DALLAS -- Co-owner Sam Wynne describes BrainDead Brewing as a good first stop for someone who's never been to Deep Ellum.
"We fought really hard to get this patio space [surrounding BrainDead Brewing]. I think the wraparound patio is really what made this an engaging corner, instead of just an address on Main Street," Wynne said. "It opens us up to the city and welcomes people down who haven't necessarily been to Deep Ellum before."
Turns out, serving as the area's de-facto visitor center has been good business. BrainDead Brewing has been open a little less than 18 months in Deep Ellum, and pretty much the only time business has been slow was opening week.
"We opened at a really weird time. Our first couple weeks was that big freeze we had a year-and-a-half ago, and so we kind of opened our doors, then two days later, had to shut them for two or three days because the city of Dallas was under four inches of ice," Wynne said.
Since that hiccup, BrainDead has been serving up picadillo queso, a murderers' row of sandwiches, and countless craft beers -- so many that it's time to expand, Wynne said. He and co-owner Jeff Fryman are buying 1,300 feet of space next door exclusively to expand the current 700-square-foot brewing operation, almost tripling its size.
The extra space is needed. Wynne said BrainDead sold about 2,000 kegs of it's own beer and brewed about 30 different recipes in it's first year of operation.
"People kept coming here to drink it, so we kept having empty tanks we could fill back up," he said.
Wynne is from a family well-versed in the restaurant and bar business. He's the son of Shannon Wynne, the restaurateur known for the Flying Saucer chain of bars and restaurants, Dallas' Meddlesome Moth, and Rodeo Goat in Dallas and Fort Worth. Sam was involved with Rodeo Goat, but said most of his focus now is on Deep Ellum with BrainDead and another coming venture with his partner Fryman (who came from Common Table before launching BrainDead), Bowls & Tacos.
While Wynne said there have been offers from property developers looking to bring something like BrainDead to smaller cities, don't expect him to move on those offers anytime soon. BrainDead will not be his version of his father's Flying Saucer, which now boasts locations in six states, including all over Texas.
"The tricky thing, and the reason that I think BrainDead is so successful is because me and my partner and the people that work here, we love it here," the 31-year-old Wynne said. "[...] My dad has had great success going outside of his realms and trying to put a place in a city that wasn't where he's from, but in my youth as a restaurateur, I'm sticking to my guns and focusing on making the places I like to hang out better."
Bowls & Tacos is Wynne and Fryman's next stab at bringing a hot food trend from the coasts to Deep Ellum. It will specialize in Mexican street tacos -- some with a seafood spin -- as well as poke (pronounced like Pokémon) bowls.
"Mexican street tacos is the heart and soul of the place and what it's going to be," Wynne said. "[BrainDead Brewing and Bowls & Tacos] Chef David Pena has kind of wanted his Mexican heritage to shine through a bit more in his cuisine, and we're definitely going to be doing that over there."
The other half of the new restaurant's namesake are bowls of rice topped with raw or marinated fish as well as vegetables or other ingredients, like a deconstructed sushi roll, Wynne said. They present a healthier meal option in an area dominated by Pecan Lodge's barbecue, Cane Rosso's pizza, and other fare like BrainDead's own Coma Burger (which features a ground-brisket-and-bacon patty topped with smoked cheddar).
"I think it's silly not to have healthy options be a big part of what you do," Wynne said. "Even here at BrainDead we put a lot of effort into having great salads or a nice, light sandwich so you can also eat light and healthier if you want to."
Wynne hopes Bowls & Tacos will serve as a bookend to his other business in the neighborhood -- if BrainDead is the visitor's center, Bowls & Tacos will serve as the gift shop at the end of your Deep Ellum tour, across from Double Wide and Sandbar Cantina and Grill at the intersection where Exposition, Canton, and Commerce meet.
"The building is an old Gulf [Oil gas] station, and kind of the joke in Dallas is to get a good taco, you've got to go to a crappy gas station. So, I went and found a crappy gas station, so I could make good tacos come out," Wynne said.
You can expect to complete the Wynne-and-Fryman restaurant tour of Deep Ellum when Tacos & Bowls opens sometime in early 2017.
"I'm thinking December, so that means April," Wynne cracked. "Probably somewhere in between."
Friday on WFAA.com, we'll also have a Q&A with Sam Wynne about the craft beer business in North Texas and recent changes in Texas that will likely help local breweries compete against the beer giants.