The Great Dallas Manhattan Search – Windmill Lounge

23 Mar

A Rye Manhattan from Windmill Lounge - Photo Credit: Brandon Hancock

Special Thanks to my fellow judge Colin McCartney.  I also appreciate our significant others Melissa and Stevie for coming along for the ride.

As promised before I left for SXSW, I was planning to take one for the collective team and drink my way across Dallas to find the best Manhattan in our fair city. Well a few weeks ago I started to do just that and conducted my first site visit to the Maple area haunt known as Windmill Lounge.

Before we get to the review, I will lay out the scoring system I came up with. Each reviewer will have 50 points to hand out and the two scores will be combined with a perfect score being 100 points. The points will be awarded in three categories.:

  1. The 3 A’s, Atmosphere, Ambiance and Authenticity – 15 points – This category also serves as a discretionary point bucket for intangibles.
  2. Presentation – 10 points – This is for how the drink is prepared, bar tender knowledge, flair in making the drink, etc.
  3. Taste – 25 points – Pretty self explanatory and really the only thing that matters

Lets get right to it:

Atmosphere, Ambiance and Authenticity

Windmill Lounge Jukebox - Photo Credit: Brandon Hancock


Judge 1 (Brandon) – 13 Points

If Slip Inn and Cosmos had a love child, the result would be Windmill Lounge.  Very eclectic interior in what I can only assume was a 70’s era diner in a former life.  I happen to like the idea of a Slip Inn / Cosmos love child, so I liked Windmill Lounge.  Along with the eclectic interior there was a diverse clientele that seemed to include medical personel from the nearby medical district, 20-something party people, hipsters and then there was me and my group.

Extra points for a unpretentious jukebox and an unpaved parking lot (porous surfaces are good for the environment).

Judge 2 (Colin) – 12 Points

I really liked the vibe in this bar.  The jukebox with a wide and varied selection of drinking music, a Cyclone pinball machine in the corner, and a complete lack of pretense (a rare thing in Dallas) made a relaxed atmosphere to suck down a drink or two.  It is reminiscent of Cosmos in Lakewood with a funky mix of lighting, furniture, and a eclectic collection of people that really don’t care what you look like or what you’re wearing. All in all, a pretty cool and inviting scene.  I give a 12 out of 15.

3 points off for repetitive and overly conspicuous trips to the bathrooms by a few patrons for, presumably, illicit self medication….

Presentation

Brandon – 7 Points

The gentleman behind the bar the night we visited was a seasoned vet and took his time to make the drink. I ordered my Manhattan the way the house makes it, and away he went.  Nothing flashy, but then again flash wasn’t what I was looking for.

Extra points for the house made Luxardo cherries. The cherries are soaked in Luxardo liqueur which the proprietor informed us was made from ground up maraschino cherry pits.  Talk about the circle of life.  I might have had more drinks, but eating the cherry was like a shot and took care of that notion.

Colin – 7 Points

There was nothing extravagant or visually exciting about the preparation of the drink, but with a old school classic like a Manhattan, perhaps that’s as it should be.  It was gently stirred and served neat in a martini glass.

One twist that the bartender added that was different that the standard preparation, was a cherry marinated in what he described as a grappa-esque cherry liquor. Not a giant departure from the standard maraschino, but worth an extra point or two for this scoring

Taste

Brandon – 17 Points

As I mentioned in the Presentation score card, I ordered my drink the way the house makes it.  In this house they make a Rye Whiskey Manhattan which may be the first time I’ve had a non-bourbon Manhattan. Purists will note the first Manhattan was made with Rye Whiskey and insist it is the only way it should be made.  I’m not opposed to a Rye Manhattan, just that this particular one was not made with top shelf rye and you could definitely taste the grass and grain from the rye which took away the sweet and smoky notes from the cocktail.

I took away major points because I was just not a fan of the rye whiskey they used.  To each their own, but I currently prefer a bourbon Manhattan, but I’m open to a taste change if anyone has the goods.

