The best part of The Village’s new commercial center is hidden underground. Walk down a flight of stairs into the Mexican restaurant La Mina (Spanish for “The Mine”), then back into what looks like an employees-only hallway, complete with a mop in a bucket on wheels that, on closer inspection, is really a piece of art made to look like a mop and bucket on wheels, and then into what looks like a walk-in freezer, at which point you’ll find yourself in a dim little lounge with low ceilings and cozy couches and a whole menu of agave spirits. Welcome to Apatito, and welcome to the new Village.
Back in 1968, The Village opened as a college-style campus with sprawling apartments and a country club, not far from the intersection of Central Expressway and Northwest Highway. At the time, it was known for housing young singles, and, thanks to a private club license, people could legally imbibe liquor by the drink. It quickly became a party scene for early-twentysomething Dallasites. Through the decades, as liquor laws loosened and as staying single became commonplace, The Village faded into the city’s landscape—though more than a million people have lived there, including Mark Cuban in the ’80s.
Then last year, The Village unveiled its four-year renovation project—a village for The Village: restaurants, shops, bars, a 38-room hotel, even a dog groomer. It is open to the public, and it’s worth a visit.
Better yet, make it a weekendlong staycation. Hotel Drey’s rooms start at $197, and there’s plenty to do around The Village for a couple of days without ever getting behind the wheel of your car. Hotel guests have access to the few treasures that are flagged as exclusive for “Villagers” (residents of the apartments), including two outdoor pools and a state-of-the-art gym. The other athletic offerings are open to the public: an 18-hole putting green and an indoor golf simulator, which can be booked by the hour.
What’s set off all the recent Village buzz, however, is its lineup of restaurants, the star of which is Meridian, chef Junior Borges’ chic modern Brazilian spot (which we named Restaurant of the Year for 2021). Borges oversees The Village’s entire culinary program, including the eight-concept food hall, which has a raw bar, a pizzeria, and a counter for Doughregarde’s, the bakery that supplies bread and pastries to all the on-site restaurants. One of those is Anise, a swanky Mediterranean spot in the Drey Hotel lobby, where diners can hang out with wine and shared mezze plates among live plants, hardwood floors, midcentury furniture, and a picture window that frames the resort-style pools outside.
In between meals, visitors can browse for gifts, including jewelry and “lotion candles” (candles and lotion in one), at Linger; get their hair done at the Blythe salon or Squared Away barbershop; and drop their dogs off at Barkin’ Creek for grooming, day care, and fresh-baked dog pastries.
But back to Apatito.
The ambience in the speakeasy gives you the feeling that you’re ending your night exactly where you should be ending your night—drinking strong cocktails from handmade ceramic cups, stashed in a secluded hideaway. Which is, in a nutshell, The Village’s new village.