Encina—a warm and inviting neighborhood restaurant offering New American cuisine will open to the public on Friday, October 9 for happy hour and dinner Monday through Saturday (with Saturday/Sunday brunch service in coming weeks).
Located at 614 W. Davis Street in the beloved neighborhood of Oak Cliff in Dallas, Encina was created by chef/co-owner, Matt Balke (formerly Executive Chef of Bolsa) along with co-owner Corey McCombs (formerly front of house at Stephan Pyles, FT33, Flora Street and SMOKE) to offer an uncomplicated yet adventurous menu with influences from Texas, California and the South. With a very deliberate and thoughtful focus on seasonality and fresh ingredients, the name Encina is Spanish for Holm Oak—which is not only a type of tree but also the original name of Balke’s hometown of Uvalde, Texas. This is where his appreciation of quality, authentic ingredients and locally sourced produce and protein were born.
The Food Menu
Balke explains, “When developing my menus, I tend to start with one certain ingredient and create a dish around it. We have farmers who visit with me on a regular basis and present fresh produce and product for inspiration.” He continues, “We are focused on serving simplistic, familiar dishes that offer value and are well executed, consistent and made with quality ingredients.”
Utilizing local when possible, guests will be able to choose from appetizers including A Bar N Beef Cheek Pastrami with Granbury pimento cheese and sweet tea gastrique; Devils on Horseback with dates, blue cheese, bacon and apple butter; Black Eyed Fritters with spicy carrot slaw and giardiniera aioli; Calamari Sugo with salami, sofrito, tomato and greens; and Skillet Cornbread with Brazos Valley Feta and sorghum butter.
Standout entrees for now on the opening menu, include a Reuben Flatbread with pastrami, swiss, sauerkraut, and pickle dressing; Zucchini and Squash Salad with lemon, garlic, mint, pine nuts and feta; Ricotta Gnocchi with mushroom broth, braised leeks, roasted mushrooms, pecan gremolata and pecorino; Lamb and Pork Bratwurst served with green chili hominy grits and apple mustard; The Cliff Flatbread with goat cheese, provolone, confit tomatoes and arugula; Turkey Leg Confit with roasted carrot, celery root, brussels leaves, pomegranate and black pepper gastrique; and 44 Farms NY Strip served with mascarpone grits and broccoli rabe.
McCombs has created a beverage program featuring cocktails that mirror the food menu utilizing fresh, seasonal ingredients such as herbs and flowers from local farmers. The recipes are a dialed back and approachable cocktail menu with drinks that have only four to five ingredients max. Cocktails include The Kincaid – Bombay Sapphire, Suze, St. Germain, tarragon and lemon; Mokonuts—El Silencio Mezcal, Velvet Falernum, coconut, lime and agave; The Flower Patch—strawberry and rosemary Grey Goose, grand poppy, lemon, and sparkling wine; Reading Wood Black—Woodford Rye, coffee infused martini and rossi bitter, and sweet vermouth; Cactus Jack—Cazadores Reposado, Aperol, sweet peppers, dill, lime, and Tajin salt. Wines will be available by the glass or bottle with familiar labels as well as some unique finds. Bottles range from $60 to $150 but are very well priced and affordable.
As for the design, Balke and McCombs called on their authentic and down-to-earth nature to create a space truly representative of their personalities and menu philosophy. The interior has the same structure and bones that Bolsa did but has been updated with a new look and feel. Corey explains, “We want our guests to feel like this is an extension of their home. We made a very thoughtful and intentional effort to do this by mixing warm tones and softening the color combinations to create a homey southern charm feel with sophistication. It feels like a grown-up version of what was here before.”
Expanded Climate-Controlled Patio Dining
Additionally, the climate-controlled patio offers expanded table and bar space as well as a raised roof, added walls, casement windows and dining year-round.
Balke says, “I’m looking forward to getting back in the kitchen and serving our guests, having conversations with them and hearing the sounds of a restaurant. There’s nothing better than witnessing the excitement in people’s faces when they try something new. We hope Encina will bring back an atmosphere of comfort that was there for so long with a touch more of refinement.”
Hailing from the rural town of Uvalde, Balke pursued his love for the kitchen and attended the Culinary Institute of America, where he graduated as salutatorian in 2007.
He apprenticed with James Beard Award-winning chef Sharon Hage of York Street in Dallas where he gained insights to local and seasonal food. Balke credits his success to Hage and says that despite a college education and formal training, his real culinary education came from her.
His tenure at York Street prepared him for his move to Bolsa and Bolsa Mercado where he became the executive sous chef. He spent two and a half years with Bolsa before his stint as the executive chef of The Rustic in Dallas. Balke then left The Rustic to work at SMOKE (Bolsa’s sister restaurant) for nearly two years. After SMOKE, Bolsa gladly welcomed Balke back to the family, but as the executive chef. He remained there until the celebrated restaurant that was a driving force in putting Dallas’ dining scene on the map, closed in January of 2020.
Balke and McCombs decided it was their opportunity to sign a lease for that same space and turn it into their own gem, Encina.