Colin – 18 Points

Being the first Manhattan out of the chute, the Windmill perhaps suffers a bit from lack of others for comparison sake.  It was a solid and well made Manhattan with nothing added or changed to make it unique, save the supercharged cherry garnish.  With nothing missing, but also nothing to set this apart from other traditional Manhattans, I’ll give this one a 18 out of 25.

Conclusion

Brandon – 37 Total Points

I liked the bar as it is definitely Authentic. I’ll be back for drinks and will give the Rye Manhattan another go with a better Rye Whiskey in tow.

Colin – 37 Total Points

In the final analysis, I’d make a trip back to the Windmill more for the funky vibe and to drop a few quarters in the jukebox and the pinball machine, as opposed to a specific pilgrimage for their solid, but not necessarily outstanding Manhattan.

Final Score 74/100 Points

If you know a place that has a good Manhattan, let us know in the comments or email and we’ll give it a whirl.  Next stop Bolsa or Cedars Social

Photo Credit: Brandon Hancock

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pZPDa-6z



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Authentic Austin

16 Mar

 

We are taking the show on the road the rest of this week and heading South down I-35 to Austin for the music portion of the annual South by Southwest mega conference.  Although we don’t have enough clout or money to throw our own parties yet, we will definitely be taking full advantage of everyone else’s generosity.  If you’re heading down to Austin this weekend, drop us a line and let us know which bands you are itching to see.  If you’re stuck in Dallas or elsewhere, you’re in luck because Dallas gets a lot of spill over shows from acts traveling to and from the show.  Check your favorite music blog for show info, here is a good one to get you started.

You can also get live updates from the festivities by following us on Twitter.  I will try post entries on the blog, but I can’t promise I will be able to construct full and coherent sentences over the next few days.

Concert Review – The Lonely Forest at Club Dada 03.14.11

15 Mar

Photo Credit: Terrible Photo Courtesy of Brandon Hancock

 

Last night at Club Dada in Dallas, TX the few people brave enough to venture out to Deep Ellum on a post St. Patty’ Day Monday night were treated to what amounted to a private concert by a currently-breaking-out band from the Evergreen State.  The Lonely Forest put on an amazing pre-SXSW show for what couldn’t have been more than 15 people at the recently resurrected Deep Ellum institution.

Both the band and Dallas music fans were put in a tough spot with this show.  The Monday night concert, 11pm set time for The Lonely Forest, was sandwiched between one of the biggest party weekends on the Dallas booze calendar (and a full concert weekend to boot) and SXSW which might be the biggest event for music lovers in Texas as well as nationally.  In fact, the band admitted the Dallas show was put together somewhat last minute and booked mainly to help pay the gas bill to and from Austin (the band will be playing a number of shows at SXSW, including garnering a huge headlining gig at Baeble Music’s Tuesday party).

The show also lacked any sort of organized publicity which definitely helped keep the crowd numbers light. I myself flirted with the thought of not attending Monday night and instead opting to see them later in the week at SXSW, a strategy I know a few Dallas music fans decided on. After the momentary lapse in judgement, I made the decision to head out to Club Dada on Monday night, and I’m glad I did.

With all the excuses laid out above, The Lonely Forest could have easily phoned in their performance last night and no one would have blamed them for choosing to save their voices and energy for the grueling week ahead at SXSW, but they more than delivered to the faithful few that made it out to see their Dallas debut (a November 2010 opening gig for Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin at House of Blues Dallas was canceled so the band could beat an impending snow storm over the Rockies and make it back to their home base in Anacortes, WA for Thanksgiving).

The band started out their roughly 45-minute set with a surprising amount of energy considering they had no crowd to feed off and instead had to generate it all by themselves up on stage.  The band raced through songs from their forthcoming new album Arrows (released 03.22.11), their 2010 EP The Lonely Forest, and even a song or two from their self released 2007 album Nuclear Winter.

Highlights from the show included Coyote, Turn Off This Song and Go Outside, Live There (I Don’t Want to Live There), We Sing in Time, and the very strong but seldom played Let It Go. In fact Let It Go is so seldom played that when requested (by yours truly) lead singer John Van Deusen hesitated as he asked his band mates if they remembered how to play the song live.  Van Deusen even forgot a few lyrics in the middle of the song.  Let It Go is one of their best songs and would be great to see on a future album as well as put back into the live concert rotation.

