My first visit to lounge here fell on an early Tuesday evening in November, a little more than a month after it had opened, with my eternally hip, gin-swilling seventysomething mother. We walked past the unremarkable entrance and found ourselves in front of Margie’s Wig Salon. But when we found our way and made it inside, Mom said, “Wow.”
This stretch of Garland Road hasn’t seen such elegance since White Rock Creek was dammed to make the lake, which is to say never. Julie Doyle and her longtime friend Tony Barsotti, both musicians, both first-time restaurateurs, designed the place together. They say it’s “West Texas meets Palm Springs” and that they took inspiration from ’70s airport lounges. Low-slung, tan, tufted banquettes line two walls, one of which is made of curved blond wood lit from below. On the facing wall hangs an expansive Marfa desert landscape by the artist Rainer Judd, also a friend. Circular acoustic tiles of different sizes float overhead.
That November night, though it was only 6:30, the place was packed. Mom and I grabbed two seats at the semicircular bar. “How did you know about this?” she asked. “Do you even know what I do for a living?” I said. We both live nearby, and, truth be told, I was just as surprised as she that I’d driven by Here dozens of times without knowing it was there. Despite the number of mouths moving around us, we carried our conversation easily, never straining to be heard. We had a lovely night.
Now, I have persnickety friends who take issue with what is served at Here. After that first visit, I got into a long discussion with one seasoned imbiber who inveighed against the tiny ice cubes. An $11 old-fashioned, she argued, should not be served so. It too quickly becomes watered down. I couldn’t disagree. But I prefer beer, and Here has plenty (even if none is on draft).
Another friend perused the menu online, spotted the $20 chicken-fried Akaushi rib-eye, and refused, on principle, to eat there. So the next time I went, this visit with my wife, I ordered that rib-eye. My cholesterol is too high. I planned to take just a few bites, let my wife handle the rest. But we wound up nearly fighting over it. The panko crust did an admirable job of staying crispy under its duck fat gravy. It should be said that my wife’s $18 shrimp and grits didn’t impress. The shrimp were mealy, and the grits were swimming in butter.
I’ve now made three visits. Each time, I’ve run into someone I know from East Dallas, meaning I am no doubt biased by geography. The cheap side of the lake has never seen something the likes of Lounge Here. It isn’t perfect. But it feels that way to me.