Brandon Hays And Phillip Schanbaum — The Duo Behind High Fives, The Whippersnapper, Ferris Wheeler’s & More — Pull The Curtain Back On Their Bar And Restaurant Success.
Welcome to The Quickie, our new series featuring a short and sweet, quick and dirty interview with a local small business owner, chef or creator.
Brandon Hays and Phillip Schanbaum are notoriously tight-lipped. Given the choice, they’d prefer to let their concepts do the speaking for them.
And boy do this twosome’s many fun-loving bar and restaurant spots around Dallas talk. Alongside a smattering of other players, the duo has made its impact on Dallas by opening the likes of High Fives, The Whippersnapper, the upcoming Dibs on Victory and the late, great Greenville Avenue restaurant Wayward Sons — just to name a few. Oh, and let’s not forget Ferris Wheeler’s in the Design District — y’know, the barbecue joint with a fucking ferris wheel in its backyard.
Recently, Hays and Schanbaum have also added two more entries into their This & That Concepts portfolio with the mid-February open of Oak Cliff cocktail bar Tiny Victories and the March opening of Asian fusion eatery Alice in East Dallas.
Even with all that going on, we somehow convinced the tandem to sit down and give us a few minutes of their time to for a quick chat about their entries into the hospitality game, what has them stoked about their new spots and what you can spot them drinking when you see them around town.
Let’s start at the beginning. How’d you each get into the hospitality business?
Schanbaum: I was raised in Dallas, dropped out of college, got sucked into hospitality and haven’t looked back. I had an opportunity to get into hospitality at a young age when I partnered with some friends and opened M Street Bar in 2005. I then proceeded to work through a slew of rowdy nightclubs and bars.
Hays: I was a high school dropout who lied my way into a bartending job and started a promotions company. My first restaurant was Sfuzzi in 2009. Basically, I was kind of aimlessly wandering, and bartending brought fast cash, which was always nice. Then it became a creative outlet for me.
So what do you like and dislike about operating bars and restaurants in Dallas?
Hays: I like that we get to take spaces and put our spin on them, and then guests get to come in and do what they will with them. We get to build teams that become families and, at times, we get to be a special place for those who have met their future significant others there, or celebrate key moments in their life there, or even have bar babies!
Sounds like you’ve had a bunch of tiny victories along the way, but tell us about Tiny Victories, your new spot in Oak Cliff. What’s going on with that place?
Hays: It’s in an awesome area, and within a community that is the strongest I have seen in Dallas. We had to work hard to get this place open — we had to gain the trust of our neighbors — and we made some cool friends through that process. As far as what the bar is? It’s a bar. Ryan Payne, our partner there, and his staff can make you up anything you’re dreaming of — or just throw you a shot and a beer. It’s about handshakes and good bullshit at Tiny Victories, and that’s why I think it’s going to be so special.
Schanbaum: The menu is creative, but not overwhelming. It’s a mixture of both old-school classics and new innovations by Ryan.
Hays: It’s got the classics, plus some new plays on things that the guys come up with.
What about Alice? What sets it apart from the other recent Asian-American openings?
Schanbaum: Alice is an intimate, 50-seat restaurant and lounge serving Pan-Asian shared plates and a boutique cocktail program.
Hays: I’m not really sure since I haven’t seen those other place’s menus, but we are focusing on a “less is more” approach where we try and really make sure the things we are offering are well thought-out.
Between Tiny Victories and Alice, that’s two openings in super close calendar proximity. Was that timing purposeful?
Schanbaum: No! It was just a wonderful coincidence credited to the City of Dallas’ permit process.
Hays: Tiny Victories was a long road to get to where we wanted it to be, and Alice was a “Hey, this spot just came up and it’s a really cool space, and I know we have a lot going on right now, but let’s make something special!”
Speaking of special, what’s your drink?
Schanbaum: Anything but white wine.
Hays: Tequila, all of the tequila.