Growing up in Texarkana, all Craig Monroe cared about was sports, in particular baseball. A standout in almost any type of physical activity, Monroe eventually had to choose between football and baseball, however, getting picked up by the Texas Rangers organization made the decision pretty easy.
Monroe graduated from Texas Senior High 1985, “I decided I was going to do everything in my power to get myself a chance to be professional baseball player,” Monroe recalls while sitting in the corner booth of his new Plano sports bar, Twenty7, the number he wore in seven seasons as an outfielder for the Detroit Tigers,“I started in the minors in Tulsa as part of the Texas Rangers organization. I decided very early I was going to work harder and try harder than anyone else and I got a chance to play for my hometown team in the Texas Rangers.”
While bumped up to AAA Oklahoma City when he got the call to come to Dallas after Ruben Sierra was put on the injured list, Craig explains, “I was up with the Rangers for three months, but at the end of the season they needed a roster spot for a pitcher and I was put on waivers.” Monroe smiles with a professional athlete’s confidence earned in ‘The Show,’ “I don’t think I was on waivers for more than a day when the Detroit Tigers called and I was on the way to join them.”
As a hard-hitting outfielder, Monroe earned a spot in the starting lineup and even made the trek every kid with a bat dreams of: competing in the 2006 World Series. Grins Craig, “I’m actually very proud that I managed to tie Hank Greenberg for most home runs by a Tiger in a world series.”
As his career began to wind down, he was traded to Chicago and then the Pirates. In the end, Craig had to find a life after baseball. Now a full time resident of Frisco, he’s teamed up with some other industry veterans to create Twenty7, a baseball themed sports bar with quality food usually expected to be found at a higher-end Gastro-Pub.
The food, which is really quite amazing, comes courtesy of Jonny Weisman, formerly the kitchen wizard at The Rugby House. Jonny has been making a name for himself since moving to the Dallas area a few years ago as one of the best pup chefs in the area.
On the menu Weisman has created a number of unique dishes to augment the high quality traditional fresh cut fish and chips and burgers. Case in point: A mango-based bruchetta adorned with fresh mozzarella which is wrapped in panchetta and topped with a lime-infused mango salsa that makes for a wonderfully light, bright and extremely tasty appetizer. “We wanted to put together a menu, right off the bat, that has some light items as well as the traditional bar offerings,” Weisman explains. He’s also reached into his bag of tricks to create a Cuban fried rice served as a side and as the base of the Taco del Mar Fish Tacos.
Weisman also brings his deft touch to spare ribs that should have a warning label on them: After one bite, the slow cooked meat literally leaps off the bone, so make sure you lean over the plate and adorn your lap with a napkin. Rounding off the delights I experienced were lightly battered fresh cut haddock and multi cheese mac’n’cheese that was so sinfully rich, it darn near gave me heart palpatations.
The bar itself is decorated with some of Craig’s own memorabilia from his years with the Tigers and other items from friends and other famous players. The uniform worn by the young ladies working at the bar is a sexy variation of the “ball girl” uniform.
Taking the Sport-Bar+Gastro-Pub mixture, adding in a pinch of “breastaurant” with the sexy outfits, and rounding it out with an additional side of non stop high-def televisions might just prove to be a winning combination.
Twenty7 also sports – no pun intended – another section originally meant to be a small ultra-lounge attached to the bar. However, the plan has been modified to bring more of a game room lounge to the location. “We just think this will work better in this location, we want to expand on our theme and business center rather than trying to do the ultra lounge in Plano,” explains GM James Brown.
The official grand opening kicks off August 27th. Craig admits he’s a little nervous, “My whole life has been about hitting, running and throwing. This is the first real job I’ve ever had.” His smile is rather electric and the anticipation of getting this bar off the ground is something that is really energizing him,“I really hope this is the first one…” he smiles with confidence again knowing the premise, if successful could be the foundation of a multi location business.
3100 Independence Parkway Ste 299
Plano Texas 75075
Jerry and Brian Elliot ended up in the Dallas Restaurant business the old fashioned way, by destiny. Both came from a family that knows a thing or two about bars and food. Their parents owned and operated cafés, including the legendary Web Honky Tonk on Harry Hines, and even their grandparents were in the business. The family associations with food, music, drinks and even a guy named Jack Ruby goes back generations.
