I love Deep Ellum. Like.. I really really love it. I love all the quirkiness and the constantly changing bars, restaurants and local businesses. It’s not news that Deep Ellum has been the home to tons of new cocktail bars and restaurants in the past few years, and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. The newest addition to Main Street is Vidorra, “Cocina de Mexico.” You can’t miss the bright yellow sign and the rooftop patio with killer views of the Dallas skyline.
Honestly, this place has so many insta-worthy backdrops, it’s unreal. The décor is Mexican-inspired with vibrant colors and unique textures throughout. There is a moss-covered wall, seating suspended on ropes to create swings, colorful couches perfect for all your group photos, and more.
(Oh, and it’s not just pretty … they also make some great food and drinks.) I’ll be the first to admit, I made a mistake right away when ordering my cocktail. I was so busy soaking in the atmosphere that I hardly had time to get through their extensive menu of margarita riffs. So, I panicked when it was time to order and went with “The Gold Digger”, their take on a frozen mango margarita. Don’t get me wrong … it was delicious, but I quickly discovered that they have an extensive cocktail list on the back of the menu that branches out beyond fabulous margaritas.
Their cocktail list plays around with recipes that feature a variety of mezcals and tequilas to make some seriously killer cocktails. After my margarita, I tried a cocktail called “Howl at the Moon” that has Lunazul Reposado tequila, Mandarin Napoleon liqueur, both orange and vanilla bitters, all barrel-aged for a week. It was so delicious that I had to have two. Whatever.
As far as food goes, you really can’t go wrong. For the appetizer, they sent out a massive bowl of their flaming fundito in a 400º Molajete dish. If it weren’t so hot, I probably would’ve drank the queso straight from the bowl. (No shame here … it was delicious.) For my meal, I got the pick two fajitas with steak and chicken and it was easily enough food for 2-3 people—especially because you need to save room to sample all of the delicious cocktails.
Speaking of cocktails, I ended my evening with a cocktail called “The Verdict” (tequila, Mezcal, agave, absinthe and bitters). The flavor was very intense but it was definitely the crowd favorite at our table.
So go for the drinks, the atmosphere, the food or the views. Whatever you do … just get there!
Tuesday is a glorious day, my friends … a glorious day indeed. July 19th is National Daiquiri Day. Personally, I think it may as well be called Tiffany Tran Day given how much I love this cocktail. I’m very fortunate that my experience with the daiquiri on the whole has been delightful, but not without encountering a few landmines along the way. (And I mean truly odd and off-putting interpretations.) However, none were consumed in vain since I can now provide you with a list of some of the best places in D/FW to enjoy my favorite cocktail.
By no means is this compilation comprehensive since I’m still discovering new bars and hidden gems every week, but for the casual drinker who just needs a nudge in the right direction, here are several of my recommendations. Oh, and if you hit up every spot tomorrow to celebrate, I applaud you. God speed, and Happy National Daiquiri Day!
Midnight Rambler (Downtown)
My friends often ask me where they should go for a daiquiri, and without hesitation, my first answer is always, “Midnight Rambler. Ask for Zach Smigiel.” I credit Zach for converting me from a staunch whiskey neat drinker to the daiquiri devotee I am today. His version sticks to the classic recipe, but the magic is in the ice and the shake. Zach makes the cocktail using a large format cube which produces a much tighter foam bubble structure and thus, a creamier texture.
Black Swan (Deep Ellum)
The first time I went to this watering hole, I walked right past the door because there’s no sign over the unassuming façade. What I discovered once I stepped inside is that bar owner Gabe Sanchez makes freakin’ awesome daiquiris. Wait until Wednesday if you want to order from him though since he’s off on Tuesdays. (Womp womp.) They’re also closed on Mondays.
Known to many as my home bar, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that this cocktail den is on the list. The best part about ordering a daiquiri here is you can have confidence in ordering it from any of the guys behind the bar; each one will make you an excellent one. The fun of it is trying out each bartender’s version and deciding which one is your favorite. I’ve played this game before and it’s a really good time because 1) it proves how versatile the daiquiri is, and 2) you get to drink a lot of them. Start with one by Drew Garison or Colin Phillips and go from there … just not on Sundays (they’re closed).
The Standard Pour (Uptown/State & Allen)
A sub-two-minute stroll from Parliament, this spacious cocktail spot proves to be high quality even though they are high volume. They excel at classic daiquiris as well as funkier versions to keep your palate excited. If you want a tried-and-true version, you can’t go wrong by asking for Sean Taylor, and if you want something funky, go to Tristan Price. Neither of these guys will steer you wrong.
Ah … the Jekyll & Hyde of Uptown. It’s a beautiful space that’s open Wednesday to Saturday, and by no means a hidden gem. The spot blows up every night around 10pm going from a chill cocktail spot to an unce unce club illuminated by red lights and crowded with bandage dresses and bottle service enthusiasts. My tip: Go between 5-10pm, grab a seat at the bar, and order a daiquiri from Jermey Elliott. He’ll make you top notch drinks and honestly, he’s just fun to hang with. Then hit up the photo booth … it’s good times.
