Start with a business-minded chef who puts customer service first. Add an artistic, creative genius who takes even the simplest dishes to a new level of delicious. The result – a combination of fine dining and an atmosphere everyone in the family will enjoy.

Nodding Donkey Kitchen, located at the corner of Greenville Avenue and SMU Boulevard, turns the typical sports bar menu on its head, thanks to the food styling of chef-owner Jon Calbrese and chef Joey Ryholt. This talented pair has created a menu to attract everyone from the couple enjoying a date night to the young family, with bistro items, gourmet burgers, homemade pizza and more.

When Calbrese became weary of a job in healthcare consulting a dozen years ago he decided to follow his passion and attend the Art Institute of Dallas for Culinary Arts. There he graduated at the top of his class before taking a job at upscale The Grape restaurant under chef Brian Luscher, who Calbrese calls his mentor.

For the last eight years, Calbrese has created and overseen the menu at the Nodding Donkey Kitchen’s sister restaurants, which include Uptown’s State & Allen Restaurant and Lounge and The Nodding Donkey.

Three years ago, he added Ryholt to the team, and the Nodding Donkey benefited from the culinary tag-team with experience nurtured not only in Dallas, but also in the cutting-edge kitchens of Houston and New Orleans.

“Joey has one of the best conceptual minds in cooking that I’ve ever seen,” Calbrese said. “He can open a pantry, pull out a few ingredients and create something that belongs in a high-end bistro. He eats, drinks and breathes cooking, and he’s not afraid to try anything.”

The result is a flavor-packed menu that puts a fresh, flavorful twist on even the simplest of pub fare. For example, the chefs deconstructed a buffalo chicken sandwich to create a fanciful buffalo chicken salad. Ryholt starts with grilled chicken, which he brushes with honey, butter and homemade buffalo sauce. This is placed on a bed of Romaine lettuce garnished with pine nuts. [Click here for the Bistro Menu]

“This is high-end food that appeals to the general population, and at a price almost anyone can afford,” Calbrese said. “Our customers will come back time and again to enjoy the specials Joey creates.”

On the more creative side of the menu, customers can find bistro-style food such as Savory Chicken Roulade, which features chicken breast filled with olives and wild mushrooms and served with a thyme-mushroom sauce and risotto cake. The market catch might feature redfish and seasonal vegetables, garnished with gourmet oils and parsnip puree.

For the sports fanatics crowd, the menu includes pizza with homemade crust and sauces. In addition to standard pizza toppings, the savory Texican Pizza features smoked brisket, sweet pickled jalapenos, goat cheese and pickled red onions.

“We make everything from scratch, upgrading standard sports bar food and making it better,” Calbrese said. “This means taking great care with sauces, grinding our own meat and processing our own chicken. And every item – whether it’s a gourmet offering from the bistro side of the menu or a simple burger – is made with great care. It’s all in the details.”

With football season coming up, Nodding Donkey Kitchen offers a delicious, grownup place to watch the game, said Tony Winkler, co-owner of the restaurant.

“We’ve got three viewing sections in the bar area, or you can check the score from the dining room,” Winkler said. “Our excellent menu and clean bathrooms provide an atmosphere where women can enjoy watching football with their men, too. We offer delicious wines, great martinis and good food.”

Even the chicken wings are upscale. The chef smokes them, before flash-freezing, deep-frying and serving with homemade sauce.

“Until you’ve watched a football game while enjoying our menu, you haven’t had the ultimate sports experience,” Winkler said.

Come in this month for a 2 for 1 special on any Bistro item from the menu. The Nodding Donkey Kitchen is at 5600 SMU Boulevard, #120 near the southwest corner of Greenville and SMU Boulevard.

The Nodding Donkey Kitchen
5600 SMU Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75206


Mon-Fri 11am-2am
Sat-Sun 9am-2am

Recognize 8680 Views