Standing directly outside of Shoals Sound & Service, a new Deep Ellum cocktail joint, I still wasn’t sure if I was in the right place. I could see a stylish, backlit bar and plenty of seating—but no sign proclaiming the bar’s identity. It looked cool, though, so I moseyed in. The tattooed bartender, Jenny, shook my hand, and I asked about the lack of a sign.
“I don’t think we’re getting one,” she said, explaining the virtues of being low-key.
Nearby, a blonde looked up from her phone. “Wait, what is this place called again?”
As Jenny went to clarify, I looked around. Shoals has exposed brick walls and creative accents—lightbulbs enclosed in portable fan cages, a wall of textured wood. Letter board signs spell out food and drink options, including an impressive selection of classic cocktails. (Shoals is a collaboration between veteran barmen Michael Martensen and Omar Yeefoon.) Two of my friends ordered Old Fashioneds. I wanted something more refreshing.
“How about a mint julep?” Jenny suggested. “It’s like a snow cone for adults.”
The mint julep came piled high with crushed ice. Maybe too much. I made a huge ice mess, but it was totally worth it.
Then I asked Jenny about the bar’s name. She told me it has two meanings. The first: a “shoal”—a group of fish swimming together. The second: Muscle Shoals, Alabama, a place known for its musical history.
“We’re all about sound and service,” Jenny told me when I complimented the bar’s bluesy playlist. “We’re going back to the basics.”
Later, I’d just ordered a vegan fruit pie when I noticed that Shoals was packed. Groups of friends crowded the tables. Couples hovered behind me. A bespectacled newcomer leaned forward.
“Is this it?” he called out. “Is this the place?”
“This is it,” a nearby bartender said. “Welcome to Shoals.”