Oak Cliff staple Norma’s Cafe celebrated a grand opening at Caruth Plaza on Park Lane, its fourth eatery, on July 12.
“Truth be told, we’ve been jonesing for that spot for a long time,” said Bill Ziegler, Norma’s director of operations. “I drive by it every day, and I noticed the Souper Salad was gone and I called our broker immediately and jumped on it.”
The Park Lane location was originally slated to open in June, when Norma’s was celebrating its 60th anniversary, but the unseasonable rain caused construction delays.
The new 4,100-square-foot cafe features Norma’s iconic red diner chairs, Texas-themed decor, and famous pie counter stocked daily with fresh trademarked Mile-High Cream Pies in different flavors, such as coconut, chocolate, lemon, and peanut butter, all topped with at least two inches of lightly flambéed meringue.
“The cool thing is, because we do all our baking in-house, if someone requests a special pie, we can make it for them,” Ziegler said. “We’ve got a guy that loves our strawberry pie and we don’t generally make it that often. … [But] he said, ‘Can you make me one of those pies?’ And we did and it made his day.”
The menu also features big country breakfasts, with classics such as biscuits and gravy, and blue-plate specials such as meat loaf or chicken fried steak for lunch and dinner, among other items.
When owner Ed Murph bought the restaurant from its founder Norma Manis in 1986, there wasn’t much he needed or wanted to change about the neighborhood mainstay. He just “tweaked it up a little bit,” Murph said.
“Stick to the basics, that’s what Norma’s is all about. We’re serving comfort food, Texas style. Chicken fried steak, meatloaf, plate breakfast; it is the basics. It’s what people have grown up with, people know.”
He would go on to start two more locations and sell them before opening the North Dallas cafe in 2009, what he considers the first expansion.
“Now we’re working on our fourth and we’re looking as we speak at the fifth,” he said. “You just never know where you’re going to fit.”
When asked if he had a favorite flavor, Murph said, “I guess, if you’re asking me, lemon pie. I really like our lemon pie.”
The former disco-era nightclub owner and Oak Cliff native fondly remembers visiting the original Norma’s as a kid.
“Not only did I eat there with my family during the years, but it was an after-school stop — you know, get you a burger if you really had a lot of money, and probably just fries and cold drink,” he said.
Murph and Ziegler hope that, at just a quick drive across the interstate, this new location will become a community go-to for Park Cities and Preston Hollow residents.
“We’ve had such an incredible response,” Ziegler said. “When I go around town, my truck’s got a big Norma’s logo on it, I’ve always got a Norma’s logoed shirt. And wherever I go, people ask me when we’re opening … And I think that’s because there’s a need for comfort food, value price, all-day breakfast.”