“The direction of the neighborhood has trended more casual,” Hyndman says. Lime opened in 2007 (it was planned long before the Great Recession) and initially the chic restaurant prospered in its patio-wrapped space at 1904 Broadway in Midtown.
But now, according to Hyndman, the Broadway and Division corridor seems to be embracing its identity as a neighborhood to hang out and drink beer, not savor a pomegranate mojito and Latin-fusion cuisine.
“In the neighborhood, Lime was something of an odd bird with adventurous food,” Hyndman says. “It didn’t take advantage of the neighborhood’s more casual vibe.” Tavern, on the other hand, is going to be “a half-step up from a cozy sports bar,” he says, “a place where everyone can feel comfortable.”
The food will be “warm tavern fare,” Hyndman says, familiar and accessible but made with fresh ingredients and local produce. He hopes to open Tavern in February, the same month that he expects to open his long-awaited steakhouse Kayne Prime.
Hyndman is one of the most ambitious restaurateurs in town, and it’s impressive to count all the projects he’s juggling these days. He has recruited an accomplished chef, Robbie Wilson, to help execute his wide-ranging plans, which encompass both the Midtown space and a high-profile complex of properties just off the Gulch at 12th Avenue and McGavock.
Right now Hyndman is in "out with the old and in with the new" mode. He shut down his 10-year-old Midtown restaurant, Virago, earlier this year, but last month he unveiled a splashy new and improved Virago just off the Gulch at 12th Avenue and McGavock.
Hyndman’s larger goal is to shape McGavock — a block-long stretch that runs from 12th Avenue to 11th and the train tracks — into an entertainment district he calls M Street. His first outpost there was Whiskey Kitchen, which serves elevated bar food and has become a favorite of celebrities like the Followill clan, the chart-topping rock overlords known as Kings of Leon. (Tavern, Hyndman says, will be a cousin concept to Whiskey Kitchen.)
A little further down McGavock, Hyndman is working to open Kayne Prime Steakhouse in the former Radius 10 space. His longer-term plans for the McGavock area include adding an event and performance space to help anchor the area as an entertainment destination, and eventually reviving Lime in another spot in the M Street domain.
Back in Midtown, Hyndman seems to be looking for the sweet spot between pub and wine bar. Laughing, he mentions a term I've never heard used in reference to bars: “gender equitability.”
He explains: “Tavern won’t have that stuffy, musky old feel that you think of with sports bars.” He aims to have the warm comfort food (and plasma TVs) associated with male hangouts, but will also offer “lighter, health-conscious dishes,” classic cocktails and “cool, boutique-y wines by the glass” — offerings that are considered more female-friendly.
(No time here for a dissertation on the gender politics of bar culture in America.)
The master of the menus is Wilson, who comes here from Aspen, Colo., and supervises the chefs that run each of Hyndman’s restaurants. Hyndman describes Wilson’s experience as both impressive and handy to the task. Need some sushi expertise for Virago? Wilson worked at one of the outposts of sushi shrine Nobu. Looking for a cowboy carnivore to help launch Kayne Prime? Wilson grew up on a cattle farm near Dallas and did a stint under meat lover Tom Colicchio at Craft.
Lime is now out of season, but come February, a new Tavern and a new steakhouse will be ripe for foodie exploration.