Monday, January 31, 2011

A Variety of Vino Venues for Valentine’s Day

The new Lit Montly article for February! I tackle the age old question of "What can I do for my love on Valentine's Day that doesn't involve the same tired old last-minute roses and chcolates routine?"

A Variety of Vino Venues for Valentine’s Day
By Greg Holman

The coming of Valentine’s Day means grocery stores, drug stores, and street corners will soon be permeated with heart-shaped boxes of candy (of which 36 million will be sold this year), stuffed animals, sappy greeting cards with images of fat, little, winged cherubs, flying around shooting arrows into the butts of starry-eyed lovers, and red roses as far as the eye can see. Valentine’s Day is a time when we publicly recognize that we love someone who hopefully loves us back, even with our odd little personality flaws, foibles, and quirks. It still just amazes me that my wife Lisa puts up with me and all of my weird idiosyncrasies every single day of her life. Bless you my sweet. That’s what Valentine’s Day is truly about!

While the history of Valentine's Day and its patron saint are shrouded in mystery, the holiday contains elements of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. One legend claims that Roman Emperor Claudius II, feeling that single men made the best soldiers, outlawed marriage, and a priest named Valentine defied the Emperor by continuing to perform weddings for young lovers, in secret. Another legend suggests that the priest actually sent the first "Valentine" greeting. While in prison, for performing said marriages, he apparently fell in love with a young girl who would visit him during his incarceration. He allegedly wrote her a letter which he signed "From your Valentine." Today, an estimated 141 million Valentine cards are sent each year, and approximately 85% of those are purchased by women in the Western World. Could this be one of the reasons Iran is currently trying to outlaw Valentine’s Day?

Since women are traditionally the more romantic sex of the species, it’s seems only fair that once a year, men are asked to step up to the plate and bring the goods. Cards, candy, and flowers are typical and expected. So, guys if you want to stand out from the “flowers and chocolates” crowd, try taking your beloved out for some enticing fare and a nice bottle of wine. And with red being the color of the day, it’s a great opportunity to slip into one of the many sexy wine bars that Dallas has to offer. Besides, a good Cabernet or Zinfandel goes great with dark chocolate… and dessert (wink, wink, nudge, nudge!).

Here are a few of my favorite vino venues…

Decanter - 408 N. Bishop Ave. #108, Dallas - (858) 756-9333

My current favorite is a new addition to the Bishop Arts District (taking over the old Café Madrid location). They serve a full menu with interesting flavor combinations and well-made innovative cocktails. A great value for the quality of food, service, and atmosphere.

The Grape - 2808 Greenville Ave., Dallas - (214) 828-1981

A Dallas tradition, known for their romantic setting, their cream of mushroom soup, and more recently, for their hamburgers (voted best burger in the state by Texas Monthly). The kitchen was taken over by chef/owner Brian Luscher in 2007, who has kept a number of the old menu favs and added some great new ones of his own.

Vino One Hundred - 2909 McKinney Ave. #A, Dallas (214) 969-9463

Primarily a tasting room, they serve a small but savory selection of Mediterranean tapas, after 5:00 pm. Wine offerings include limited production and artisan-crafted wines with at least 100 bottles available for $25 or less.

Cru’ - 3699 McKinney Ave. #107, Dallas - (214) 526-9463

With locations in Dallas, Houston, Austin, and Denver, Cru’s formula is a recipe for success. A great feel and look, with dark woods, wine barrels, and a wine label mural. The full dinner menu has something for everyone, with the most expensive items barely topping $20.

Mercy - 5100 Belt Line Rd. #544, Dallas - (972) 702-9463

An upscale wine bar with a full multi-course menu. One of the more romantic atmospheres. Lots of candles and draping fabric. A fairly modest selection of the grape for a wine bar, but definitely some gems.

Times Ten Cellars - 6324 Prospect Ave., Dallas - (214) 824-9463

An actual wine making facility, Times Ten Cellars has locations in Dallas and Ft. Worth. The wine menu is comprised of all their own product and their “small plates” menu includes cheese and meat plates, dips, and desserts. You can also order in from several nearby restaurants if you’ve got a bigger appetite. Feels a bit like being in a Napa winery.

With these sultry, swanky, sophisticated options, you should be able to break out of the everyday Valentine’s Day rut, and romance the one that’s willing to be seen in public with you, even knowing all of the weird, twisted, disturbing stuff that you do in private. Happy Valentine’s Day!


