Church is the most popular private club in Texas, obviously. You have to jump through a bunch of hoops for membership; there are yearly dues; the networking opportunities are fire; you can bring your friends for free a few times, but after a while, they need to apply for membership, too, or things get weird; and the live music slaps.
The second-most popular club after church in Texas is the country club. In addition to affording members the opportunity to meet like-minded alcoholics, they’ve got golf. They’ve got tennis. They’ve got pools (not for swimming, but for performative lounging). Basically, if there’s a no-contact leisure activity that requires dry-clean-only Dri-FIT clothing, they’ve got it. And the place is simply crawling with unattended children, empty margarita glasses, and knee braces.
Social clubs in Dallas have traditionally held down the No. 3 slot. In its most traditional form, a social club is a country club without the sports. Which is basically like cutting the BS, right? A golf cart is just a vehicle that holds my beer.
In 2023, a new crop of exclusive social clubs is coming after that No. 1 spot, giving pickleball and Jesus a run for their money. If you live in North Texas and you’re interested in joining a social club but you’re just not sure which one would best suit you, let us assure you: there’s a place for everyone here. Well, not everyone. Someone’s gotta sit on the 6,000-person waiting list.
Finding the right social club for you is just like dating. Sometimes it’s love at first sight, and you immediately start spending $300 per month (minimum) on them. Other times, you click but they’re just not that into you, so you go home and cry into the welcoming bosom of a box of Raising Cane’s. Either way, it’s important that you walk in the door knowing what you want. And not wearing jeans or sensible shoes.
The first thing to do if you’re interested in joining a social club is to tour the space in person. While you’re there, be sure to check out the women’s restroom, which tells you everything you need to know about the club. 1) Is it clean? When women cross the threshold of a public restroom, we become garbage monsters. We can’t explain to you why the women’s restroom is more disgusting than the men’s restroom—just believe it. And know that it takes a lot to keep them sparkly. 2) Is there good light? Flattering lighting keeps us coming back and spending money. Just ask Neiman’s. 3) Is there good soap? If a private club can’t spend money on soap, what is your initiation fee even for?
In the Dallas Petroleum Club women’s lounge, for example, there’s mouthwash and hand lotion, and there are those soft, high-quality 12-ply towels to dry your hands. Plus, part of their recent renovation included moving every square of marble tile from the old location to the new one. The new bathroom looks exactly the same in the new location as it did at the previous one. I opened the door and thought I’d changed timelines for a split second. I walked out, walked back in again, like Dr. Strange on his first jump. The Petroleum Club went to these lengths so that The Olds who’ve been members since forever feel safe and comforted when they’re at their most vulnerable. That’s service.
Established in 1934, the Petroleum Club has been a staple in Dallas for decades. This is a fact easily checked by taking a peek at their dining room at 5 pm on a Friday night. It’s slammed with grandpas, and the kitchen is two orders away from having to eight-six the mashed potatoes. Full disclosure: when I was a member, I found both the Old Fashioneds and the bathrooms to be delightful.
Before you write off this club because you don’t want an elderly wingman, ask yourself: am I working in a business that would benefit from fostering relationships with a bunch of Logan Roys? You’re just one “Sure, I can help you read your menu with my phone flashlight!” away from your next million-dollar client.
The next question you should ask yourself on your social club quest: do I party? Maybe you’re looking to get loaded with friends in your Louboutins while a DJ plays techno music at deafening levels. Or maybe you’d rather pay $20,000 to sit in a leather chair while you drink a fancy bottle of wine.
Somewhere in between? On a party scale of Meat Loaf to Post Malone, Tower Club is a solid Kelly Clarkson. They’re into cuss-free music, they probably have a tattoo on their inner wrist that has a 10-minute story you never wanted to hear to go with it, and they’re going to show you a good, clean, fun time.
Tower Club popped up in Thanksgiving Tower in the ’80s and just celebrated its 40th anniversary. BB Jorjadze, general manager, describes their membership process as “inclusive exclusive,” which must mean they’ll be happy to include you—so long as you have enough American dollars.
This club is the mullet of social clubs: business in front, party in the back. There’s a certain sense that things stay buttoned up here, even when they get crazy. The monthly events on their chalkboard range from Sushi Tuesday to Law & Libations.
They brag about their square footage. They use words like “activations” rather than “parties.” If you host a lot of meetings or formal parties, this is your spot. There are more reservable meeting rooms and event spaces here than high school has hormones. The Type A is strong with this one. And that’s not a bad thing. You want a party planner to be all about the details so you can just show up and get ripped.
Membership here also affords you access to reciprocal clubs all over the world because it’s part of Invited (formerly ClubCorp). And most exciting on that list of clubs has to be The Constellation Club, formerly La Cima Club, which just rebranded and reopened in magnificent Irving, Texas.
All these clubs pride themselves on the speakeasy, impossible-to-find vibes. Meanwhile, Invited did the best job of hiding this one. They just put it in Irving. My car had no idea where it was, how to get there, or why I was driving it to Irving for the first time.