After the group’s final song, the band members jumped off stage and personally came up to each person individually and thanked them for coming out.  They seemed genuinely thrilled that a handful of people in Dallas came out to see them on short notice.  It was a cool gesture for a band that had recently played sold out shows on the west coast in front of audiences as big as 1,500 fans. Even though they had to hit the road for Austin, in a final act of appreciation the band stayed around and had a few drinks with the remaining fans until the staff at Club Dada literally started to turn off the lights at the venue.  I’m convinced the band would have stuck around as long as the venue would have let them.  I’m also convinced that during their next swim through town, getting a ticket won’t be as easy, nor as cheap.

Band Details:

Website

New Album Arrows will be released 03.22.11

Upcoming Shows:

March 15 Austin, TX SXSW-PureVolume House
March 17 Austin, TX SXSW-Klub Krucial
March 17 Austin, TX SXSW-Maggie Mae’s
March 19 Austin, TX SXSW-Waterloo
March 19 Austin, TX SXSW-Austin Convention Center

After SXSW the band will be starting a 23 city tour in support of their new album with The Joy Formidable that will take them coast to coast and into Canada through April 29.

A slideshow of more poor quality photos follows after the jump. I will remember to bring a real camera next time.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pZPDa-5O

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Concert Alert: The Lonely Forest, Tonight! @ Club Dada

14 Mar

Quick note to pass along, another late concert notice, but do yourself a favor and check out The Lonely Forest tonight at Club Dada. The Washington State based band is making a swim through Dallas on their way to Austin for SXSW, and it would be great if Dallas can show them some love.

No excuses! The band is great, the cover is cheap ($8), the venue is solid, beer selection is good and when I visited Club Dada last week I was pleasantly surprised how nice everyone working there was. They were genuinely grateful for the patronage. Help keep Authentic places in Dallas open and our music scene growing by going to concerts like tonight, you’ll come away a Lonely Forest fan.

Details

Also, come back tomorrow and get the details for Authentic Dallas’ SXSW 2011 plans.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pZPDa-5F

Sad Weekend for Downtown Dallas – Demolition of 807 Elm

13 Mar

Credit: Harry Wilonsky & The Dallas Observer

This blog can’t be all about cocktails, restaurants and music, occasionally we will be moved to explore deeper issues that effect the intangible qualities and places that (could) make Dallas Authentic.  This weekend, the Dallas Observer (among others) brought the news of the demolition of a vacant, circa-1925, former warehouse near the entry to the West End District in Dallas.  Most have probably never noticed the building, and if they have might advocate for its demolition anyway.  But that would be the exact type of thinking that took our downtown from a dense, walkable and livable downtown to a parking lot filled, pedestrian unfriendly mess that we have seen evolve over the past 50 years.

My history with 807 Elm

I looked at this building (actually a portfolio of three buildings that was foreclosed on, and is now owned by Park Cities Bank) approximately 12 months ago and was able to tour 807 Elm.  I was looking at possibly using Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credits to rehab one or all of the buildings in the portfolio.  It was evident fairly early that even if the bank was to give the building to me for free, there was no way a for-profit real estate developer would be able to rehabilitate the property and generate a return anywhere near what would be required by his/her investors.  Chief among the building’s issues were no parking for the site as well structural and environmental (asbestos, lead paint, etc.) issues.

Why save the thing if it is such a bad investment?

It is very important for us as citizens of Dallas to save these precious few remaining buildings that survived from the early 1900’s.  In the very simplest terms they vary the downtown landscape and make it more architecturally diverse and  interesting.  They also hearken back to a day where buildings addressed the street, sidewalk and pedestrian in a much more direct and friendly manner.  We are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to study ways to make downtown more pedestrian friendly and one of the simplest answers is to bring the building to the pedestrian at a human scale, which is the epitome of 807 Elm.

The Solution?

