DAVID THOMAS thought he was being pranked.
The owner of Savorite Southern Cuisine had just received a phone call from HBO’s annual NFL reality series Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Dallas Cowboys saying the show’s team wanted to visit Thomas’ restaurant to film a segment with Cowboys running back JaQuan Harvey and linebacker Anthony Hines.
When the episode finally aired Aug. 31, Thomas wasn’t even the first in his family to see it. That honor fell to Thomas’ mom, who called from Ohio the night the showed aired to offer her critique.
“She was able to see it before me. She pretty much ruined the episode,” says Thomas, laughing. “She was so excited. The coolest moment of it all is my two boys, who are six and nine. They watch a lot of YouTube. I was able to pull up the video on YouTube, and they were like: That’s my daddy’s job, that’s his restaurant.’ That brought it full circle.”
Being on Hard Knocks boosted the restaurant’s delivery and takeout business, which helped since the dining room was closed. And a new favorite order emerged: Harvey’s order of fried chicken with two sides.
“It just surreal. I watched Hard Knocks prior to that, so I had to pinch myself. People still come in and say: I want what he had.”
This is Thomas’ third restaurant, but it’s his first in Texas. Previously, he ran a soul food restaurant and a sports bar in his native Cleveland.
After the sports bar closed, Thomas says decided to go to culinary school to add to his skill set.
“Prior to that, I was always more front of the house, but I wanted to be well-rounded. In having these conversations with chefs and food purveyors, I wanted to be confident in what I was saying,” Thomas says. “I had always shied away from the kitchen. I could cook but not to the capacity I can now. I tried to avoid it [the kitchen], but it drew me in.”
After eventually moving to Texas with his wife and two sons, Thomas opened Savorite at 2400 Avenue K in 2018, and business grew consistently, even before Hard Knocks aired.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Thomas kept the restaurant open, pivoting to carry-out and delivery as dining rooms across the city were closed per City of Plano ordinance.
About the only thing that has changed since opening is Savorite’s most popular dishes.
“Sunday is our busiest day. We do different daily specials,” Thomas says. “On Sundays, we do baked chicken and dressing. That’s easily our best-selling special.
“There’s been a spike in the wings ever since the episode. I used to be able to say number one without a doubt was catfish. Ever since that episode aired, everybody’s been wanting wings. We just couldn’t keep enough in-house. Our fried and/or smothered pork chops are also a big seller. As for the sides, mac and cheese, the greens, and yams are the top-three sellers.”
At least for now, Thomas is keeping the dining room closed because of staffing issues. But he envisions a day when he looks out into the restaurant and sees a bustling scene again.
“I want the experience to be memorable. When the dining room was open, I loved looking out and seeing people dancing in their seats, eating and enjoying my food,” Thomas says. “You can’t put a price tag on that. I miss that.”
Savorite is located at 2400 Avenue K.