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How Dai Due's Local Ethos Shapes Their New Restaurant

Photo: Melody Fury/EATX

Hotly anticipated restaurant and butcher shop Dai Due was a long time in the works: eight years. Prior to opening their new Cherrywood restaurant, the Dai Due team popped up at farmer's markets and hosted supper clubs, garnering a loyal following for their intensely local cuisine. Owner and chef Jesse Griffiths discussed how their evolution from vans and commissary kitchens to their new space, which is "home" and "a dream come true."

baking-pies-s.jpg[Photo: Melody Fury/EATX]

How have things been going?

Wonderful so far. Better than I could have imagined. We all knew that it was going to be hard but it's going a lot smoother than we anticipated. It feels like home and we have a really great staff. And that's everything.

[Pointing to the open kitchen space] This is the whole kitchen, there's no back – everything is transparent. Here's where we make the pie, here's where we cut the deer up, here's the fire where we cook the meat up. We burn oak and cook almost everything over the fire. It's sort of a dream come true.

How are things different now than when you were at the farmers' market or other supper club events?

It's really funny because somebody the other day said this must be so much harder and I said no, this is much easier. All my problems are in one building now, instead of in a van or kitchen commissary.

Also not worrying about weather is huge, whether it's raining or super hot out. It's comfortable being in this place. It was hard being at the mercy of the weather constantly for eight years.

butchering-s.jpg[Photo: Melody Fury/EATX]

How has being in your own space affected your menu?

It enables us to do what we want. If we have enough lard saved up we can deep fry. We can grill all kinds of things. We can diversify our menu, we can do large format. We can do whatever we want. The menu changes almost every night depending on what we have and what Julia has cut (venison chops, pig ears, whatever).

How would you describe your menu today?

With what's coming in, we try to create a small, precise menu. We have a prix fixe: typically it's three courses and there's often a mixed grill in there. We do seafood on Fridays… chicken on Thursday in one form or another. On Sunday, we try to do more down home, simple comfort food like chicken fried steak. And throughout the week, it's more wildcards and we are able to do whatever we want. It's a lot of fun.

The menu is small so it's not very stressful and we manage it. We keep our food extremely simple – it's mostly just grilled meats and sausages and sides, whatever is great this time of year. 100% of our fresh produce is locally sourced and a great deal of our dried goods is too. We don't bring in anything.

It's hard to describe the style. We'll take techniques from anywhere in the world and apply it to ingredients. We'll have a taco and a curry and some German food on the menu at the same time and I think it just works – that's just me though.

wines-s.jpg[Photo: Melody Fury/EATX]

And now, you can serve drinks too. What's the beverage program looking like?

Our wine list, with the exception of one sparkling wine from New Mexico, everything comes from Texas. I'm probably most proud of that. People are very prejudice against it, with good reason, because there are some really awful Texas wines but none of them are on our list. We have many hard to find, one of a kind wines on our list.

And the beer too, local beers, cider, and all our non-alcoholic beverages are made in house, 100%. We're changing minds. That, to me is the most exciting.

What has the process of opening this restaurant been like for you? What are some lessons that you learned?

Opening a restaurant is the hardest thing I've done in my entire life. It's incredibly frustrating until the day I opened, and then it's incredibly gratifying. It's absolutely like having a child – it's a little more drawn out. A lot of pain, followed by joy.

In retrospect, it's all over and it doesn't matter anymore. We have new crisis every day but we're open and happy. The ovens are broken today but they'll be fixed. Something else will break tomorrow and it's ok. We'll always have fire and fire can't break. It's hard to faze us anymore.
— Melody Fury
· All Dai Due Coverage [EATX]

Dai Due

2406 Manor Rd. Austin, TX