I see two ways of averting this type of destruction in the future.  One scenario is philanthropic driven and the other is market driven.  The first scenario I call the philanthropic angle.  We have great people in this city that give millions to build museums, bridges, performance venues and parks, but these monuments are only small parts of what make a city great.  Think about if all the money that was spent on the arts district, signature bridges and new museums were put into a fund to make downtown more walkable, add work force housing (for teachers, first responders, recent college graduates, service industry employees, etc.) and rehabilitate the vacant infrastructure already in place?  That fund would have done more to make Dallas a livable city than the aforementioned projects could ever hope to achieve.

That is the pie-in-the-sky scenario and those philanthropists are more than welcome to spend their money however and wherever they see fit.  This brings me to the reason for this post…where are the “next level philanthropists” in this city? By next level, I mean the mere millionaires.  The 30-something who sold his software company for $10 or $20 million, the app developer who made a few million off an iPhone app that makes a smiley face, the restaurateur who has launched a few successful concepts and sold off the company for $8million, or for the ultimate Dallas stereotype, the plastic surgeon who is 40-something and pulling down seven or eight figures a year as he peals a year or two off the bodies and faces of old money Dallas.

I saw 807 Elm as a great live/work space for a forward thinking restaurateur. Use the bottom floor as his/her restaurant, create a penthouse on the top floor or two as their living space, and either use the remaining floors as office space for his/her company, rent it to other tenants, or sell those floors as condos to other people.  This would be hard to pull off for someone like me who needs to generate a certain return for my investors, but becomes much more economical for someone who is looking to occupy and profit off the use of the space as opposed to someone who needs to generate a return off the real estate alone.  This is what I mean by “next level philanthropist”.  Someone who is not just writing off their money as a donation, but someone who is making an investment in our city and may profit from their venture, but who can also write off any losses because they see the greater benefit to the city and look at their investment as a contribution to downtown.

What Can You do?

If you’re not a millionaire, trust fund baby, or software genius (if you are contact me, we can make magic) the second, market driven, scenario is for you. It can cost as little or as much as you choose.  Participate in Downtown!  If you have the means to buy or rent downtown, seriously consider doing so.  Eat downtown, shop downtown, drink downtown.  If you are the decision maker at your company, consider moving your office downtown.  If you can’t do any of the above, just visiting downtown, walking around or using the parks makes a huge difference.  Having people on the streets is as important as having storefronts filled with boutiques, coffee shops, delis and bistros.

The idea behind the market driven scenario is to make it economically feasible to re-purpose and redevelop the old and vacant buildings, but more importantly make it an economic disincentive to create, maintain or own a surface parking lot.  Surface parking lots are a cancer to downtown and need to be removed.

We’re making steady improvements in Dallas, but real progress will have been achieved when we are talking about ground breakings and not demolitions.  For more information, read one of the authorities on urban Dallas over at Walkable DFW.  Here is a post that compliments what I have written here.

 

Credit: Harwood Historic District - http://www.harwoodhistoricdistrict.com/

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pZPDa-5f

Local Band Alert: “The Hope Trust”, Tonight!

4 Mar

Good Local Stuff

VERY late notice, but I wanted to pass along that Authentic Dallas will be at Club Dada in Deep Ellum tonight for The Hope Trust Dallas CD Release party.  I heard these guys on KXT 91.7 a week or two ago and have been very impressed with the new album, Light Can’t Escape (preview entire record at this link).

Doors open tonight at 8, first band goes on at 9pm and The Hope Trust is scheduled to take the stage at 11pm.  Other bands performing tonight in order of appearance include: Sloan Automatic (9pm), Lo Fi Chorus (10pm), and Here, In Arms (12am)

If you can’t make it tonight, suppot a local band and record store and pick up the new album at Good Records on Lower Greenville.

You also have a chance to catch them next week in Denton at the 35 Conferette on Thursday March, 10 at “The lab” at 10:50 (I assume it is pm). At this time, Authentic Dallas will not be at this years 35 Conferette as we are saving our energy for SxSW in two weeks (more on this later), but we won’t turn down a free wristband if anyone has a hookup.

