Friday, June 14, 2024

River Walk Renaissance: New eateries to transform Restaurant Row this summer

It’s been slow going for Restaurant Row at the River Walk in Flower Mound, but things are kicking into high gear this summer.

Last fall, chef Greg Retz relocated from Jacksonville, FL, formed a new management company, River Walk F&B (Food & Beverage), and acquired the three short-lived sit-down restaurants along the River Walk: Primo’s (Tex-Mex), Scout (bar and grill) and Sfereco (Italian).

After considering community feedback, Retz and his company immediately began rebranding the existing space with new concepts in an effort to be more family-friendly, bring more variety and enhance the overall River Walk experience. Renovations began immediately, while keeping the existing eateries open as long as possible.

“It’s like building a plane while flying,” Retz said.

Scout closed soon after the River Walk F&B acquisition, but there was a quick turnaround to open a new concept, Underdogs Burgers & Brews, in the same space. Sfereco also closed around the same time, but its menu has been available at Primo’s next door, which remained open until late last month.

Retz said the company’s biggest challenge has been making sure the community knows that the River Walk is open and Underdogs is serving food and drinks daily.

“Every single day, people come down and say they didn’t know we were here and we’re open,” Retz said.

Whiskey & Smoke, a barbecue restaurant and bourbon bar, is moving into the Primo’s space. It will start serving food to-go early this month, with plans to open the dining room by August. The menu will feature brisket, St. Louis-style ribs, pulled pork, chicken, smoked sausage and a range of side dishes with twists on the traditional. The bar will offer high-end cocktails, including some that are smoked, and bourbon flights.

“Whiskey & Smoke is going to be pretty spectacular,” Retz said. “It’s our take on traditional barbecue. 100% Texas Wagyu beef, the best you can get, with our house-made rubs and sauces.”

In the old Sfereco space, Pie Hole Pizza is also expected to open by August, and may be able to deliver its brick-oven pizzas before its intimate dining room opens. The restaurant will serve 14-inch pies along with sandwiches, salads, beer and wine. Pizza dough will be house-made, and all menu items will be made from scratch using premium ingredients.

Greg Retz, a professionally trained chef for 35 years, holds a culinary degree from Johnson & Wales University and a nutrition degree from Virginia Tech. (Photo by Lynn Seeden/Seeden Photography)

Underdogs will share part of its space with a traditional English pub called Pennywise, which is on track to open by late August or September. The Pennywise menu will feature a European beer selection (including beer flights), craft cocktails and a few traditional English dishes such as bangers and mash, steak and ale pie, fish and chips and a Monte Cristo sandwich.

But wait, there’s more!

Sugar Fix, a coffee/gelato/mini-doughnut bar that will feature an 18-flavor gelato case and high-end coffees, will share space with Pie Hole. This new shop, however, still requires “major renovations” and “full restructuring,” so it probably won’t be able to open until November at the earliest, Retz said.

Additionally, a high-end restaurant called Jasper’s and a cocktail lounge are also coming to the River Walk’s Restaurant Row, but those are not under the management of River Walk F&B. They are currently expected to open late this year.

River Walk F&B will also open a new wine lounge, called Vinifera, closer to FM 2499 while technically still in the River Walk district. It’s expected to open in September.

With all these projects going on at the same time, issues are bound to come up and delays are inevitable. Many of the renovations have taken longer than Retz anticipated.

“There have been challenges with the construction that were not expected,” Retz said. “We found out that some of the buildings were not built to withstand the volume of business we have seen. That has put us months behind.”

Retz said the company is adapting to the changing timelines when it can.

“Rather than doing all the renovations in one fell swoop, we’re doing them in stages, so we can get some of them open faster,” Retz said. “Instead of rebuilding and gutting the room for Whiskey & Smoke, we’re choosing to just redecorate so we can get this barbecue concept open to the community as quickly as possible and provide more of the services we said we would.”

Underdogs currently hosts live music every weekend on the patio, and the River Walk hosts community events, including the annual Cross Timbers Rotary Duck Derby in September, to provide more things to do for local families. As more restaurants open, Retz looks forward to making the River Walk a popular community hub for a long time to come.

“We’re doing everything we can with special events to make sure people know we’re here.”

Mark Smith
Mark Smith
Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

Related Articles

Popular This Week