Interview with Sue and Marc Cassel About Their Storied Culinary Careers and New Spot, 20 Feet Seafood Joint
Sue and Marc Cassel opened their quaint new spot, 20 Feet Seafood Joint (1160 Peavy Road), just last week. Neighbors of Good 2 Go Tacos and Goodfriend, it's a well-played parlay in East Dallas dining. Sue and Marc have spent time at many notable area restaurants, like Star Canyon, Hotel Zaza and Park and they were part of one the most legendary menus of Deep Ellum, "Feed Me" at The Green Room.
LDD Marc and Sue Cassel
The name of this new spot is an ode to their pups, of whom there are four. So, when all feet are on deck at the Cassel household, the sum total is 20. "It's a family name," explained Sue with a smile. Pictures of the dogs can be found on the napkin holders at each table.
Here's our chat about their new restaurant, Eric Clapton and good times in Deep Ellum.
Why a seafood spot?
Sue: We were in New York doing a Beard dinner and we went to a place for lunch around there called the Pearl Oyster Bar. It was a tiny little shotgun restaurant, like so many other places around there, and in the back was a six-burner stove and two people working there. And that was the first time Marc and I were like, "We could do this."
The menu was tiny -- mussels, lobster rolls and a couple of salads. But, small.
I assume the food was good?
Sue: It was awesome. When Marc and I were at the Green Room, it was just he and I on the line a lot, and one person back in the pantry in this tiny kitchen. We put out a lot of food. So, we just thought we could really do that.
So, is simplicity something you're going for here? The menu is fairly small.
Marc: Yes, no pretense. I think that's what made the Green Room so popular too. You didn't have to sit up straight. There were people with full-sleeved tattoos sitting next to blue hairs. That's one of the things we looking for here. Just honest food and a good meal.
Marc, are you originally from Plano?
Marc: Me? No, I went to Plano High. My dad was in the Navy, so I was born in Hawaii before it was a state and we moved to Plano from New Zealand.
That had to be a fun transition. One of the most beautiful places in the world to the flat fields of Plano. Were your parents thrilled with that?
Marc: Well, my mom is from New Zealand. It was crazy. [He just smiles.]
That's kind of a raw deal, Marc. So, let's chat about the Green Room. It was a transformative spot for the Dallas dining scene.
Marc: Well, we both went to El Centro, and around that time a lot of really talented people were in the program. And, it's not so much that a torch was passed, but there was some talent. Clark McDaniel, Jamie Samford and a host of other people all started working then. We all learned sort of at the same time.
How did The Green Room first come up with the idea for the Feed Me/Wine Me?
Marc: It was already there when I arrived. It was a serendipitous thing. Some guy just came in one night and said, "Feed me." So, the chef at the time would do it on a limited basis, like the whole table got the same thing. But, we expounded on that. One person could get it and others could order off the menu. Ideally, everyone at the table would get a different thing and sort of pass all the food around.
It seems to have really changed the way people interacted with chefs locally.
Marc: We made the tasting menu more approachable.
Maybe that's it. Just changing the name from "tasting menu" to "Feed Me." It sounds so less pretentious and more adventurous.
Marc: Yeah, other people were doing tasting menus, but this is how we got people to try whole fish, head-on shrimp, quail, and rabbit -- stuff they normally wouldn't have tried. It was only one course, so there wasn't a lot of risk. People normally would have never ordered it, but they loved it.