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Taste of the NFL "Drop-Off" Party with Celebrity Chef Kent Rathbun and Heritage Auction Galleries

On Tuesday January 18th, my wife Lisa and I had the opportunity to attend the VIP Silent Auction “Drop-Off” party for the Taste of the NFL, a charity event hosted by Heritage Auction Galleries’ Heather Walther - Director of Business Development, and Celebrity Chef Kent Rathbun, of Abacus, Jasper’s, Rathbun’s Blue Plate Kitchen, and Zea Woodfire Grill (Chef Rathbun also upset Bobby Flay to win Food TV’s Iron Chef, in February of 2008).

Noah, Lauren, me, and Lisa

Diedre and Heather

Lisa and Lauren

The “Drop-Off” party was held at Chef Rathbun’s Swanky Uptown Digs, the Aqua Lounge at The Flats on Park Ln., as a precursor to the Heritage Galleries-hosted auction that will be held on February 6th at the $500 to $600 per-plate Taste of the NFL dinner, at the Ft. Worth Convention Center. The event raises money for food banks across the country and the dinner is prepared by top chefs, from each city in which the NFL has a team based. The evening culminates in a concert by country music star Martina McBride, and this year the charity hopes to raise a record $1,000,000; a lofty, but reachable goal to be sure.

Me and Noah

Several of Heritage’s Board members were in attendance including Paul Minshull and Todd Imhof, as well as Dallas artists Andy Morris who kindly donated a stunning painting and Kay Miller Wyne who created the wonderful collage piece “Cheers to Twenty Years,” to be used as the cover art for the event. Also on hand from Heritage were Noah Fleisher, Director of Public Relations, and his lovely wife Lauren, Debbie Rexing, Vice President of Marketing, and Cosignment Directors Diedre Buchmoyer and Mark Jordan.

Kay Miller Wyne (left) with "Cheers to Twenty Years"

Andy Morris' hand (glass half full!)

Cocktail appetizers included flaked smoked salmon on crostinis with lemon mouse and capers, mini brisket tacos in multi colored shells, savory parmesan toast rounds, and chicken pesto on butter crackers. Sweet offerings included the best version of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup that I’ve ever had; a dark chocolate cup filled with peanut butter mouse and topped with something akin to mini cocoa puffs, and Key lime tartlets. Some nice wines and a good strong drink made from Buffalo Trace bourbon, ginger ale, and grapefruit juice were the libations for the evening.

A good time was had by all and we saw a number of classy items dropped off for the auction, including a couple of paintings, few antiques, and sundry objets d’art. If the pre-party is any indication of the event to come, I expect some great food to be had, with nothing but glowing reviews, and more than $1,000,000 in the food bank kitty!

I'd like to thank potographer Tessa MacLeod for allowing me the use of all of these great images. Please look her up if you need a roaming photographer for any event. Her website is


Friday, January 7, 2011

A "Dive" By Any Other Name...

I've revamped/updated an old article, for print in the January issue of Lit Monthly Magazine, and have revisited some of my old Big-D Dive Bar haunts. I think that everyone should start the year off by finding a new dive in which to nurse a hangover or use as an occasional getaway from friends and family!

A “Dive” By Any Other Name…

That which we call a “dive” by any other name would smell like ass, and I wouldn't want it any other way. I love me a good dive bar! But just what do I consider a "dive"? To me, dives are comfortable, dimly lit (good for nursing hangovers), well used (tape on the bar stools, gum on the carpet, and questionable restrooms), unpretentious (they don't care how you’re dressed), and they serve an inexpensive, stiff drink. Here are some of my Dallas faves…

Adair's Saloon - 2624 Commerce St. Dallas, TX 75226

The graffiti capital of Dallas! You can write on damn near anything in here, and they even provide the markers! This honky-tonk/burger joint has been a staple in Deep Elum forever. I used to come here "wit da boys" from the local beer distributor, when I worked there in the '80s. A great place for cold suds and a big, greasy burger (with a big pickled jalapeno!). The juke-box has a decidedly country flavor and there’s a pool table and a full bar. They have live music on the weekends. An authentic Dallas, laid-back, broken-in classic, with a strong, regular customer base.

Double Wide Bar - 3510 Commerce St. Dallas, TX 75226

Once called Billy's Pub, 2XWide offers a nod to the mobile home, white-trash lifestyle. Chipped Fiesta-Ware plates as ashtrays, taxidermied animal heads, and tornado footage looping on a TV are trademarks of Double Wide. There’s a patio for smokers (complete with toilet seats) and they have a well-rounded juke box. DJs spin on some evenings, and weekends offer up live music. They tout one of the biggest selections of canned beer in the city, but don't miss out on their signature drinks, the "YooHoo YeeHaw," (a white-trash white Russian), the Hurritang, the Boone's Farmartini, and the Twisted Tang. You can take a guess at their main ingredients...

