Thursday, May 23, 2024 May 23, 2024
72° F Dallas, TX

Outpost American Tavern

How many cool bars can Oak Cliff handle? Let’s hope one more.
Photography by Billy Surface

Having just walked into Outpost American Tavern, I was turning toward the long bar when a raven-haired waitress with a nose stud intercepted me. “Sorry, no spots left at the bar,” she said, snatching up two drink menus. “You’re stuck with me.” Tattoos curled up and down her arms: a peacock; a leafless tree; a key; a tiny, detailed state of Texas. She sat us at a table by the white-tiled back wall, not far from the bar, and left us to contemplate our cocktail options.

Outpost American Tavern, an Oak Cliff bungalow-turned-bar, is owned by John Paul Valverde and Miguel Vicéns. Outpost opened in December, just a few months after the pair’s previous endeavor, CampO Modern Country Bistro, shuttered. The revamped result is a cross between a low-lit, chilled-out gastropub and the kind of locals-only watering hole you might find in some small factory town in upstate New York. The interior decor is rustic: custom-made wooden everything, long mirrors, and a sprinkling of mounted animal skulls. But best of all is the diverse crowd. On my Saturday night visit, Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” filled the air.

Whenever possible, I like to stick other people with my superficial decisions. (This is so I can blame someone else if things go awry.) So when our waitress, Christen, returned, I asked her to bring me the most special of the menu’s eight specialty cocktails. She clearly felt the weight of this responsibility and spent several seconds staring at the menu in earnest contemplation. “It depends on the mood,” she said, her eyes wandering from the Strawberry Pequin Margarita to the mojito-like Fashionista. Finally she settled on the Improved 60/40, declaring, “It tastes just like iced tea!”

While I waited for my drink, Chris, the bar manager, told me that Outpost targets locals but aims, eventually, to become a Dallas destination. “We already have a ton of regulars,” he said, so I challenged him to point one out. Two attractive young women were sipping cocktails at the bar. Chris claimed that the blonde had “been in a few times.” She wore a short, flowered sundress that revealed mile-long legs. “I love going to weddings,” she was saying loudly to her pretty, dark-haired companion as I accosted them.

“We like meeting here because it’s so close,” the blonde told me, taking a sip of her Fashionista. “A word of warning: the sandwiches here are really big. Last time, I got mine all over me!”

Rather than make an off-color joke, I asked them about their daytime lives. Both ladies worked at the Dallas Museum of Art, one in education, one in curatorial. Then, noticing my drink awaiting me, I darted back to my table and took a long swig of the Improved 60/40. It was sweet and refreshing, an understated, dolled-up alcoholic iced tea. Perfect for the warm night.

Impressed with her cocktail choice, I asked Christen how she ended up doling out drinks to indecisive drinkers like me. She said that she took the job to help pay for grad school. By day, she teaches American and British literature to high school juniors and seniors. My book-nerd companion made a valiant attempt to corral us into a long conversation about words, but I steered us back to her awesome ink.

“My students often don’t realize that tattoos are art and that they don’t always mean you’re a gangster,” she said.

“If you were to join a gang, which would it be?” I asked.

My companion pointed to the peacock beautifully detailed on her arm. “The Peacock Gang?” he supplied, eager to prove his wit.

“I’d join that gang,” I said.

“I think you just did,” Christen said. “We’re now the Peacock Gang!”

Since the night was not quite over, I raised a glass in a toast to my newfound posse, a fun crowd, and tasty cocktails on a warm summer night.

For more information about Outpost American Tavern, visit our online bar guide.