“The design behind it was, you know, it’s midcentury aviation,” Jorjadze told me. “Where aviation was at its peak and luxury travel was happening. So you had that extra-luxury travel, right? You dressed up and got on the plane, and they gave you a lobster.”
The reality: Constellation Club’s theme comes off as a little cheesy. It’s like someone was like, “What is the best place to be when you just want to relax and take a load off? I’ve got it! The airport! In the ’50s! Let’s do this all the way. I want a hostess in a flight attendant dress, with the neckerchief and everything. And I want it to look like I spent a lot of money leaning into this so hard that my entire right shoulder fell asleep.” So cool, you guys. Highest of fives.
“With so many Fortune 500 companies relocating specifically to the city of Irving,” Jorjadze said, “it really gives us a tremendous opportunity to target that demographic.” In response to which I asked the obvious professional follow-up question: “Holy shit! Is that a vulture??”
Yep, it was a vulture. Separated from the bird only by a pane of glass, I was closer to her than the Dallas Zoo would have deemed appropriate. At which point, the turkey vulture casually turned toward me, sighed, rolled her eyes, and put out her cigarette on the balcony with her claw. “Yeah, they came with the building,” Jorjadze said, wincing, like he was worried it wouldn’t be the coolest thing I’d heard him say that day. If this is the future of social clubs, I’m in. There’s one thing networking in Dallas has been missing: actual vultures.
Maybe turkey vultures aren’t your thing. Not sure I can understand that, but I can act like I accept it. Next question: how do you feel about privacy curtains?
Wherever you’re touring, take a close look at the main dining room. This is where you’ll be partying with friends and eating dinner. But don’t get caught up in the beautiful big-as-your-living-room bar or the midcentury modern couches. Instead, look for curtains. There are two kinds of clubs: those that have dining booths and meeting rooms with privacy curtains, and those that do not.
Brought to you by Phil Romano, The Network Bar showed up in Trinity Groves in 2017. And it has a meeting room with privacy curtains. What kind of networking are we doing in there, boss?
Marley Shipley, director of sales operations, said Romano’s concept for The Network Bar is “a billionaire’s library.” She said he and Sam Romano “want something that’s exclusive to the DFW metroplex for like-minded business individuals.”
Membership approval at The Network Bar is based, in part, on your job. They take their membership data very seriously, and they work hard to keep a specific balance, which means that for new members, they can accept only so many lawyers, real estate bros, and eyebrow influencers. Theoretically, that should be great for networking, assuming that networking in a place called The Network Bar can ever be successful.
They assured me that business deals and marriage proposals have happened here, but if this bar is that good at networking and Phil Romano owns it, tell me this: why the hell does Dallas no longer have a Fuddruckers? Did he just not want it bad enough? Top of the list on his networking agenda should’ve been keeping Fuddruckers alive. What is Dallas without a burger buffet bar and a giant hand pump of honey mustard for your steak fries? I digress.
Currently, The Network Bar’s membership is on the upswing, and they’re approving one new member per day. And each one gets a “Phil Romano’s a Silver Fox” three-wick scented candle. (OK, they don’t. But they should.)
Looking for a little more exclusivity than adding a new member every day? Check out Park House. Take the elevator up to the lobby at Highland Park Village, and you’re eyeballed like Anne Hathaway when she walks into work for her first day in The Devil Wears Prada. Whatever—sensible shoes are important. And 2018 was a fabulous year for Athleta.
You are suddenly overcome with the urge to buy something in the silent art auction they’re hosting, just to prove your worth. It’s only $10,000. So what if you don’t even like “Stimulating art, displayed in a sumptuous environment”? It’ll be worth it just to get that nice person at the front desk to stop judging you.
“We just got this in about a week ago,” Andrea Perez, head of membership, told me about the artwork on display at Park House. “Sotheby’s is allowing us to put this on display, and then it’s actually for sale. So if a member or even a guest of the member is interested in purchasing, we’ll put you in contact with Sotheby’s, and they’ll do the negotiating of pricing.”
Out on the patio, she showed off their beautiful views of “downtown; the country club, on the left; and Highland Park Village.” I paused for a moment as I drank in the dulcet tones of the beer delivery trucks backing up and valets yelling, “WATCHIT!”
The rooftop patio also includes a pool—nay, a water feature. “It’s not a pool,” Perez said. “I have to be very clear about that. Highland Park will not allow it.” I sensed that this was the thousandth time she had to make sure people understood not to get in the dang pool. So if you want to stay on Perez’s good side while you’re courting membership, I’d recommend leaving your floaties at home.
This tour had the least production value of all the tours I was given. “We have done a guest chef before,” Perez said. “I don’t remember the name, but we have done guest chefs before, and we’ve done, um, you know, different winemakers.” It had the energy of a teenager updating her aunt about her favorite classes at school. And then I asked about membership and found out why.
“Our waitlist is about 6,000 right now. It’s nuts.” You’re kidding. “I’m not,” Perez said. “It’s 6,000-something.” I guess with a waiting list that long, you get to stop trying so hard. Whatever Park House is selling, Dallas is begging to buy.
