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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



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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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

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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Review: Cool Thursdays Dallas Arboretum

29 Jul

Good crowd. And surprisingly good weather too!

Thanks to my girlfriend’s planning, we went to the Dallas Arboretum’s Cool Thursdays with our friends Stevie and Colin McCartney last Thursday July 22nd.  I was dreading going because it was hot and I didn’t want to sit there and sweat like I did the week before at the Nasher’s concert series (newsflash to concert series promoters, it’s hot June, July, Aug, and sometimes September.  You have pretty much 8 other months out of the year to hold these events!).

But to my surprise when we got to the concert area and put our blanket down at 7pm, a majority of the amphitheater seating area was covered in shade and the temperature was almost pleasant.  By the end of the night there was a nice breeze and I could have enjoyed another bottle of wine or two.

Positives:

  • The band was good for a cover/tribute band, but they weren’t why I was there.
  • Beautiful surroundings, but with a backdrop like White Rock Lake, it is a shame there is a canopy of tress behind the stage blocking the view of the water.
  • Believe it or not the weather.
  • Probably a lot more, but everything ran so smoothly you didn’t notice much; and that’s a good thing.

Negatives:

  • The non-member price of $16 for adults is in my opinion steep for a cover/tribute band.

What You Need to Know When You Go

  • The couple we went with made a delicious dinner, so I recommend you do the same.
  • Bring plenty of your beverage of choice, because you’d hate to run out.
  • Realize that most of the seating areas are on an incline, so plan accordingly with your food and drink (bring a flat surface).

Final Verdict: I give this two thumbs up.  Great, clean, sophisticated, wholesome fun and you can still drink.  I will be going back.  If you want to check it out, I recommend going October 14th to see Petty Theft.  I will do my best to check out that show as well.

Shortlink to this post: http://wp.me/pZPDa-1X

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