Most of the details surrounding the ownership spat that led to the closing of once-beloved Arlington institution Olenjack’s Grille are still mostly a mystery. We know, thanks to reports in the Weekly, the Star-Telegram, and other news sources, that the investors and Chef Brian Olenjack parted ways, leading to the bizarre circumstance of the restaurant carrying on without its namesake chef. The Lincoln Square eatery, opened in 2007, didn’t last long, though. It closed about seven months after the divorce.
Olenjack, one of the marquee names of the Reata tree that spawned chefs Lou Lambert, Tim Love, Grady Spears, and a few others who went on to open their own places, has spent the time since picking up consulting and catering gigs. You’d be shocked at the number of local menus that bear his fingerprints. But he doesn’t want to talk about the past. He’s more interested in what’s happening next month.
Olenjack and his partner, oilman/philanthropist Mark Caffey, are set to open Eagle Mountain Tavern in the Boat Club Road space recently vacated by Boo-Rays of New Orleans, which is moving to larger digs. The concept, Olenjack said, is casual, affordable chef-driven food.
Thanks to its former tenants, most of the infrastructure is already in place, and Olenjack hopes to be open by the end of next month.
“For functionality, there’s equipment, there’s tables and chairs, all that,” he said. “Walk-ins are in, vent hoods are in, and grease traps are in. It’s equipped for us to go in there, do some décor changes, do a little bit of change to the front of the house – more decorative than anything – and then get at it.
“There was an opportunity that kind of fell in our lap,” he said. “We just couldn’t say no.”
The 7,000-square-foot building, he said, will hold about 300 people, and that includes a large bar that he plans on keeping open late. The menu of what he calls “American cuisine with some Texas twists” will feature a few holdovers from the Grille: Shrimp and grits, short rib mac ’n’ cheese, and the popular club sandwich are just a few that he mentioned.
The building comes with a derelict patio that Boo-Rays never used, and Olenjack said the outdoor seating area will need a lot of work before he’ll be serving guests outside.
“It’s not in the greatest shape,” he said. “What we’re going to do is open the restaurant and then start working on the patio.”
Eventually, he hopes to host acoustic musicians outside.
The way the Olenjack’s Grille partnership fell apart taught him a lot, he said. But that’s about all he’s saying about the subject.
“I’m not looking back,” he said. “I learned a lot of lessons. Unfortunately, that’s just part of business, and my focus is to keep moving forward.”