It’s no secret that Dallas is a foodie’s dream destination. Bon Appétit magazine named Big D its Restaurant City of the Year in 2019. Since then, things have only rolled forward at lightning speed. One of the premier restaurant crowns in town currently belongs to Duro Hospitality, a team of seasoned hospitality veterans with a number of success stories. They’re responsible for hits like The Charles, El Carlos Elegante, Sister, Casa Duro, Cafe Duro, and the recently opened Mister Charles on Knox Street in the heart of the Park Cities. All of their properties are distinctive but carry the same attention to detail throughout their food, service, and design—cornerstone elements of Duro restaurants.
Enter Chas Martin, one of five Duro owners with a unique depth of experience in a variety of businesses. He’s an ebullient man who laughs easily and is never at a loss for words. A self-described “front-of-house guy” who grew up in Arlington, he cuts a memorable path wherever he goes. Duro Hospitality is comprised of five partners: Martin, J. Chastain, Benji Homsey, and brothers Corbin and Ross See. Martin and Homsey’s association began while working at Hotel Zaza. They clicked and became close friends, often talking about concepts for restaurants. Around 2012, the pair took a trip to Italy and were struck by an epiphany.
“We’re walking the streets of Florence, eating everything we saw, and realized, Dallas has no game when it comes to Italian food,” Martin says.
That’s when the central idea of The Charles, Duro’s inaugural venture, took root. When the pandemic struck, Homsey left Zaza and joined Martin and the other partners to officially form Duro. Today, Martin, Chastain, and Homsey are all heavily involved in hospitality, operations, conceptualization, and development on a day-to-day basis, while the See brothers, a design team originally based in Oklahoma City, add a valuable creative perspective to what the other three do.
“There are people out there who are great visionaries and operators all in one—I’m simply not that guy,” Martin says. “I think we all work better on teams. If we want to build something big and impressive, we need each other to do it.”
Martin enthusiastically describes Duro’s restaurants, starting with The Charles, a sophisticated space in the Design District. “We call it Italian-inspired,” he says. “None of us are of Italian descent, but we are all turned on by the cuisine, culture, style, design ... and that’s how we birthed The Charles.”
For decades, The Grape on Lower Greenville was a local favorite. Two years ago, Duro took over the space to open Sister, a clean-cuisine option with Mediterranean swagger that specializes in wood-fired meats, pasta, and fresh fish. “We also have Cafe Duro, our adorable little wine and coffee shop next to Sister, and Casa Duro, above Cafe Duro and Sister. Casa Duro is three suites that are epically decorated,” Martin says.
Another of Duro’s celebrated restaurants is El Carlos Elegante, also in the Design District. Rooted in Mexico City cuisine, the space reflects the vibrant food and lifestyle south of the border.
Finally, there is Mister Charles. It opened this summer on the site of the former Highland Park Soda Fountain, a sacred ground for many who grew up in the Park Cities. When you walk into Mister Charles, the architecture sets a stunning, almost regal tone with marble floors, high ceilings, and linen tablecloths. The restaurant is dotted with sculptures, columns, and plenty of interesting artifacts. “We call it an irreverent play on the classics,” he says.
Mister Charles offers continental French- and Italian-inspired cuisine, with Indian flavors and English inspiration, all connected in a fun and playful way. Martin says it’s already a hit and characteristically credits the restaurant staff with the success. “It’s going to be legendary,” he predicts.
As for Duro’s future plans in the city and beyond, Martin says the group has had plenty of opportunities outside of Dallas, but has politely declined them for now, choosing to improve on what is already in place. “DFW has so much meat on the bone,” he says. “There is a reason major market restaurants are looking at Dallas. Austin and Houston have incredible restaurant scenes, but if you fast-forward 25 years, Dallas will be the most metropolitan of the three great metroplexes in Texas.”
For now, Duro is focused on continuing to blend service and hospitality. Martin says they’re thrilled when customers fawn over the food and design. But when they praise his staff, “That’s the best compliment we can receive.” When people ask him about the company’s secret sauce, Martin has a simple answer: “We’ve got the best people in the business.”
The success associated with The Charles and companion speakeasy Bar Charles, as well as the other Duro restaurants, continues to gain momentum. Now, Mister Charles, in its historic location with elegant finishes at every turn, is full of memories for generations of residents—who are ready to create new ones.
“I think we all work better on teams. If we want to build something big and impressive, we need each other to do it.” - Chas Martin