Enjoy the Show!

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pZPDa-57

The Great Dallas Manhattan Search

22 Feb

I will soon launch my quest to find the best Manhattan cocktail in the City of Dallas.

I am launching a new feature here on AuthenticDallas.com where I will search out and crown the best this city has to offer in a number of unrelated and perhaps unimportant categories.

I’ve decided to launch this new bit with a drink sporting a Yankee title, but whose DNA is oddly and unmistakably Southern (whiskey) and Italian (sweet vermouth).  That’s right, I will soon scour the trendiest bars (not likely), seediest watering holes that still have the same decor from their opening in 1971, and the coolest hipster enclaves to find an authentic, delicious Manhattan on the rocks in a lowball glass.

The ground rules are arbitrary and may be changed or not followed at my personal whim, but here they are for your consumption:

What Makes it a real Manhattan?

The thing has to be stirred and served in a low ball glass.  If it comes in a martini glass all frothed up because it was shaken to death, it my as well be a sour apple martini as far as I’m concerned because I’m not drinking it.  Other than that, I look forward to what these maestros of the libations come up with.

Who Will be the Judge(s)?

I will be the presiding judge, but I hope to lure some of my whiskey loving compadres along for the ride with promises of free drinks.

Who are the Competitors?

This is where I need the help of my fellow Authentic Denizens.  I recently read the D Magazine article about the best artisanal cocktail slingers in the city proper.  I was intrigued by these gents, so I will start my list with the following establishments from the aforementioned aricle:

I need reader suggestions for a few more places that are serious about their cocktails in this city.

How Will the Cocktails be Judged?

Taste and presentation is all I can think of, but I’ll post a more detailed scoring system with the first review.

Depending on the final count of contestants, I’d like to have a winner declared by sometime in April, so check back in the short term and the long term as I will be posting reviews as the visits happen, and then I will post a recap with the winner after the last review.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pZPDa-4V

Super Bowl Roundup

9 Feb

There beer is Mothy...

I wanted to pass along two articles published last week about places to visit, and by visit I mean eat, in Dallas.  See highlights below.

The first one is from The Houston Chronicle:

Test your mettle at the Moth

Whenever craft-beer fans’ talk turns to Dallas, the Meddlesome Moth inevitably comes up.

The restaurant has an extensive bottled-beer menu and a strong selection of draft brew, including several reasonably priced flights of five, 5-ounce samples. That’s a good way to try, say, a range of Texas beers, U.S. crafts or imports.

During the run-up to the Super Bowl, the Moth will put some special kegs on tap as well.

I apologize to the Moth as I left them out of my SB preview, so consider this my offering of apology.

And from the New York Times via the Dallas Morning News, we get this take that Arlington isn’t all that authentic:

The faithful have started to arrive in this drab, featureless city a little closer to Fort Worth than to Dallas. They have come sweat-panted and reverent to stand along Collins Street to photograph Cowboys Stadium, to walk the sidewalk surrounding its $1.2 billion form.

The author goes on to touch on some Dallas treasures we all know so well:

I had a meal at Bolsa, an art house hangout in the city’s Oak Cliff neighborhood with a grand hamburger, decent pizzas and an ambitious cocktail list,

One of the best was Nonna, a trattoria in the Oak Lawn neighborhood that is across the street from a Whole Foods market. The restaurant, with its Italian menu, excellent wine list and cosmopolitan service style, serves as a clubhouse for some of Dallas’ most influential citizens. (Jerry Jones, the owner of the Cowboys, was there the other night in black suit and well-polished black cowboy boots, walking the dining room and shaking hands. “I used to think I could only really get excited about Dallas playing a football game,” he drawled. “But this is pretty great.”)

Daniel Vaughn, a Dallas architect and self-professed prophet of smoked meat who blogs as the BBQ Snob, believes the city can hold its own. A meal at Smoke, the chef Tim Byres’ haute barbecue restaurant, would seem to back him up, at least on the brisket front.

