When you push through the door of lovable East Dallas dive Strangeways, you’ll notice the eclectic mix of people packed around the cement bar. Your eye might wander to the large blackboard, colorfully scrawled with names of the artisanal beers on tap. But look closer at the walls and you’ll notice something strange: an odd assortment of brightly colored vinyl figurines. Some look like monsters. Some like aliens. All are cartoonish and highly stylized. They sit on wooden shelves behind the bar.
It’s a Tuesday evening, and Strangeways is packing in enough people to keep the bartender, Rosie, on her toes. When I ask about the toys, she gently corrects me—the little monsters are art, “lowbrow art” from a designer her brother, Eric, loves. He stockpiles them.
Eric Sanchez is the bar’s owner, and after a moment of talking with Rosie, I learn that his penchant for collecting isn’t limited to weird art. Strangeways keeps more than 40 brews on tap, kegs you might not see anywhere else.
Rosie explains that the selection is in constant rotation—no two days are the same. (She adds that there is always at least one Mikkeller brew available.)
“Bars will usually order one really good beer, a beer nerd’s beer,” Rosie says. “Each of our beers here is the best beer somewhere else.”
Peticolas Rye’t On, Prairie Funky Galaxy, and Ranger Creek Lucky Ol’ Sun are just some of the night’s selections. Rosie notes that her brother has an affinity for collecting liquor, too: rums, tequilas, bourbons. My bearded companion’s eyes light up when she tells us that they keep a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle on hand at (almost) all times.
Strangeways celebrated its second birthday last August. The bar is in a building that used to be a Mexican cantina, but Eric and his family gutted it, stripped it down, and remade it with a trendy, industrial vibe. The crowd is a mix: preppy couples on the patio, plaid-wearing dudes at the bar, a rowdy old man wearing a Hawaiian shirt.
At the end of the bar, a dark-haired woman, Crystal, and bespectacled man, Joe, sit sipping liquor beneath the row of mounted Smiths records (something else Eric collects; the bar’s name comes from the band’s final studio album, 1987’s Strangeways, Here We Come). The pair seem friendly, so I ask what they like best about Strangeways.
“The hummus here is second-best in town,” Joe says.
“The vodka,” Crystal says. “But that’s my favorite thing anywhere.”
They reconsider, and then agree: “Mostly, we come for the chill vibe.”
I leave Crystal and Joe and watch Rosie run the length of the bar, serve up frothy glasses of sparkling amber, and then sprint back to the kitchen to retrieve an order of French fries.
“You must get along with your brother to work so closely with him,” I say.
“Eric and I get along so well that we’re talking about opening a second bar,” Rosie says, explaining that they envision a “sister” bar that specializes in wines and cocktails. (She says, too, that the new bar’s name will keep up the Morrissey theme: they plan to call it King Leer.)
As I glance over the assortment of figurines and long list of beers on tap, I can’t help but think that Eric and Rosie are starting a new collection: cool bars.