JANUARY 2015 | DINING PICK
by Karen Spezia
Trailblazing chefs Jesse Griffiths and Tamara Mayfield’s new restaurant is everything loyal fans hoped it would be and more.
Few restaurants have gestation periods as long as Dai Due. For almost a decade, the culinary force behind this new restaurant has been making noises about opening a brick-and-mortar. In 2006, Jesse Griffiths started hosting pop-up dinners in borrowed spaces around Austin. He also taught cooking classes in rented kitchens. After that, he ran a food trailer at a farmers market (where folks lined-up around the block). He even published a cookbook. All the while—even without a restaurant—he garnered national attention. And his fan base kept building and building, and waiting and waiting, hoping he’d one day have a permanent home.
Mazel tov! Dai Due, the restaurant, has finally arrived. Opened in August, this longtime dream of Griffiths and wife Tamara Mayfield is being fussed over like a newborn baby. On my first visit, it was packed. Legions of fans had queued up before 5pm dinner service to partake in its already celebrated Sunday Fried Chicken Night. Servers were in the weeds. Dishes were delayed or soldout But no one complained. The staff remained polite and polished. Everyone, it seemed, was just happy to be part of Dai Due’s realization.
Griffiths has been a nose-to-tail locavore long before it was cool. The front of Dai Due houses a market and butcher shop that sells take-out meats, all of which Griffiths and his staff butcher and prep. There are the usual steaks and sausages, plus unexpected choices like goat chops, venison shanks, porchetta, and chicken leg confit. There’s also homemade stocks, bone broths, demi-glace, and lard. For side dishes, there’s fresh produce, sauerkraut or pickled veggies.
Continue past the market and you’ll find similar goodies being served in the restaurant. As we waited for dinner, we enjoyed a beverage from the eclectic drink list. As with all things Dai Due, products are regionally sourced and seasonal, including the booze. I ordered a can of Southern Star Walloon Grisette, a farmhouse-style beer made in Conroe, Texas, and my husband enjoyed a draft of Austin’s own Live Oak Amber.
We started with grilled bread topped with housemade ricotta, herbs and marinated sweet peppers. Next came mushrooms roasted with ham and shallots and topped with soft egg yolk. Grilled cauliflower was crowned with a citrusy parsley sauce, and a salad of exotic lettuces was dressed with a simple vinaigrette. Meats are grilled over open wood ovens and nightly choices might include grilled quail, pork chops, grass-fed rib-eyes or beef ribs so massive they rival Fred Flintstone. For dessert, lemon chess pie and sweet potato sorbet caught our eye. Also open for breakfast and lunch, Dai Due offers an enticing hodgepodge of classic dishes and unusual creations.
Located on a bustling stretch of Manor Road, Dai Due feels both modern and primitive, urban and rustic, cozy and airy. Industrial lighting illuminates reclaimed wood and exposed brick abuts polished concrete. It’s a mash-up that works. Welcome to the world, Dai Due. We’re glad you’re finally here.