I saw a glassblower once. In high school, in an old studio outside of town, at night. I remember listening to the new Nirvana single on the way there, remember the long pipe the glassblower blew into, the way color inflated and took shape. There was fire, too, thousands of degrees of it, to heat the glass, and everything in my memory is tinted orange, as if I am seeing it all by firelight. Morethan anything, I remember the arc of the artist’s arms, the steady way he spun and swung glass as liquid as honey. I have no idea what the final object was or what the glassblower’s face looked like. But the fluid power of his arms, the grace and bravura of his swing are burned into my memory. A single well-executed gesture or motion can do that, can stay with you.
Four men in crisp white coats worked behind the bar at the new Marquee Grill & Bar adjacent to the movie theater in Highland Park Village. Each cut and squeezed and shook and poured. The bartenders came to the Marquee from Victor Tango’s, Bolsa, and Neighborhood Services Tavern, among others. I didn’t bother with a glass of wine—though I’m sure the bottles have been expertly selected and are delicious. But in a bar run by people who are good at something—and Jason Kosmas, the executive beverage director, is at the forefront of the fine cocktail movement and is a big name in the Dallas bar scene—I don’t much want to look at a menu. I’d much rather ask the bartender to make something, whatever he wants, whatever he’s good at.
But on a busy Saturday night, too busy to impose idle chat on barstaff, my two friends and I looked through the menu and ordered one cocktail each. Two completely hit the spot, and the third made us each pucker and wince. Our wait person replaced it with the best Manhattan I’ve ever had: Rittenhouse rye whiskey, Cinzano sweet vermouth, orange curaçao, and angostura bitters.
The upstairs bar seats 40 people outside on the patio and about that inside, with room to stand. The tables are high, the bar is long, the art is big; the decor feels both sumptuous and edgelessly comfortable. Sitting inside, near the open doors on a breezy May night, I had a clear view of couples youngish and midlife kissing under patio umbrellas. And in a perfect nod to its Highland Park location, the words Jimmy Choo were lit up in neon behind the kissers.
The people in the bar looked like Jimmy Choo fans, which is another way to say that they looked well-to-do. Even the rumple-haired teenagers drinking Cokes with their parents while waiting for a table on a Wednesday night looked well-to-do. The Marquee had been open a bare three weeks when I visited, but given that the fancy cocktails run $10-$12, that Cajun-spiced, Parmesan French fries cost $8, and that the bar is deep in Highland Park, it’s a safe bet that the well-heeled and Park Cities crowds will comprise the core of the bar’s regulars.
On a Wednesday, it was steady but slower, so I could sit at the bar, have a conversation, and ask the bartender to make me something, anything. He asked a few questions, then served me a chartreuse concoction he’d invented the week before—light and refreshing, with muddled cucumber strained straight into my glass. I drank slowly, watching people around me eat beautiful food at the bar and cocktail tables (the executive chef is Tre Wilcox of Top Chef fame). I watched people talk and laugh and get ready to go next door to catch a movie. A late-40s man beside me ate his dinner and dessert, then made idle (or perhaps hopeful) conversation with a pair of thirtysomething women on the other side of him. I finished my drink and left.
If you stop and hold still long enough, you can see the beauty in ordinary gestures: children making paper airplanes, teenagers out throwing a ball. Sometimes, too, a motion stays with you: the swing of a blowpipe, orange glass glowing. Or the sharp zigzag of a man shaking a cocktail, ice cracking as it moves through the air.
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