Atwater Alley (Highland Park)
If it’s Thursday-Saturday night after 8pm, head straight up to the dark wood-paneled speakeasy down the alley by Henry’s Majestic (also an excellent bar) and let Ricky Cleva, Angela Montesclaros, and Ryan Frederick mix up their classic daiquiris for you. The atmosphere is dark and sexy with cozy and quiet booths, but if you can snag a seat at the six-seat bar upstairs, I highly suggest you do so. (BONUS: check out the unique daiquiri Alex Fletcher just developed, the Cubano Daiquiri. Pictured in header)
I can’t forget my suburbanites’ drinking needs. This restaurant and bar is one of the only places in town that you’ll catch Dallas barman extraordinaire Brian McCullough behind the stick. He prides himself on his daiquiri-making abilities, and it’s not without merit. The kicker: the Vicini daiquiri is just $5 on the happy hour menu (every day, 11am-7pm).
The Theodore (NorthPark Center)
Some have an issue with this bar being in a mall, but trust me, once you try a daiquiri made by Kyle Hilla’s team here, you’ll find that being at the mall isn’t all that bad. (I mean … shopping after two cocktails is kind of the best thing … ever.) It helps that The Theodore itself was built to be an oasis from the typical mall hustle and bustle anyway, and the bar is manned by creative and able cocktail makers who make you feel welcome as soon as you arrive, one of whom is Hugo Osorio. Just a heads up: his garnish game is strong. Tell him I said so and see what he comes up with for your daiquiri.
Stock & Barrel (Bishop Arts District)
I’ll be the first to admit that I have yet to really tap into the food and cocktail scene down in the Bishop Arts District, and a part of the “problem” is that once I find a place I like, I quickly become a repeat customer (thus delaying my discovery of other places in the area). S&B is one such bar that I enjoy frequenting. Bar manager Jeremy Koeninger makes one hell of a daiquiri, and the food menu is excellent, too. Order the crispy okra as a bar snack to share with friends … and it goes really well with daiquiris, as most things do.
This cocktail den on West Magnolia is one of the standouts in Fort Worth. They offer classic cocktails (including a traditional daiquiri), but also have seasonal and weekly specials. Grab a seat on their patio and order food from one of their neighbors, Fixture or Spice.
First: If you haven’t set foot in the newly open Westin Downtown Dallas yet, you should; it’s gorgeous. Secondly: Whenever you do set foot in the Westin Downtown Dallas, you should definitely pay a visit to Grill & Vine; it’s delicious.
The Westin Downtown Dallas Grill & Vine recently invited the SDD team in to check out the newly open restaurant and bar. I was immediately taken with the sleek, upscale-contemporary decor (If it feels vaguely familiar, here’s a spoiler alert: the Westin’s design team is also credited with the design of The Joule). Most of all, the view of the skyline is killer as seen through sweeping, floor to ceiling picture windows surrounding the dining room. The view alone makes this spot a great choice for a pre-dinner cocktail.
Speaking of cocktails … Grill & Vine offers a creative collection of a dozen of ’em. I sampled the Elderflower Fitzgerald (Dripping Springs gin, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, lemon, and angostura bitters-$11)–I found it to be delightfully light and refreshing, and begging for spring to hurry up and get here. Other intriguing cocktail offerings include the Smoke and Honey (Silver Star Texas Honey, Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, cucumber, lemon, habanero shrub-$12), the Chamomile Mule (Chamomile-infused Absolut, lime, honey, ginger beer, $10),and the Provencal Lemonade (Dripping Springs vodka, Carpano Bianco, basil, lemon, and lavender bitters-$11).
Grill & Vine’s wine list features in the upwards of 50 well-rounded offerings, nearly all of which are available by the glass. A short but sweet list of local craft beer rotators are available, in addition to the expected line-up of domestics and imports. And, may the gluten-intolerant of you rejoice as they offer several gluten-free beers .
After enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail (or two three … ) at the bar, we moved to a table. With Executive Chef Bill Lundstrom at the helm, Grill & Vine’s culinary program is heavily focused on regional flavors utilizing local ingredients, and a seasonally rotating menu. I was lucky enough to stay for dinner, and everything I sampled was fantastic. The Smoked Beef Brisket Tacos (pickled onions, smashed avocado, brazos valley queso-$15) were a favorite, and the House Mac & Cheese, made with Brazos cheddar and smoked gouda, is not to be missed. Oh, and save room for dessert–the Banana Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with creme anglaise and orange caramel was basically to die for.
Grill and Vine (972) 555-6689
1201 Main St., Dallas, TX 75202 Reservations | Menu
Happy Hour: Offered daily until 7pm
$2 off wine by the glass, $5 local drafts, and a selection of craft cocktails available for $6
Stephan Pyles is a Dallas, nay, Texas culinary legend. I was quite excited when San Salvaje invited me in to try some of their offerings … like … beyond excited. Pyles has been a bastion of Southwestern cuisine and is branching out to a new cuisine … Peruvian. Nestled in the former Samar space on Ross Avenue, San Salvaje opened May 13 with bar, restaurant, and outdoor seating. The decor threw me a bit at first — it’s a bit of a juxtaposition of crosses and skulls (after some research, he apparently did it on purpose as his travels showed people leave church, do something sinful, and head right back into church). Overall, expect bright colors and little touches just about everywhere in the open plan (the kitchen opens right up to the restaurant).
