Certainly one of Dallas-Fort Value’s most uncommon eating places, Culpepper steakhouse in Rockwall, has been saved from extinction.

The 40-year-old restaurant was anticipated to shut on New 12 months’s Eve 2022, after former proprietor Bob Clements posted on Fb that “the unexpected and persevering with results of the COVID epidemic” killed the enterprise. However restaurateur Elias Pope, who lives close by in Heath, made a last-minute take care of Clements to purchase the getting older, iconic restaurant and maintain it open.

Proprietor Elias Pope grew up driving along with his household from his hometown of Greenville to Culpepper for particular events. He then took his promenade date, Amy, there for dinner many years in the past. They have been later married and now have six children.(Elías Valverde II / Workers Photographer)

Pope and his spouse, Amy, went to Culpepper on promenade night time a number of many years in the past after they have been relationship. They grew up an hour east of Dallas, in Greenville, and each agree that Culpepper is “most likely the most iconic restaurant” in that area.

However Pope acknowledges that it isn’t as well-known in Dallas.

That’s the place he excels.

Pope and his unconventional restaurant firm UNCO run HG Sply Co., which originated on Lowest Greenville and has expanded to Fort Value and Trophy Membership. HG Sply Co. was on the entrance finish of Greenville Avenue’s reinvention as a restaurant row when it opened in Dallas a decade in the past. Pope has since populated East Dallas with Normal Service, Leela’s Wine Bar and a cocktail spot named Milli. He’s additionally discovered a option to replicate a few of these eating places and bars in small North Texas cities like Heath. His newest transfer is to broaden to Willow Park, west of Fort Value.

Pope has a uncommon knack for creating eating places that thrive in far-out ‘burbs in addition to metropolis facilities. And he is aware of that Culpepper is a sophisticated and interesting restaurant to tackle.

The rambling restaurant that acquired fancy

Michael “Dobber” Stephenson opened Culpepper in 1982 in a home off Interstate 30. He crammed the informal place with artifacts from his world travels. Dobber ultimately purchased the house subsequent door and constructed “a superstructure” between the 2. It had a waterfall and a “river” that he’d have to drag children out of when their mother and father weren’t watching them.

“Culpepper’s was by no means a restaurant and it was by no means a bar. It was a gathering place of individuals,” Dobber stated in an interview final week.

Over its 40 years in business, Culpepper regularly had live music.
Over its 40 years in enterprise, Culpepper frequently had stay music. (MIKE STONESpecial Contributor / 118408)

He’s been gone from the enterprise since 1992, when he offered it to Clements, however he nonetheless hangs on to the unique really feel of the restaurant, which was a hodgepodge hangout the place servers wore shorts and clients listened to stay music whereas looking on Lake Ray Hubbard. (Dobber now operates three bars within the Glen Rose space that he believes have the identical really feel. You’ll be able to nonetheless discover Dobber cooking steaks, as he did at Culpepper, at Blackie’s Bait Store in Walnut Springs.)

Ask anybody from the world who’s been to Culpepper up to now 40 years they usually may say one thing like, “You ever been there?” It’s a type of locations: You’ve acquired to see it to imagine it.

Contained in the restaurant, there was once a stay rattlesnake in a cage. Dobber and his staff would feed it mice, and clients would — gulp! — guess on which might be eaten first. Waylon Jennings and his band have been regulars, Dobber says.

Part of a plane wing can be seen hanging from the ceiling at Culpepper in Rockwall. It's...
A part of a airplane wing might be seen hanging from the ceiling at Culpepper in Rockwall. It has been there for the reason that authentic proprietor, Michael “Dobber” Stephenson, crammed the restaurant with journey treasures.(Elías Valverde II / Workers Photographer)
Bob and Karan Clements owned Culpepper in Rockwall from 1992 through the end of 2022. They...
Bob and Karan Clements owned Culpepper in Rockwall from 1992 by means of the tip of 2022. Additionally they proceed to function a Rockwall restaurant named the Oar Home.(MIKE STONESpecial Contributor / 118408)

The constructing was one other curiosity. “The construction and surrounding patios and decks ramble off in a dozen completely different instructions, whereas decorations replicate the numerous accumulating pursuits of the proprietor,” reads a 1992 Dallas Morning Information story. “One room is dedicated to aviation memorabilia; one other is hung with taxidermy trophies, together with a lion shot by Teddy Roosevelt. Upstairs, the spherical bar was imported from Liverpool, England.”

Dobber flew to London to purchase that bar. He was advised it got here from a pub the place the Beatles acquired their begin.

“I’ve acquired to have that,” he recollects saying. Dobber admits he’s by no means verified the reality of the half in regards to the Beatles.

When Clements took over, he modified the restaurant to be a extra upscale place with a wine room and cigars. The music turned mushy jazz. Clements wouldn’t comply with an interview, however a 2003 restaurant overview praises the work of chef David Holben, who had beforehand labored at one in all Dallas’ most interesting eating places, the Riviera.

Culpepper was having a foodie second, you may say.

“Culpepper isn’t only a small-town steakhouse anymore,” Dallas Morning Information critic Dotty Griffith wrote, including that Holben was “properly on his option to making a restaurant that may carry diners from Dallas in addition to offering a nonchain, high quality different for suburbanites.”

In this 2003 DMN file photo, chef David Holben served chicken-fried lobster and...
On this 2003 DMN file photograph, chef David Holben served chicken-fried lobster and chipotle-glazed quail with truffle butter sauce.(KES GILHOME / 187831)

What’s forward for the brand new Culpepper

Pope’s plan for Culpepper — in its third life — begins with “no main modifications,” he says.

“Our objective is to get in there, determine how we might be of assist,” Pope says.

The porterhouse steak for two is on the menu at Culpepper in Rockwall. The restaurant is now...
The porterhouse steak for 2 is on the menu at Culpepper in Rockwall. The restaurant is now operated by Elias Pope, a resident of the close by city of Heath.(Elías Valverde II / Workers Photographer)

Pope loves the wacky, winding really feel of the restaurant. He compares it to the Oasis, an Austin restaurant on Lake Travis that’s gotten a collection of renovations and additions through the years and stays an iconic place.

Culpepper Cattle Co., as will probably be known as, shall be a compromise between its two previous lives: Pope favored the informal ambiance, the journey trinkets and the stay music from Dobber’s period. And he appreciated the “superb cooks” and concentrate on meals that Clements introduced. Pope expects the menu to ultimately embrace steaks, barbecue and Tex-Mex.

When he was a child rising up east of there, Pope says, the constructing was a very powerful half. His reminiscences of Culpepper span most of his life.

“Consuming at Culpepper’s was all the time a particular factor,” Pope says. He provides that almost all of his staff members are from small cities in East Texas or the Rockwall space, and lots of have their very own reminiscences of this iconic restaurant.

“All people’s extremely enthusiastic about it,” Pope says.

Culpepper Cattle Co. is at 309 E. Interstate 30, Rockwall.

For extra meals information, comply with Sarah Blaskovich on Twitter at @sblaskovich.

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