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Photography: Danny Fulgencio

Featured Article

Jason Roberts is a Renaissance Restaurateur

The owner and operator of Oddfellows café and Revelers Hall jazz bar wants to bring people together.

Jason Roberts is a restaurateur, urban designer, and former US Congressional nominee. But his current focus is the award-winning Oddfellows café and wildly popular Revelers Hall jazz bar, both of which he owns and operates with his partner Amy Cowan and are located in the Bishop Arts district of Oak Cliff.

Roberts grew up in the Richardson/Plano area but has called Oak Cliff home for 25 years. A self-proclaimed “Francophile,” his home has chickens, bees, and a garden befitting the European countryside—making it a retreat from the chaos of his travels and restaurateur life. Outside of work, Roberts' hobbies include researching and making his own bread, specialty cocktails, and culinary
dishes. He has two children and is also 9-year cancer survivor, having overcome testicular cancer that metastasized to other organs in his abdomen.

And yet, the work continues. Now in its 13th year, Oddfellows is a casual, comfortable restaurant featuring a chef-driven menu that combines classic American fare with a selection of seasonal dishes, a specialty coffee and tea program, as well as full cocktail offerings. Opened in 2019, Revelers Hall is a home for raucous music lovers in the heart of historic Bishop Arts. As the name indicates, there’s always a party happening at this New Orleans-style bar where live music is on tap seven days a week.

“I've always loved old buildings, classic architectural design, and throwing street festivals,” Roberts says. “Fortunately, I’ve been able to merge all of those passions through building our restaurants and helping craft spaces and experiences where people come together to celebrate life while creating memories.”

In 2006, Roberts formed the nonprofit Oak Cliff Transit Authority to revive the Dallas streetcar system, and later spearheaded the city’s effort in garnering a $23 million grant from the federal government to help reintroduce a modern streetcar system to Dallas. In 2010, Roberts, Cowan, and three friends started Go Oak Cliff dedicated to building community in Oak Cliff while delivering a little economic vibrancy to the many independent businesses that make the historic neighborhood such a great spot to eat, shop, and spend time.

That same year he also organized a series of “Better Block” projects, taking blighted blocks with vacant properties in Dallas and converting them into temporary walkable districts with pop-up businesses, bike lanes, cafe seating, and landscaping. The project has become an open-sourced international movement occurring everywhere from Melbourne, Australia, to Tehran, Iran.

On top of all that, Roberts has received a Champions of Change award from the White House and been showcased in the US Pavilion of the 2012 Venice Biennale.

[subhead] 5 Tips for a Perfect Summer Evening

1. Queue up the Revelers Hall Band’s first album on vinyl.
2. Pull some fresh mint sprigs from the garden.
3. Mix up a Mint Kir Royale.
4. Find a great book, preferably a thick nerdy biography.
5. Enjoy it all in a super cozy chair on your favorite porch.

[subhead] The Perfect Summer Cocktail: Mint Kir Royale

“I was turned on to crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) from a close friend who lives in Burgundy, who told me about how all of the old-timer petanque players drink a combination of the liqueur mixed with their favorite glass of champagne in order make a relaxing summertime drink to sip on while playing,” Roberts says. “Inspired by that, this is a twist that includes mint sprigs to give it an added summer twist.”

1 ounce mint simple syrup
1 1/2 ounces Crème de cassis
4-6 ounces champagne
mint sprig, for garnish

1. Pour the crème de cassis into the bottom of a champagne flute.
2. Top with chilled champagne and garnish with several sprigs of mint.

  • Amy Cowan
  • Photography: Danny Fulgencio
  • Photography: Danny Fulgencio
  • Jason Roberts and Amy Cowan outside Oddfellows.
  • Photography: Danny Fulgencio
  • Photography: Danny Fulgencio
  • Photography: Danny Fulgencio
  • Photography: Danny Fulgencio
  • Photography: Elliott Munoz
  • Photography: Elliott Munoz
  • Photography: Elliott Munoz
  • Photography: Elliott Munoz