By MOLLIE F. BELT
The Dallas Examiner
In the middle of a pandemic, Kevin Kelly recently purchased prime real estate in downtown Dallas and opened a restaurant, TRUE Kitchen + Kocktails, that he said is flourishing. On weekends, people can be seen taking selfies as they stand in line outside waiting to enter the restaurant. Kelly said he “proceeded with this business venture during the pandemic, when so many businesses were striving to survive, because of faith.”
The restaurant has been opened approximately four months. It is in the same building as his law office, located at 210 Harwood St. It stretches from Elm Street to Harwood Street.
The restaurant is located on the side of the building facing Elm. Upstairs and facing Harwood Street is his law office. He is in the process of developing a nightclub on the side of the building facing Pacific Street.
Just outside the restaurant is the Majestic Theatre, a historical landmark that was once a segregated theatre prior to integration of accommodations in Dallas. More recently the theater has housed Black theatrical productions, including the Dallas Black Dance Theatre productions.
For the safety of its visitors, the owner follows current protocols for safety. In the elevator is a hand sanitizer machine attached to the wall. The reception area is a large space with a receptionist desk where Kelly’s mother sits and greets guests. On her desk is a large box filled with masks. The conference room is large and surrounded by glass windows on two sides – one side facing the reception area and the other facing the street.
Kelly describes himself as being from “all over the Metroplex.”
“I went to elementary school in Dallas, junior high in Richardson, high school in Garland, Paul Quinn College and law school at the University of Houston,” he said.
Kelly has practiced law for 17 years, specializing in wrongful death litigation cases and he handled big cases across the country. He said he “believes in investing and diversifying and feels it is important that Blacks own land.” He previously invested in a restaurant in Houston.
“There is just so much time you can spend in Luis Vuitton stores,” Kelly stated.
He said he was told that he is the first Black person to own a building downtown and hoped that other Blacks would see the importance of investing and Black ownership.
The restaurant serves what Kelly called “comfort food.” It specializes in a variety of foods, including flavored fried chicken and lobster tails, shrimp and grits, creative waffles and other southern classics made with a twist. In addition, the menu features oxtails, greens, black eyed peas and candied yams to go with desserts such as peach cobbler, lemon cake and banana pudding.
Kelly said his restaurant is different from other restaurants.
“First, it is located in downtown Dallas, not in South Dallas,” he said. “Second, the menu is different and serves craft cocktails. There is live music on Friday and Saturday nights. The décor of the restaurant makes people feel good about being in the space. We spent seven figures to build the restaurant out so that customers could eat on marble tables.”
The business employs approximately 70 people, majority Black and other people of color. He said he feels good about giving Black and Brown people jobs during this difficult time. He also praised his business partners who he said are smart and have put data and science together. He contracts with primarily Black owned businesses. Currently his contractor is Hatley Brothers Roofing and Construction.
Through all of his efforts, he said he wanted to be a good example for his two sons.
“I am here because people gave me chances. I have discovered many people who have greatness. For so long we have not had the opportunity. Give our people opportunities,” Kelly said.
He emphasized the importance in building a team as he clarified that he is a restaurant owner, not a chef.
“I have good people who work for me. For so long we have not had the opportunity,” he repeated with pride. “I have good people who work for me.”