Erin Willis wasn’t planning to open a new restaurant when she called fellow Lake Highlands resident Darrell Hernandez seeking advice. Her catering business, Dinner is Done, was expanding, and she was looking for a commercial kitchen. Hernandez, a leasing broker with CBRE, let her know that the empty Offshore’s Nextdoor was available at Walnut Hill and Audelia, less than a mile from her home.
Hernandez took her to see the space, and the idea of launching a restaurant began to take shape. Willis was certain she could handle the tasks related to cooking – the chef with experience at High Hill Farm, the Meadows Museum and Patrizio’s in Highland Park Village felt solid in that department. But could she develop a business plan, find investors and reimagine a restaurant space?
Monday, Willis signed a lease to open RM 12:20 Bistro. The name is biblical, from the passage in Romans which implores, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.” Her new business home is part of the redevelopment of Lake Ridge Village, which will include a treed pocket park and a new Taco Joint. Neighborhood favorites, including Lake Highlands Creamery and Atomic Pie, will stay on.
“It’s super-exciting,” says Willis. “The center is going to be incredible.”
RM 12:20 Bistro will be “upscale for Lake Highlands,” with a long bar on the east wall and another wall of glass. There will be a covered side patio seating 22, and an additional area out back for live music, bocce ball and private parties. The menu will be rustic French with a Southern flair – price point below $30 – and no “kid menu” in sight.
“I’ve done some research,” says Willis, “and people tell me they don’t want to go out to dinner where there are kids running around.”
Lake Highlands resident Jennifer Miars will design the interiors and Lake Highlands High grad Christman Fifer will do the finish out. Heather Rinaldi of the Texas Worm Ranch, another LH resident, is helping Willis work with local farmers to bring in fresh ingredients.
“It will have a very intimate feel,” says Willis. “It will become the place for Lake Highlands date night.”
The bistro will serve lunch and dinner and be closed on Mondays. Weekend brunch will feature specialty cocktails.
Helping others will also be on the menu.
Willis, a board member at Dallas Christian Women’s Job Corps (DCWJC), plans to give opportunities to women looking for a fresh start. DCWJC has an 8-week course offering bible studies, job skills, mock interviews and life skills, and she’s hoping her restaurant – much like downtown Dallas’ Café Momentum – can offer internships or employment to help local women get back on their feet.
RM 12:20 Bistro is expected on open in August, and the rest of Lake Ridge Village is expected to be completed by December. Until then, you can follow Willis’ progress with the bistro on their new Facebook page here.