As a world-class chef and the founder of 20 restaurants over the past 30 years, Texas native Stephan Pyles knows what it takes to make dining a true experience. With the opening of his newest Dallas restaurant, Flora Street Café, designed by Wilson Associates, Chef Pyles shares how the physical space of a restaurant helps reflect and inform that experience.
Your new restaurant, Flora Street Café, has a smaller footprint than your previous establishments. Why did you want to make that kind of change?
I simply wanted to offer a more refined, personalized experience, which can only be executed in a much smaller dining room accommodating fewer guests.
How would you describe the design style of Flora Street?
I would say it’s “modern meets nature” in the Dallas Arts District. It’s often been called glamorous, and I think that word is aptly descriptive.
How does that compare to your other restaurants? Has your style changed over the years?
Flora Street Café takes its inspiration from my first restaurant, opened in 1983, called Routh Street Café. It was small, elegant and very contemporary. The food was very complex and multi-dimensional, much as it is at Flora Street Café. All of my restaurants between the two have had differring degrees of casual, which has been reflected in the design. Stampede 66, for example, is an over-the-top Texan design because we serve modern Texas food. The exception was Stephan Pyles, which was really the precedent for Flora Street.
How do you match the design of the space with the style of the cuisine?
It’s my philosophy that within 5 minutes of walking into a restaurant, you should have an idea of what the food and service will be like. The food and the design are crisp and modern yet comfortable and very stimulating and satisfying to the eye and the palate.
Do you try to make each restaurant completely different from the others or are there consistent elements in all of your spaces?
Yes, each restaurant is completely different from the others. I compare my restaurants to having children. Each restaurant has its own identity and personality but is a creation of the same “parent.”
What do you consider the most important features or components of a restaurant space?
The answer is yes! Each component of the restaurant is integral to the overall aesthetic of the space. At Flora Street Café, the open kitchen, with its choreographed chaos, is complemented by the world-class lighting. The Tim Harding silk screen at the back of the dining room anchors the space. The
European Opera House-inspired deconstructed chandeliers give a nod to the Pritzker award-winning performance venues within sight, while the Shylight from Studio Drift in Amsterdam conducts a private ballet for each guest.
What do you think is next in the world of restaurant design?
While there’s no question that the majority of restaurant creations will continue to be casual with “organic” designs, I really think there will be a bit of a return to fine dining in more elegant settings, at least in major food cities. I say I have given Dallas an “adult” restaurant in Flora Street Café. I hope to see more of this return, if only on a small scale, such as table settings of fine china, real silver, exquisite crystal and luxurious linens.