Neuhaus Café: From The Kid in the Candy Shop

Mervyn Sacher’s eyes twinkle when he talks about his early career as a candy buyer for a large department store he calls “the Walmart of South Africa.”

 “I loved the colors, shapes, creative packaging, the smells, everything about it.”

More than 40 years later, his eyes also light up when he talks about the Belgian chocolates he imports and sells at his Preston Hollow institution, Neuhaus Café.

Mervyn, his wife Linda, and their young children arrived in the United States from South Africa in 1980 with dreams of opening a gourmet chocolate shop like one he’d been enamored with at home.

The Swiss Miss Café in Cape Town was perfectly merchandised: rows upon rows of pralinés, as chocolates are called in Europe, colorful candy, biscuits, and truffles showcased with discipline and care.

The café had fabulous coffee drinks, and guests could linger with biscuits and chocolate. It was charming, filled with Mervyn’s beloved candy, and would be the reason for his great American success story.

Except the owners of South African Swiss Miss didn’t want to share their name with Mervyn, which was a moot point anyway because Swiss Miss cocoa owned the trademarks. On to Plan B.

I loved the colors, shapes, creative packaging, the smells, everything about it. 

Mervyn Sacher

What started as four locations in Dallas, including cafés in Prestonwood Mall, NorthPark Center, and the Galleria, is now just one in the heart of Preston Hollow. The lone survivor, despite economic downturns, tornadoes, and COVID-19, doesn’t just survive; it thrives.

Guests like Britt Brookshire rave about Sacher’s work ethic and how his team got through COVID-19 with to-go and delivery options. “I see the details here. I see Mervyn and his staff on top of everything – food, service, operations, and connecting with guests.”

Brookshire knows a thing or two about service. His grandfather founded Brookshire’s supermarkets which requested employees “Pay obsessive attention to each customer.” “And,” Brookshire adds while eating one, “Neuhaus has the best Reuben sandwich in Dallas.” It’s also the best-selling item on the menu.

Sandwiches, soups, salads round out the menu with top sellers, including the hamburger and Cobb salad. The Neuhaus menu is inspired by his travels, especially to New York, where Sacher took photos of menu items from delis and cafés and brought them home to recreate.

Mervyn has also relied on his good friend Greg Katz, owner of Beverley’s, for advice on operating the restaurant.  Neuhaus has a full bar and plenty of gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options.

But the pièce de résistance of Neuhaus is candy.

Guests must pass a table tollgate of beautiful ballotins to get near the immaculate bi-level cases filled with truffles and chocolates, mostly Neuhaus from Belgium, which has produced them since 1857.  Just like Swiss Miss, Neuhaus’ candies occupy one-third of the space and are lined up on the counter and tucked in colorful corners. Old fashioned in the very best way, Neuhaus is a generational gem worth a visit.

Follow Kersten Rettig, a Park Cities-based writer with more than 30 years’ experience in food and beverage marketing and public relations, on Instagram @KerstenEats.

Kersten Rettig

Kersten Rettig has represented some of world's best known brands in her 30+ years in marketing and PR, including Montblanc, Rosewood Hotels, Highland Park Village and Taco Bell. As a former restaurant owner, she knows the business and has a deep affection for the hospitality industry. She is a Park Cities resident and a happy wife, mom of three and dogmother. Follow her @KerstenEats.

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