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Cork: Experience the Flair


cork- tyler tx eguideWritten and Photographed by Barbara King

Cork has a life and energy all of its own, which is very apparent this mid-week “Wine Wednesday” night. The bar is packed, the room is buzzing and there is a guitarist/singer in the corner doing his thing.

Co-owner Ace Estrella is busy meeting and greeting guests and the vibe is contagious. Folks are coming and staying, and staying, conversing, eating, and mingling all night long.

Opened in September, 2012, Cork is the epitome of a fine dining experience along with fun, fashion and flair. Business partners, entrepreneurs, and friends, Ace Estrella and John Florendo, have made Cork the place to mix and mingle in Tyler, and people are coming in droves to see what all the excitement is about.

cork-7 tyler tx eguideComing in the door, you will be warmly greeted and immediately surrounded by the ambience of subdued lighting, colorful artwork, and music. It is eclectic, fun and funky, and here, you would think you are in any big city like New York, Dallas or Chicago.

Ace describes the passion that fuels the vision of Cork. “We love what we do and we wanted to bring a different dining experience to East Texas. At the end of the day, we want to have folks leave with a memory of excellent ambience, food, wine and service.” Both men have years of restaurant experience, and their partnership blends the knowledge of industry standards with a tinge of risk and outside-the-box mentalities.

The dynamic duo of Ace and John have spun their concept into a new upscale eatery and bar that is now “the place to go” in Tyler. Valet parking and outside seating are amenities that just add that extra customer service element that folks crave.

cork-4 tyler tx eguideLiterally building the business from the ground up meant sweat, labor, and copious man hours, including cutting and lacquering sushi boards, upholstering furniture, and everything in between. It is truly a labor of love for the two gentlemen, whose love of fine dining and family is the basis for the collaboration.

The eclectic mix of European-Asian cuisine and unique pairings of wine and food makes this an incredible progressive dining adventure. Ace explains, “We are truly educating Tyler about healthy, quality food that is meant to be shared, enjoyed and appreciated in a casual, yet classy non-hurried environment.” Every meal is a present to be opened and shared, and presentation is everything. “We know people eat with their eyes,” says Ace, “and our Chef is always experimenting, changing and growing the menu.”

cork-10 tyler tx eguideThe menu reflects the concept of sharing with the heading “just a few plates to share among friends,” including jalapeno poppers, peppadew peppers (stuffed with goat cheese and sprinkled with candied pecans), potstickers, Filipino spring rolls (cooked with love by Ace’s mom in the Cork kitchen), brussel sprouts, bruschetta and gourmet sliders. Fresh sushi is the favorite at Cork, and you will only find fresh, high quality ingredients on your plate. Sushi specialties include Surf and Turf, Rainbow, Texas Crunch, I’m a Dragon, and Shrimp Crunch. Rolls are also available in many varieties like Cali, Philly, Spicy, Tuna, Tiger Eye, Veggie, and Spider. The versatile menu allows you to pick and choose from items ranging from $9 for a Harvest or Strawberry Salad, Stir Fry Health Bowls starting at $7, and all the way up to scrumptious Kobe beef and butcher board ribeyes at around $33.

Brunch at Cork (available Saturdays 10am-2pm and Sundays 10am-4pm) is the best part of the weekend, and the choices are endless. Feast on everything from Steak & Eggs to French toast, Chicken & Waffles to a Country Fried Steak Bowl. Build your own omelettes, Eggs Benedict, Smoked Salmon Benedict, and Pulled Pork Benedict are available, too. Pair these with the brunch drink of the day, a bottomless Mimosa or a Lemongrass Mint Julep, Sangria or Bloody Mary. There is also a kiddo’s menu featuring waffles, pancakes, and French toast items.

cork-3 tyler tx eguideChef Chad Graham has been whipping up taste sensations at Cork over the last eight months, and says, “I have the freedom to experiment, and the menu is always evolving. We try to pair hand-crafted cocktails with menu options. I would say that the restaurant reflects a Pan-Asian influence with a Mediterranean flair. Our menu options are 80% made from scratch, and I am constantly researching, reading and building new flavors through marinades, sauces and cooking techniques.”

It might seem to be all about the food, service and ambiance, but there is a lot more going on in this eatery. Large, colorful artscapes cover the walls, and upon closer inspection, the works are all credited to local artists, and the music is courtesy of local musicians, too. The team makes a concerted effort to support local, especially in their concept of farm-to-table, and Chef Graham is quick to point out that the kitchen strives to utilize local produce whenever possible in support of local farmers.

Shay Wimberly, Ariel Flores and Nancy Flournoy were there to celebrate a special birthday and picked Cork because they had heard it was a fun, unique atmosphere with great food. Shay says, “We love the eclectic vibe, atmosphere and urban feel. The service couldn’t be better, and we were glad we came in on a live music night.”

cork-5 tyler tx eguideThe restaurant is closed Mondays for private/chef dinners, Wednesdays are “Wine Wednesdays” with ½ price bottles of wine available. “Keep it Local Tuesdays” features $5 for any drink featuring Texas spirits and the famous $6 pub burger made from all natural grass-fed beef from Happy Cattle Company.