But at one point, Brian trekked to California to be a rock star and Jerry to university. A handful of years later, Brian was running the Harder Bar and Jerry had a freshly minted business degree, so the brothers decided to take their shot at opening their own club together.
Nine years ago they opened Zen as a Mongolian Grill, Bar and Night Club in Addison Circle. At the time, Addison Circle was the newest thing in upscale cool in the Dallas area and Zen, in the center of the new apartments and condos, quickly morphed away from the buffet line when the bar and night club side of the business took off.
Finding the balance between the three themes of Zen is something Brian and Jerry managed to do, their initial menu choices blended Southwest and Asian influences, the sports bar became a destination for locals on game night, and live music and DJs provided entertainment late into the night.
The success of Addison Circle’s Zen Bar had its own stories. One neighbor was annoyed at being told she couldn’t smoke cigars in the bar and began an eerie campaign of putting curses on the Jerry and the bar by hanging Voodoo dolls on the door. I even had my share of run-ins with her. She’d sit on her balcony over the front entrance hexing patrons and passersby. But the neighbor’s curses and bad juju couldn’t stop the club’s growth and a few years ago Jerry and Brian landed a prime location in the new mixed-use development at Austin Ranch.
The new location is much larger and has some other advantages, namely the patio, which wraps around the eastern end of the building and houses an outside bar. With the Addison location, the patio couldn’t be properly utilized because of the way the courtyard of the building enclosed it. Any sound would just reverberate off the walls and even the sans voodoo dolled neighbors would complain. The new Austin Ranch Location doesn’t have that problem now and on warm nights live bands play late.
With over 500 rental and condo units in easy stumbling distance from their location in The Colony, Zen has been a survivor in the cyclical bar scene. The development is about to release the newly completed Phase 2 including more residential units, a martini bar, sushi bar, liquor store and more retail, and the Elliot’s are going to be releasing a new menu to keep their advantage going.
Though Brian is now responsible for developing the new items, one that will survive the switch, maybe, is the Firecracker Chicken. Medallions of chicken covered with Buffalo wing sauce and served with white rice and a tomato salad. The wing sauce has a bite, but not so much that you would need to carry an ice pack, and the salad has its own distinct crispness. Flavored with Italian dressing, cilantro and pepper, the tomato wedges and red onion slices actually carry their own spicy bite.
Over the years I have been a frequent guest at both Zen Locations and the Elliot’s newest foray, Ringo’s Pub at the Shops at Legacy. I have never had anything on the menu at any of the locations that disappointed, and one of my personal favorites has been the spring rolls.
The Elliot’s have evolved into a small business empire and Jerry says one key is finding the right people, “With three locations we couldn’t do it with out having good managers and staff.” He also says that for now, three is enough, “We have some changes to make and have to keep things fresh when we roll out the new menu we think people will really like it.”
With three successful locations around North Dallas, the Elliot’s are now going to be working on releasing the new menu in January and keeping the clubs rolling. Both Zen locations host events and the Ringo’s location now features a regular, Tuesday night, live team trivia competition.
As business partners, the Elliot’s have evolved into a well balanced team. With Zen they’ve found the balance between being a bar, lounge and grill and with three businesses, they’ve also managed to make a name for themselves in the North Dallas bar and restaurant scene.
Zen Restaurant Bar and Lounge
Austin Ranch / Addison Circle
ZEN in Austin Ranch is celebrating its 3 Year Anniversary tonight – Thursday, December 3rd!
Our BOTX marketing goddess sent me word this afternoon, on behalf of Moroch’s Lauren B., that Mockingbird Station has at least FIVE new residents moving in soon!
If comedy is your thing, or heckling comics for that matter, looks like the Angelika Film Center will have Hyena’s Comedy Club as a neighbor. And remember folks, laughter is far nicer a sound than crying, unless you’re a snorter like me. You’re just gonna have to trust me on this one, people.
If you’re a fashionista on a budget, local designer Oscar Fierro is moving in between Café Express and Ann Taylor Loft. Though the store will feature couture and gown collections, his Go-To collection promises “sophisticated, yet clean and sexy” items which will all retail for under $30. Read more