What’s got breakfast until 3 a.m., $1 weekend mimosas and an albino squirrel mascot? Fry Street’s newest addition.
Located at 1216 W. Hickory St., the Flying Squirrel is serving up breakfast and lunch favorites beginning Tuesday, when it hosts its soft opening in the former Potbelly Sandwich Shop location. Open until 10 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday, the restaurant will be open until 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, offering cocktails alongside late-night staples like chicken and waffles, grilled cheese and vegan pizza. But that’s not all that’s unique about the new dining spot.
“Our business model is based on two main facets: Get a good location and prioritize the mental, physical and emotional well-being of the team,” owner Adam Hasley said. “Everyone hears whenever they go into a restaurant that the customer is always right, and that’s just such a toxic mentality. The first thing we teach staff is the customer is rarely right and they know they’re encouraged to be their full selves.”
Apart from an apron and nonslip shoes, staff can wear whatever they choose to work. Customer complaints are taken by Lucky, the restaurant’s albino squirrel mascot.
“Unfortunately, squirrels don’t talk, so the only response they’ll get is a squeak,” Hasley said.
The model is an attempt to change the way restaurants are run. A former server himself, Hasley is no stranger to the stories that often circulate among service workers about dealing with impossible customers and unsupportive work environments. It’s what has kept some from returning to service jobs over the past year.
Hasley also spent time at the National Restaurant Association, interviewing restaurant operators across the U.S.
“Diving into emerging trends and really looking at where the industry’s going, it seemed inevitable that you have to at some point change your model to be people-first, rather than that toxic ‘the customer’s always right’ [model],” Hasley said. “A lot of larger organizations are starting to see that shift, and they’re starting to pivot to really prioritize the people.”
At Flying Squirrel, staff are more than just expendable workers: They’re valued for who they are, Hasley said. And the restaurant’s model doesn’t mean it’ll lack customer service.
“We have the friendliest staff ever, but truly at the end of the day, they’re the lifeblood of our entire operation, and without them, we could not function,” Hasley said. “Management knows from the very beginning that we work for them — we work for our employees.”
That also means encouraging staff to have fun and bring a dose of spontaneity to the space.
“You might have a server dance party break out in the middle of a rush-hour peak, and that could be a possibility,” Hasley said. “The next day you might see a giant albino squirrel popping a champagne bottle with a sword. You could also just have a perfectly normal dining experience — no matter what, we just want you to never fully know what to expect.”
The restaurant also plans to introduce other fun events, such as RuPaul watch parties every Friday.
Though some University of North Texas students might find familiarity in Lucky — and the eagle the mascot is riding in the restaurant’s logo — there’s no affiliation with the university, Hasley said. But Lucky is a star in his own right at the Flying Squirrel, with a commissioned Lucky Mona Lisa greeting customers as they enter the restaurant.
The eatery plans to soon offer an array of vegan and gluten-free options, including for those with food allergies, but is operating off a temporary menu while it waits for a hood system. Aside from offering late-night drinks, the dining spot also plans to offer mocktails and other nonalcoholic favorites for the sober community. The staff hopes that, before long, everyone will be able to find something they love on the menu.
For now, they are enjoying the journey.
“We’re really just leaning into the absurdity — it’s been such a fun ride to get here,” Hasley said.