“Our dream that began as lists and sketches on notebook paper has become a reality that is continually growing and is a true reflection of our personalities and vision,” said Ace. Come find out what all the talk is about at Cork. Restaurant hours are Tuesday-Sunday 4-10:30pm (bar is open later). Find them at, Facebook at ‘Cork Food and Drink’ or at (903)363-9197. Cork is located at 5801 South Broadway in the Times Square Plaza, Tyler.

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Around East Texas

Announcing…Dogtoberfest 2018

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Dogtoberfest 2018:

Craft Beer and Cute Puppies Join For a Great Cause

Join the fun with your four-legged best friend October 27th (11am-7pm) at Dogtoberfest 2018!

Held at Juls Event Center, 7212 Old Jacksonville Hwy., Tyler, Dogtoberfest is the culmination of adoptable pets from local animal rescue groups, pet-related vendors, local live bands, restaurants and food trucks and craft breweries.

The Craft Beer tasting will take place indoors in the newly remodeled Juls Event Center!

The ultimate goal of the day is finding forever homes for as many homeless pets as possible.

They are currently seeking vendors, breweries, and more; applications are available online. For more info go to If you have questions about the event, contact:


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Around East Texas

7th Annual Butterfly Hope Luncheon, November 1st

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7th Annual Butterfly Hope Luncheon features Madison Cowan, First Winner of the Food Network Series “Chopped”

Thursday, November 1st  at 11:30 am at the Rose Garden Center (420 Rose Park Drive, Tyler), the Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County will hold it’s 7th annual Butterfly Hope Luncheon featuring Madison Cowan, an Alzheimer’s Advocate and first winner of the Food Network series Chopped. This annual event benefits the Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County.

Tickets for the 7th annual Butterfly Hope Luncheon go on sale September 10th for $75 per person. For more info call (903)509-8323 to reserve a seat or visit

Madison is a hands-on family man, cook, producer and storyteller with roots in London, Jamaica and Detroit. In 2004, after being awarded a four-star rating from The Times as executive chef of Ashbells in London’s West End, he established Madison Cowan LLC, a global culinary production company that oversees operations in licensing and consulting, television production and private dining that has reached throughout Africa, Europe, Japan and South America.

Madison has catered to jazz legend Lionel Hampton, singer and human rights activist Odetta, actors Halle Berry, Scarlett Johansson and Anthony Anderson, rapper and poet Mos Def, fashion icon Donna Karan, playwright Lanford Wilson, former NYC Mayor David Dinkins and former President Bill Clinton.

He credits his mother’s influence as the springboard to his culinary experience: “She made certain I knew my way round the kitchen and would never depend on anyone for a meal. Sage advice I now impart to my own child.”

In 2010 Food Network selected him as a contestant for their hit Primetime series Chopped where he competed and won three consecutive episodes to become the first ever Grand Champion. Following appearances on NBC’s Today Show and CBS This Morning, in April of 2012 he was victorious on Iron Chef America’s epic Battle Kale and co-starred in BBC America’s exciting travel series No Kitchen Required. Madison returned to television in late 2013 as a recurring judge in Food Network’s delectable series of chance, Kitchen Casino and currently features on multiple series such as Beat Bobby Flay, Guilty Pleasures, Worst Cooks in America, Chopped Junior and Guy’s Grocery Games.

Most notably, Madison’s charitable endeavors include advocating on behalf of both the Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s NYC in its quest to cure the dementia related disease, serving as culinary council member for Food Bank For New York City, a leader in the movement to end hunger and poverty and signing on with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Chefs Move To Schools initiative, which creates partnerships for professional chefs and public schools nationwide with the goal of solving childhood obesity within their communities by collaboratively educating children about food and healthy eating.

At the luncheon, Bishop Strickland will be honored with the Butterfly Hope Award for his steadfast leadership within the Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County for many years and his passion and commitment to the Alliance. Bishop Strickland has served on the Alliance Board and is now on the Alliance Advisory Council.

Sponsorships are available, please contact the Alliance office for more information. For more information regarding Alzheimer’s disease, Alliance programs & services or for volunteer opportunities please visit

About the Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County

Founded in 1982, the Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County is a local nonprofit organization committed to walking alongside all of those affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Our services include personal consultations, education and awareness, caregiver support and resources, and brain health advocacy in Smith County.

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Fit City Tyler’s “Fit Bite Program” Grows

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Do you want to eat healthier when you are eating out? Fit City Tyler’s “Fit Bite Program” offers a current list of restaurants and their healthy menu options.

Participating restaurants are:

You can go online at and click each restaurant to view their menu items that qualify for placement into the “Fit Bite” Menu Recognition Program.

Look for the “Fit Bite” logo on window stickers, menu labels and informational posters. These will highlight the meats, fruits, vegetables and beverage options are prepared using any of these healthier cooking methods: grilled, broiled, baked, steamed, poached, roasted, sautéed or stewed.

​Any restaurant in the Tyler area can join the free “Fit Bite Program.” To enroll, go to For more info email Terrence Ates at

Fit City Tyler is a community wellness coalition that supports individuals, families, and businesses to create action toward adopting healthy lifestyles. The Fit City Tyler coalition consists of more than 100 local organizations: the media, hospitals, gyms, public and private schools, city and county government, community clinics, public health organizations, non-profits, restaurants, churches, health clubs, fitness gyms, CrossFit boxes, non-profit agencies and numerous community volunteers.

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