Duro Hospitality is a Coriolis force of the revolving North Texas restaurant scene.
From all appearances, it’s a flourishing hospitality company that has created six and counting one-off concepts that function as gathering places, serving food and drink to paying customers. Their force presents when you take a closer look at the level of talent and expertise leading the company, the intention with which they executive every element of its restaurants, and the energy the team invests into making the concepts “classically irreverent” and “completely immersive.”
Duro’s effect on Dallas restaurants causes imaginative unpredictability in an otherwise straightforward industry. Whereas other restaurant companies travel a relatively parallel path to growth, Duro’s concepts veer perpendicular, in the same orbit but very different.
We can’t predict what Duro will come up with next, but we know it will be extraordinary on every level.
How It Started
It was just more than five years ago that The Charles opened, presenting Dallas with modern luxury décor and a menu carefully researched and created to be decidedly approachable; not gastronomic, and not luxury. Food you can “close your eyes and eat with a spoon,” Duro co-founder Chas Martin said. “Food maximized for flavor.”
Diners and critics alike, however, considered The Charles to be a luxury destination immediately upon opening and it holds that standing still, enduring as one of the most revered and energetic restaurants to open here in the last decade.
The team that created The Charles — Chas Martin, Benji Homsey, Corbin See, Ross See, and Chef J Chastain — formed Duro Hospitality to give structure to the immensely talented team that has grown into a company with close to 300 employees.
“We want Duro Hospitality to be the best place to work.” Chas told me, “We want to change the game. Be better, different.” It’s more than talk, Duro sends a massage therapist to restaurants to provide complimentary chair massages to help ease muscle tension and aches from the intense work environments. They invest in their teams, viewing them as not just employees, but collaborators.
Chas says the most frequent compliments Duro gets throughout their concepts is about the staff; front of house, servers, runners, kitchen staff – every player in the game.
Hard Work Pays Off
Frank Lloyd Wright said, “I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the thing you want to see happen.”
Duro is the Spanish word for “hard” and the group doesn’t shy away from hard work and an unremitting devotion to creating concepts that are both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. In 2022, The New York Times named Sister one of the best restaurants in America. Hard work pays off.
Visit any one of the restaurants and you will notice that no detail is overlooked. Every Duro concept is busy and vibrant each and every night, with some reservations still hard to come by. Why?
The food is amazing, there are no subpar dishes on the menus. “If I don’t like it, it’s not on the menu,” Chas said. The food has “electric culinary prowess,” he added. Translated, it means the food is both familiar and exotic. Pasta and clam sauce is a basic, if not primitive, dish. But at Sister, chef adds white soy and hijiki, a seaweed, to deepen the flavor. Over at El Carlos Elegante, the glorious Guajillo Chicken is moist and flavored with chilis, peanut mole, and cilantro; a roast chicken that would make Julia Child weep with joy.
Service is thoughtful and attentive without being intrusive or salesy. Duro devotes considerable resources to training, with a corporate-level team leading the charge. Some high-end restaurants push pricey specials or upcharge you with what might otherwise be standard inclusions. Not so at Duro concepts, in fact, a server might deliver a little taste of something extra just because she wants you to try one of her personal favorites.
Duro wants each of its concepts to be immersive from the moment you arrive. Every venue has a narrative that’s carefully laid out, from the pseudo-fictional characters that might have once inhabited the space which is inspiration behind El Carlos, to venues out of a period-piece, with décor and menus that reflect the narrative.
Location is as important as décor, and Duro is predictably creative about securing its venues. From the completely unspectacular exterior of The Charles to the old-school glamour of Mister Charles, the buildings themselves play as much of a role in the creation of the restaurants’ personas as the team itself.
Charles in Charge
The most recent Duro concept to open is Mister Charles, an elegant European-ish restaurant on the corner of Knox Street and Travis, in the former Highland Park Pharmacy space. The two-story entrance and opulent décor remind me of fine restaurants in Vienna and Paris.
Mister Charles is the fourth Duro concept to incorporate Charles into its moniker, The Charles, Bar Charles, El Carlos, and now Mister Charles. Chas, whose given name is Charles, says the name is a common thread among the owners, but with Charles, um, Chas, front and center of Duro, I quite think he is the inspiration.
While they are not “special occasion only” restaurants, Duro concepts are luxury dining experiences. There are no kids’ menus, no take-away dining, or early-bird specials. All ingredients, especially the proteins, are the best available, and pastas are made in-house. Sauces, notoriously laborious to make, are all made by hand by the highly skilled culinary staff.
Prices reflect the quality and value of the product, service and setting.
Value is subjective and prestige often comes from pay-to-play awards or influencers with mad video editing skills and thousands of followers. Duro’s team is playing the long game without pandering to anyone but their internal whimsies and vision.
It’s a hard business, but Duro Hospitality is harder and simply doing it better than everyone else.
Duro Hospitality’s concepts are: The Charles, Bar Charles, Sister, Café Duro, Casa Duro, El Carlos Elegante, and Mister Charles. You can book reservations on Resy. To read more and see more photos of the restaurants, visit Duro Hospitality here.