King's X - 9191 Forest Ln. Dallas, TX 75243

It’s easy to miss this neat little dive, that's tucked away in a strip mall, just east of Greenville, on the north side of Forest Lane. The “X” was brought to my attention, a number of years ago, as a hideout for local celebrities. The bartenders can regale you with stories of Don "Nelly" Nelson (the old Dallas Maverick's head coach) and Owen Wilson, playing poker or dominoes in the back, for big bucks. Both have been regulars here and have been known to stop by from time to time. There's cold beer and live music (usually blues) served up on the weekends. King Me!

Lee Harvey's - 1807 Gould St. Dallas, TX 75215

Your buddy calls and says that he's having a party. There'll be great burgers, cold beer, a DJ inside, and a band playing on the front porch. Picnic tables, Christmas lights, and chimineas have been set up in the yard. Oh, and go ahead and bring your dog. Sound like fun? Wait... This isn't your friends place, it's Lee Harvey's! Just off Akard, this old stone house stands out in the warehouse-laden neighborhood. The menu, sporting primarily burgers (some of the best in Dallas) and tacos, is small but all good. Lee Harvey's has been voted the Best Bar in Dallas by Observer readers and is definitely worth the trip to the other side of the tracks (I-30)!

One Nostalgia Place - 6521 Abrams Rd. Dallas, TX 75231

Just half a block from the intersection of Skillman and Abrams, sits this mellow little watering hole that opens at 9 am (for those who like to get their drink on early). They serve cheap, cold beer and have a good happy hour. There are a number of TVs and even free Wi-Fi. It's a great place to start or end your evening, or day for that matter!

Ships Lounge - 1613 Greenville Ave. Dallas, TX 75206

On very lowest Greenville (where it makes the Ross split) sits Ships Lounge. An unassuming entry with a small neon sign is all that marks this Charles Bukowski-esqe sliver of a bar. There's a “No Cussing” sign above the electrical tape-repaired, padded-railed bar, and the “real” jukebox (one of the best in Dallas), pumps out R&B classics and old-timey country tunes. The place is tiny; In fact the bathrooms even share a common sink. There’s typically an older, local crowd here and they only take cash. They also only sell beer and wine, but you can bring in your own bottle, as they do sell set-ups. One of the ultimate dive bars in the state of Texas!

The Slip Inn - 1806 McMillan Ave. Dallas, TX 75206

Don't blink or you'll miss it. The Slip Inn is so tiny... "How tiny is it?" It's so tiny that the front door is also the back door! Just kidding. This is a laid back no attitude bar that serves up good, cheap drinks! No draft beer, though. The little L-shaped lounge has a pool table, a juke box, and several nights a week they feature surprisingly good DJs. The age of the patrons ranges from 21 to 80. Weekend parking can be somewhat dicey at best, so get there early.

Time Out Tavern - 5101 W Lovers Ln. Dallas, TX 75209

This little dive is just a few blocks east of Love Field, on Lovers Ln. It’s rumored that Dallas Stars show up after away games as the team's airplane hangar is right there. The décor has a garage/first college apartment feel, with wooden picnic benches, graffiti on the walls, and old hockey skates and gloves hanging from the ceiling. They have several video and table games, including a well used baketball game (a la Dave and Buster's). I have yet to see a Star there, but evidence of their patronage is abundant.

Trade Winds Lounge - 2843 W Davis St. Dallas, TX 75211

Well, what can I say about the Trade Winds... It’s a dive in the truest sense of the word. It's been an Oak Cliff institution on Davis St. for almost 40 years. This is my neighborhood hangout. The old owners (my dear friends Dennis and Loretta) have taken the place back over and the staff (Melissa, Jonathan, and Alicia) is excellent. They also serve up one of the best pizzas in the "BAD-NOC's" (a phrase the I've coined - Bishop Arts District/North Oak Cliff). There’s shuffleboard, a pool table, and a juke box with a good mix of tunes.

Winedale Tavern - 2110 Greenville Ave. Dallas, TX 75206

One of the "dive-y-est dives" on lower Greenvile, it’s been in business for decades, and with the hours that they keep, you're likely to find a friendly, but drunk crowd as early as 8:00 am! Yep, you can start drinking here at 7:00 am. Because the place is so small and narrow, it feels very cozy and homey (if you were to live in a small dark bar, with 40 loud, drunk friends).

Make your New Year’s resolution to try all of the dingy dives that Dallas has to offer! Happy drinking and slumming.