It was raining when I stopped by the new Stone Street Martini Lounge for lunch. I parked off Elm, slipped money into the meter, and slid into the rhythm of people walking the sidewalks. People carried umbrellas, clenching their coats tightly to their chests—or wore jeans and carried the top halves of pizza boxes over their heads. I headed for the Campisi’s sign and hooked a left into a narrow pedestrian street. Snorting, pneumatic construction vehicles to my left, wet patio tables to my right, up a flight of wide hardwood steps and into the bar with me.
It was a quiet day just after the holidays, and I was there a little after lunchtime. The bar was nearly empty. Made sense; lunch at a martini lounge might not be high on everyone’s New Year’s resolution list. Then, too, the bar was only a couple of months old, and lots of folks didn’t know about it yet. But the music was loud and warmed me from the inside—funk and soul, the really good stuff. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” a song Quentin Tarantino nearly ruined for me in Pulp Fiction, but, really, Al Green is indestructible.
Al Green might be the right guy to describe the Stone Street Martini Lounge. It’s a place for grown-ups. Housed in the old Woolworth building, the bar has tall tables. The tops are thick and wooden. Wide sectionals under the loft-looking windows are plush and square. Bottles of brightly colored booze nest in squares punched out of a gray wall behind the bar. Highly styled, sleek, and modern-clean. None of which is the source of Stone Street’s charm. It’s all about the tucked-away-ness. The second-floor-ness. The looking-out-the-windows-at-the-world-below-an-amber-Manhattan-in-hand-ness. If Dallas is a city often criticized for having everything up front and on show—and it is, with varying degrees of truth—then Stone Street is something a little different. It takes a little work to discover it.
One Friday night, we sat near a multigenerational group of men having dinner. On a Saturday, we sat next to a group of beautiful young women celebrating a bachelorette party. Stone Street’s a lounge, not an MTV spring break party, so the women were urbane and chatting. Still, before too long, the bride-to-be was posing for photographs with a half-dozen of the guys sitting at the bar—revenge, apparently, for a photo her fiancé had just texted from his bachelor night out.
I was tickled to see that the drinks menu included some martinis that felt coconutty in a Mad Men kinda way and also underwhelmed by the dry ice in the fiery cayenne Smoke and Spice martini. The sports and sitcom reruns on two of the three ornately picture-framed TVs also took me out of the lounge vibe a tad, though I get that people in bars want to watch games.
By the time you read this, construction should be finished on the billiards and library rooms. The billiards room will have a fireplace, and the library, behind a “secret” wall, will have books. The Stone Street Martini Lounge is owned by the Visionary Restaurant Group, (also responsible for BlackFinn American Saloon). Stone Street has a corporate feel, which extends to the staff. On both my visits, the chef checked on us and the staff talked about the new rooms coming.
I have been rereading old books of poems, seeing which ones I still love. Someone once told me she read Anna Karenina every 10 years because the book changed every decade. It was a romance, then a mother’s story, then the story of life’s limitations. This was the sign of a good book, my friend said, something big enough to return to over and over. I would argue that this is a sign of many good things. I thought about this in connection with the martini lounge, a genre of bar at once narrow and enormous, the way a sonnet is narrow and enormous (such restriction, such flexibility). There’s much I wouldn’t want to revive from the three-martini-lunch days, but there’s also something appealing about a cool drink in a tall glass while watching the world whorl rainily below.
For more information about Stone Street Martini Lounge, visit our online bar guide. Write to INTOABAR@GMAIL.COM.