“It’s going to be the number one destination in Dallas,” Romano said. “What Ghirardelli Square is to San Francisco, this can be to Dallas.”

“It’s getting ready to completely change out here,” Williams said.

And while restaurants and their added buzz to the Dallas social scene excite Romano and his peers, Trinity Groves is here for long-term aspirations for Dallas. Romano and city leaders believe the Trinity Groves area has the potential to be a financial capital of the United States.

“The city has really bought into it,” Williams said of the area where her restaurant sits.

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