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Mister Charles in Dallas Shakes Up Fine Dining

A new-school approach to Continental Cuisine, with heavy Italian and French influences, and inspired hospitality, finds a testing ground, thanks to Chas Martin and Duro Hospitality.

Chas Martin

Chas Martin, co-founder of Dallas-based Duro Hospitality, whose latest restaurant is Mister Charles.

Chas Martin pops up on Zoom, smiling and seemingly on the edge of his seat, as if he can’t wait to talk about Mister Charles, the latest high-profile Dallas restaurant from Duro Hospitality. Even through a computer screen, it’s easy to see how Martin’s enthusiasm and charisma have helped make his group’s restaurants some of the hottest dining tickets in the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the United States.

Among their Italian-leaning concepts are The Charles, Sister, and Café Duro. Mister Charles, opened in July, is a bigger idea: a marrying of classic French and Italian cuisines served up in a dramatic and luxurious setting, with an emphasis on welcoming hospitality. The Italian spots are why Appetito is talking to Martin; Mister Charles is why everyone else in the food world is, or should be, taking notice.

Interior of Mister Charles
Mister Charles features opulent design in a space that formerly housed a soda fountain.

It’s certainly not a best-kept-secret in Dallas-Fort Worth, whose daily newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, wrote, “Mister Charles is Dallas, a big-spending pasta and steak house with customers dressed to the nines and the design turned up to an 11.”

Martin (no relation to this author) acknowledges that he and his partners, Benji Homsey, Corbin See, and Ross See, who founded Duro in 2020—another partner, J Chastain, started out as executive chef at The Charles—look at Mister Charles as a stake in the ground. One of the fastest-growing cities in the country, and among the wealthiest, Dallas is on the radar of many big restaurateurs. Major Food Group opened three restaurants there last year, including a Carbone, and Martin says that he hears that international brands such as Sant Ambroeus and Pastis are eyeing the area for expansion.

“We went all out on this place because we knew that Dallas was going to continue to be a hub for the best restaurants in the country,” Martin says. He excitedly adds, “Everything we do, we need to be super fired up about it.”

Beef carpaccio
Beef carpaccio at Mister Charles.

Though it seems almost inconceivable that Duro Hospitality could open so many successful establishments in less than three years, the results say otherwise. Besides Mister Charles and the previously mentioned spots, the group has an upscale Mexican spot, El Carlos Elegante, that Martin calls “one of the edgiest Mexico City inspired restaurants in the country,” a bar (Bar Charles), and Casa Duro, three apartments available for long- or short-term rental, which showcase the design chops of Doro’s architectural team, led by the See brothers.

To figure out how Martin and Duro could come so far so fast, it helps to go back to Martin’s breakthrough moment in hospitality. Fresh out of culinary school, he landed a job as a cook at Nick and Sam’s, one of Dallas’s best-known steakhouses. Martin says that a managing partner noticed his sense of style and his presence, and immediately promoted him from the salad line to a front of house position. By 25, Martin says, “I was general manager of one of the highest-grossing restaurants in Texas.”

After meeting Homsey, who had worked for nearly two decades opening hotels for Z Resorts, including a number of ZaZa hotels, they launched Duro and started working on what would become The Charles. Why launch with Italian, in a city with no true Italian history?

pasta dish
The menu at Mister Charles features a pasta section with a rotating selection.

“There was no Italian migration to DFW,” Martin acknowledges, using the abbreviation for Dallas-Fort Worth, “like there was to the Midwest, the West Coast, the Northeast. However, I think Italian food was a global cuisine. We started with The Charles and then Sister, looking at it as we’re not Italian and we don’t pretend to be. So we call our Italian “Italian-inspired.” There are some authentic dishes and some plays on authentic dishes. I think Dallas was underserved from that perspective.”

The success of The Charles and Sister paved the way for further growth for Duro, eventually leading up to this moment, when Mister Charles has become their most attention-grabbing creation yet. Even looking beyond DFW, Mister Charles is significant as part of an emerging trend of well-known restaurant groups and chefs exploring a form of nostalgic “Continental cuisine,” which merges fine dining ideas of hospitality and decor with culinary creations that draw from French gastronomy and Italian food traditions, along with touches of European-inspired New World decadence. 

To illustrate this, consider Mister Charles menu items such as Lobster Thermidor, served with Calabrian tarragon butter, or Lamb Loin Wellington for two, with foie gras and fennel sausage. There’s a canapé section of the menu, as well as one with pasta dishes such as Uni Shells Carbonara with pancetta and egg yolk bottarga.

These dishes are served in a high-ceilinged space (topping out at 36 feet) that features a glittering chandelier, a glamorous bar, and dining rooms filled with thoughtful design touches and lots of white tablecloths. 

It’s a statement restaurant, and one that neatly encapsulates the rapid-growth metropolitan area that it serves. Mister Charles is built in a landmarked building that for a century housed the Highland Park Soda Fountain, in what is now one of the most affluent sections in DFW. “If you grew up in that neighborhood, if you grew up in Dallas, you either went there regularly or you're familiar with it,” Martin says. “Your mom got your prescriptions there, there was a little gift gallery, and a little flat top where you get a grilled cheese pimento cheese.”

Such quaint touches may be gone, but Martin and his team are ever-eager to add more contemporary forms of hospitality to their environment. Asked why he is so drawn to hospitality as a career, he says, “I love the show! You’re the maestro and you’re conducting and you get to guide people on whatever experience they’re into. You get to help them with the biggest business deals of their life. You get to meet their family.” He trails off, then begins to lament that some restaurants with good food don’t understand important elements of hospitality. 

dining room at Mister Charles
A dining room at Mister Charles.

Martin also asserts that an advanced sense of hospitality applies to a restaurant group’s employees as well. He notes that Duro has hired a director of culture and training, and that he and his partners hold monthly three-hour new employee training sessions that include lunch, part of a mantra that if you treat employees right, they’ll treat guests right. 

At Mister Charles, which has earned rave reviews in the early going from guests who almost always mention the hospitality and attention to detail, the philosophy is clearly working. 

Mr. Charles, 3219 Knox St., Suite 170, Dallas, TX 75205, (972) 920-9471, @themistercharles,

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