There are arguments here about tacos, as well. For some, the best come from the stand inside the Fuel City station on Industrial Drive in Dallas, a business perched almost on the banks of the flood plains of the Trinity River. Corn tortillas filled with picadillo or barbacoa are favorites, slathered with hot sauce and covered with onions and cilantro, and eaten in the parking lot as traffic screams by.

Better, though, is Fuel Town 2, a Texaco station on Inwood Road practically under the Stemmons Freeway, a short drive from the airport at Dallas Love Field. The barbacoa is less greasy than at the competitors, full of flavor, and the tortillas warmer, fresher, tasting more emphatically of corn. Served with lemons, cilantro, grilled onion and whole jalapeno, with a chunky red salsa, a taco here may be the perfect Dallas snack food. And at $1.50, a good value, too.

If you have any reviews or articles from out of town sources, I’d love to know what other people thought about the authentic sides of Dallas.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pZPDa-4I

Authentic Dallas Super Bowl Guide

1 Feb

 

Copyright NFL

 

Authentic Dallas would like to welcome the masses to Dallas for the Super Bowl.  Now that you’re here, you are probably wondering what to do in our great city?  I’m sure you’ve been told to visit  The Galleria and Northpark Center, but with apologies to NorthPark (which is truly a great shopping mecca both architecturally and with its lineup of stores), if you’ve been to one big city mall, you’ve been to them all.  I’m also sure your to-do list includes a visit to Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum which should be at the top of your list, but what to do with the rest of your days leading up to the Big Game?

Have no fear!  Authentic Dallas is here to steer you to authentic and unique activities, events, restaurants, and bars.  Due to the city moving to ICE FORCE 2!, this list will trend heavily towards eating and drinking, but at least that will keep you warm!

(Note: You might want to call ahead to these places, especially the bars and restaurants, and make sure they are not closed for private parties this week.)

Coffee Houses

Speaking of keeping warm, lets start out with where to grab a great cup of coffee (or tea) without having to visit the ubiquitous Starbucks.  Visit the following places for a unique brew and authentic atmosphere.

Crooked Tree Coffeehouse – 2414 Routh Street – Website
  • Central location in Uptwon Dallas, walking distance from The Crescent, Hotel ZaZa, Ritz Carlton and Downtown Hotels.  It’s also near a bunch of great restaurants and bars.  Chances are if you’re staying in Dallas, you’ll be in Crooked Tree’s orbit early and often.
Murray Street Coffee Shop – 103 Murray Street – Website
  • Murray Street is located in Deep Ellum which is an area with bohemian shops, interesting museums, and some of the best restaurants in the city.  See my previous post on Deep Ellum for some suggestions.  Back to Murray Street, this is probably my favorite coffee house in terms of location, feel, and the actual building.  Murray Street is easy to get to for those staying Downtown or traveling in the Uptown/Downtown area.
Espumoso Caffe – 408 North Bisjop Ave – Suite 105 – Website
  • Negative points to Espumoso Caffe because it isn’t truly authentic to Dallas (they have a location in the Vegas Hard Rock Hotel), but positive points for being in the most authentic area in Dallas, The Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff, and major points for being (to my knowledge) the only place in Dallas that serves Acai Bowls, which is perhaps the greatest thing on earth.  Learn more about Oak Cliff and how to get there below.
The Pearl Cup Espresso Bar – 1900 N. Henderson Ave. – Website
  • The Pearl Cup is located in another great authentic dining and shopping corridor known as the Knox-Henderson neighborhood.  More on the neighborhood below, but if you like a good restaurant and bar scene, you’ll be familiar with the area by Super Sunday.  Henderson Ave is a 5 minute cab ride from Downtown and Uptown hotels and is worth the short trip.

Jump for our list of bars, restaurants and things to do…

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New Posts Coming!

27 Jan

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to really get this blog humming. This is to let you know Authentic Dallas is alive and well and I have a lot of ideas flying around which will hopefully bear some fruit real soon.

New content coming soon…in the meantime, check out this great blog post from one of my favorite bloggers.  If you feel widening this road Downtown is a big mistake,  let Angela Hunt know or post this hashtag to her twitter account @AngelaHunt

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pZPDa-3E

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