Sunday, May 26, 2024 May 26, 2024
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Restaurants & Bars

Yeah, Saint Valentine Is a Good Bar

The East Dallas spot is just as good as expected: comfortable, suitable for all occasions, and serving ridiculously good martinis and fried olives.
Saint Valentine’s patio in nicer weather. Kristen Glass Photography (courtesy Saint Valentine)

“Yeah” is a casual word to put in a headline. But if you know anything about Saint Valentine, you probably thought that it sounds like it’s going to be a pretty good bar. The purpose of this article is to affirm your conviction. Yeah, it’s a pretty good bar.

It feels very East Dallas: a little bit posh, a little bit scrappy. On one side, you’ve got a bar with smoky mirrors and intricate tile mosaics. On the other, you have old-school diner-style booths, looking ready for a grumpy old waitress to bring you bottomless coffee refills. On both sides of the building are outdoor spaces for patio weather. It’s very much a choose-your-own-vibe place. Want to have a classy date night with gorgeous cocktails in vintage glassware? You can do that at Saint Valentine. Want to manspread in a booth and drown your sorrows in a beer-and-a-shot and a tray of fries? You can do that too.

On my first visit, I went for more of column A. We slid into a booth and admired its gold glitter vinyl. We ordered a round of drinks and people-watched as a man told a woman a very boring story and she nodded with the frosted-over eyes of someone thinking about how she’d rather be in another country, and then watched her turn the tables with her own boring anecdote.

Back to those drinks. The menu is organized into sections: signature cocktails, classic cocktails, and “churched-up beers” (think beer and a shot, or beer featured in a mixed drink). You gotta have a few unpretentious drinks with good names, and Saint Valentine is good at naming. My admiration, in terms of quality names, most goes to the Try Something New ($10): it’s a Miller High Life and a shot of whiskey. Others will likely prefer the title Big Booty Trudy, a tropical creation with pineapple, passionfruit, and citrus flavors.

The house specialty Manhattan has a nutty-sweet note from chocolate mole bitters and its reposado tequila base. The Freezer Martini similarly tweaks a classic by adding umami flavors and a bit of fat that gives the drink a slightly thicker mouthfeel. My favorite of the drink was the house Sazerac. Food writing is supposed to be descriptive, but darn it: the Sazerac is just good. Go get it and see. (It uses a split base of brandy and rye, and two kinds of bitters, to get the flavors properly melded together. Phew. I’m a food writer again.)

The food menu stays short and sweet: snacks, a salad, wings, sandwiches, and two platters centered on fancy tinned fishes. (Think charcuterie, but with fish.) We devoured fries topped with spicy Kewpie mayo and furikake, the Japanese seaweed-sesame-salt seasoning mix that often goes on rice bowls. We also had a Caesar salad with chargrilled romaine and caramelized red onions. That dish will probably get a few more tweaks: the onions and torn croutons were great, but the salad was served on a paper base, and it was too easy for the dressing-covered paper to get into our bites. The kitchen will figure that out.

You must know this: there are olives stuffed with Jimmy’s Italian sausage and deep-fried. After I went to Saint Valentine, I went back to the office and everybody asked how I spent my weekend. “I went to a new bar and got deep-fried olives stuffed with Jimmy’s Italian sausage,” I told them. Every single listener got that big-eyes look that’s usually reserved for statements like “there are free cookies in the break room” or “we’re all getting a raise.” Correct reaction! We destroyed our bowl. I want to go back and spend a whole night eating fried olives, drinking Sazeracs, and eavesdropping on people’s dates.

Yeah, Saint Valentine is a good bar.

Saint Valentine, 4800 Bryan St.


Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.