The entire staff was as considerate as they could possibly be. (The valet walked me from my car to the restaurant and opened the door … that’s serious service.) Out waiter, Tony, was very knowledgeable and helped us along the menu. Our entire meal was determined by Chef Pyles himself and Molly Hagler, the bar manager. (I have to admit … since I hate making decisions, that was the way to best enjoy a new restaurant!)
We started with a Peruvian Welcome Drink (Pisco Porton, Chica Morada, passion fruit foam) which was as flavorful as it was colorful. The foam made it really delightful and extremely unique and the tartness struck just the right balance. Round 1 of food was the Three Cheese Arepa (a small corn dough filled with cheese and served with salsa verde), the Causa Limeña Classico (no words — the best I can do is a Peruvian deviled egg on steroids topped with shrimp and a little quail egg hidden inside), and the Sweet Corn Humita (a lobster and avocado corn tamale-type delight). I could have left a happy woman after the first course. I am no foodie, but I know that food was day-yam good.
Drinks flowed and food just somehow appeared on the table. If I wrote that much about each course, you’d check out like … a paragraph ago. (TL;DR below).
Pisco Margarita (Pisco Portón, lime, simple syrup, lemon juice) – I posted a picture of this almost-too-pretty-to-drink cocktail on Instagram in real time and said that this margarita gets me as close to me liking a margarita as it’s going to get. The rim is festooned (this verb is deserved here) with lime and lemon zest, and it enhances the flavor if you don’t drink it from the straw.
Saoco (rum, coconut water, hibiscus reduction) – this drink could be the best summer drink like … ever. Order one of these out on their patio this summer. My notes say, “It has coconut water … so that means it’s healthy, right?”
Rabo-de-Gajo (Cachaça, vermouth, sugar, angostura) – the Old Fashioned lover in me died for this drink. Other than a cool name, it was the perfectly sippable drink for those of us who like a stout drink. (Oh, and they use Luxardo cherries in it.)
Rum flight – we shared a few sippable rums to accompany dessert. Ask Molly for recommendations as she knows the options inside and out.
Quinoa Salad – this was a delight and the slight crunch from the dried cherries were the perfect touch.
Yellow Fin Tuna Ceviche – the tuna pairs incredibly well with Kaffir lime and virgin coconut water. This dish is served in a coconut and best enjoyed with a bit of each component … including the coconut meat.
Sea Scallops Tiradito – while this dish was extraordinary, it was my least favorite of the dishes we had. It was very mild and perhaps a good starting point for those who aren’t ready to dive head-first into ceviche.
Pork Belly Tacu Tacu – weird word, delicious dish (it’s typically a Peruvian rice and bean fried cake). The pork belly was perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the fig compote that accompanied it.
Wild Mushroom-Huitlacoche Emanada – get this … and don’t skimp on the guava sauce dip!
Fried Squid Taco – effff me these were incredible. The tempura had to have been some magical mix of spices and it was perfectly fried … just perfectly fried. Excuse me while I lose myself in a trance thinking about these tacos.
Fried Whole Red Snapper – served completely whole, this is more than just amazing presentation. The flavor is mild and the fish tasted like it was caught an hour before and was easily forkable. (That’s a word … right?) The pickled lightly fried green beans were slightly sweet and were only somewhat addictive.
Ask your waiter to carve it tableside for you.
Heirloom Bean Feijoada – I couldn’t pronounce this work for all the rice in China. This was a large dish and the flavor was powerful, but wasn’t my favorite of the night.
Lucuma Suspiro – I can’t exactly describe the creamy goodness that was served to us, but I’ll say this: yummmmm. It was topped with Maracuya meringue and served with a uniquely shaped funnel cake-type swirly thing (all of those are technical culinary terms).
Alfajore Torte with Dolce de Leche – I’m not a huge torte fan, so this wasn’t my favorite. While I’d be a good sport and share it with a buddy, I wouldn’t order it myself.
Picarones with Guanabana Ice cream – again … sounds silly, but this is serious dessertage. The donut-type pastries are tossed with cinnamon and sugar with a slight hint of anise. Don’t miss the ice cream. Just don’t.
Something amazing about this meal was that we ate (and drank) a LOT and I left upbeat and satisfied, yet not too weighed-down … a testament to the brilliance behind the stove and bar at this new restaurant.
TL;DR: This place is a revelation. The food and drink are unique and unexpected. Try it out for a splurge dinner or enjoy their tapas and drinks to unwind from a tough day.
SAN SALVAJE by Stephan Pyles sansalvaje.com
2100 Ross Avenue, #100 (Downtown)