A talented trio of female veterans of the Dallas restaurant scene are enthusiastically resurrecting Cedars Social on Lamar Street. Visionary restaurateur Monica Greene, popular bar manager Leann Berry, and innovative chef Anastasia Quinones are bringing modern Mexican cuisine to revitalize the Cedars scene.
Along with business partner Frankie Jiminez, this Dream Team is thrilled to be able to work together on The Cedars Social (emphasis on the last syllable). The three women are friends who have crossed paths at various stages of their careers. Greene and Berry worked at Ciudad together, while Quinone and Berry were together at Komali.
Born in Mexico City, Greene has been the creative force behind several well-loved Dallas restaurants. They included iconic Deep Ellum dining destination, Monica’s Aca y Ala, which she opened in the early ‘90s and sold 20 years later. She also opened BEE, a Bishop Arts taqueria; Pegaso Diner in Fort Worth; and such upscale restaurants as Ciudad. She and Jiminez worked together during the earliest days of her career, and Greene credits him with coaxing her out of early retirement.
After Ciudad closed (although Monica says “it could have run much longer, we were doing great business but had to close because of developer’s plans”), she did some traveling, spending the past few years in Aspen, Colorado. She worked as a restaurant consultant in Aspen, and also got married there. Her husband is still in Aspen, but Monica says they see each other frequently.
“I’ve always loved Dallas,” Greene said. “I especially enjoyed my time as an early pioneer in Deep Ellum. Urban neighborhoods like the Cedars always appeal to me. I had been talking to Frankie about coming back into restaurant management. And then I walked into the bar at Cedars Social and ordered a cocktail, and the vibe here really hit me. It didn’t take long to decide this is where I need to be. So, three months later we bought the place.”
With her flair for interior decoration and eye for what works to create a sleek but welcoming environment, Greene has made some changes to the interior. Most notable is what she calls the Library room, an intimate dining area with a table artistically set for six. This room, decorated with paintings, books, and wine bottles, has the look and feel of a private dining room owned by someone who loves to entertain. Few changes were needed, Monica said, in the larger dining room. It is a brightly lit area featuring mid-century, modern décor.
Quinones, known for her creative cuisine at Alma’s, Komali’s and Kitchen LTO, is delighted with the opportunity to introduce more new menu items at The Cedars Social. Quinones said her favorite dish at the new restaurant is her Chili Rellenos, or stuffed peppers, battered and fried with Oaxaca cheese and pork belly, served with tomatillo salsa, black beans and aselgas ($18). She also makes a delicious mole sauce, based on her mother’s recipe, which she tweaks for a variety of chicken dishes. She enjoys trying new ways to improve classic recipes, and takes pride in artistically plating the food so it arrives looking as beautiful as it tastes.
The Cedars Social menu will include typical Mexico City street food for lunch menus, while they keep the dinner menu more upscale. Quinones has shown that she’s not afraid to try new things, including dishes such as grilled octopus that most local restaurants don’t serve.
Greene spent time running the kitchen at restaurants like Aca y Ala, but she is happier at this point to focus her energy on other things. “I am excited to see AQ create the kind of innovative Mexican food that comes from her background. We are both passionate about authentic Mexican food, and love talking about ways to combine different ingredients.”
Greene also gives bar manager Berry free rein to update the restaurant’s cocktail menu. While at Ciudad, Berry was one of the first mixologists in Dallas to use fresh fruit as a major ingredient in her cocktails. She is adding top quality tequilas and mezcals to the James Beard-recognized bar’s already extensive whiskey, gin and scotch selections. She is also updating and expanding the wine list.
Meanwhile, Monica Greene will do what she does better than anyone. She will greet guests at the door and make them feel special. She will find them the perfect table, suggest the best wine to complement their meal, and make them feel like the most important person in the room.
With its diverse mix of neighbors like longtime music venues Poor David’s Pub and Gilley’s, art galleries and lofts at Southside on Lamar, and thriving new businesses like Alamo Drafthouse Cedars and NYLO Dallas Southside, the Cedars neighborhood is obviously on the rise. The Cedars Social seems poised to help the neighborhood reach greater heights.
The Cedars Social also has a large outdoor patio with terrific views of the downtown Dallas skyline, which should prove popular this spring and summer. Free parking is available with validation in a spacious parking lot west of the restaurant on Lamar Street.
The Cedars Social, 1326 S. Lamar Street, call 214-928-7700 for reservations. They currently open for dinner only Mon.-Fri. from 5:30-11 p.m. Saturday Brunch is served from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 12 midnight. Sunday Brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner 5:30 to 10 p.m. (thecedarssocialmex.wixsite.com/thecedarssocial).
Photo of Monica Greene, Anastacia Quinones and Leann Berry, taken by Sherri Tilley for Theflashlist.com, used by permission.