“People ask for a timeline for acceptance. We don’t give that, because you may never be—we don’t deny.” You just stay forever wait-listed. “Yeah, so, I always encourage five-plus letters of recommendation from existing members.”
Park House is the most Dallas thing I’ve seen in my life. And I’ve seen D’Andra Simmons watching D’Andra Simmons on TV in Highland Park Village.
Aaaaaaaand just as you say that—Cowboys Club has entered the chat. They have 24 TVs, all playing Dallas Cowboys footage. All the time. The only background music you’ll hear: the symphony of helmets crashing like cymbals during Dallas Cowboys games. Jerry Jones was like, “I see you, Park House, and I raise you ridiculous.”
If you give any cares about the Dallas Cowboys, you know about the Cowboys Club. Hidden at The Star in Frisco, this social club is built specifically for high rollers who want to hang out with the football team whilst eating steak.
“So when Jerry purchased the team in 1989,” director of operations Stacy Bowers explained, “his thought process always was to have a beautiful place for someone to watch practice.”
Members get to see the inner workings of the Dallas Cowboys, from sneak peeks of training camp to chalk talks to breaking down film. “Once you pass this threshold, you can’t be on your phone, don’t take photos, and all of that stuff. There’s nothing better than being a member and seeing, you know, the O-line come in and have dinner that night,” Bowers told me.
Membership has tripled since the club’s opening six years ago, with a waiting list of hopefuls. “We typically don’t say how many people are on the waitlist, but it’s a sizable waitlist,” she said.
Can’t find the Cowboys Club? That’s by design. Don’t walk a million miles around The Star cussing the summer heat. Just ask a 43rd person, “Where in the name of Dak Prescott’s pickleball team is the ding dang Cowboys Club?” Once you’ve walked behind a building and opened a glass door to be greeted by a security guard, you’re there! Easy.
Bowers said her members are passionate about the dress code. Someone rolled in wearing a baseball hat one day. Bowers said, “One of the members came to me and said, ‘Stacy, I thought we weren’t allowing baseball hats.’ And I said, ‘You’re right. We don’t. But he can do pretty much what he wants.’ And they’re like, ‘Well, why can he do what he wants?’ I said, ‘Oh, he’s just the quarterback.’ ”
Dinner at Cowboys Club will be executed by chef Robert Baloga, who was formerly at Lucia and Meridian. “His creativity,” Bowers said, “that’s one of the things that drew him to being here, that he would have creative freedom to do the things that he’s passionate about: charcuterie and pastas.”
Surprisingly, their busiest days are game days, since only 30 percent of their membership attends games in person. Everyone else comes to the club to yell at TVs instead. What’s more Dallas Super Fan than that? “Oh, I love the Cowboys so much that I have a club membership to a club specifically designed around the team. Have I ever been to a game? Oh, obviously no. Seems loud. My Apple Watch wouldn’t like the decibels.”
How much does membership cost? “We don’t talk about that out loud, either,” Bowers said. A quick google tells you that in 2016, there was an induction fee of $4,500, with a family membership costing an additional $350 per month.
Are you the kind of person who would rather be told upfront what the cost of yearly membership is going to be, even if that number is crazy? Would you prefer to have someone tell you to your face within a minute of meeting the owner that you’re not gaining membership into their club? Simon Roberts, owner at Graileys Fine Wines, is here to help. (Stop looking for the apostrophe in the name Graileys, because there isn’t one. It’s like Michaels. Embrace it.)
Think you haven’t found Graileys, even though you’ve followed your turn-by-turn GPS more closely than you’ve been following Jerry Jones’ new face? Take a closer look before you argue with Siri as she says, “Girl, you’re here. I promise.” It’s hiding in plain sight in the Design District with an unmarked awning and barely any parking. When you see that all eight spaces are taken by a Benz, a five-car bingo of Porsches, and a Rivian with paper plates, you can be pretty sure you’re not looking at a regular warehouse parking lot. Congrats. You’re here.
Graileys is an exclusive club for serious wine drinkers. “My initial goal with this was to take the snobbery out of wine. ’Cause it’s quite intimidating,” Simon Roberts said. He’s the Brit who owns the joint. “It’s driven by a community of wine drinkers that come in, enjoy the space. We’re so close to the American Airlines Center, so we do good business pregame. Most of our clients are suite holders, that kind of stuff. And then, you know, postgame, we keep it private and very low-key for a reason. You never see more than 25 or 30 people in here. We’ve only got 125 members.”
Every story Roberts tells feels like a tall tale. He bought the original Graileys after the owners had passed, and the whole dusty thing just dropped into his lap. There was still money in the till, “and it was full of wine.” He just happened to land clients who play for the Rangers, Mavericks, and Stars. “I got lucky.”
If Willy Wonka was the Indiana Jones of wine, his name would be Simon Roberts. Around every corner, he has another locker with a professional athlete’s nickname on it, or another packed with bottles you can’t buy anywhere. “And there’s this really cool book, if you get a chance to read it. It’s called Billionaire’s Vinegar. It’s about a bunch of bottles that went to market in 1985 with Jefferson’s initials on them. There were 12 of them. I’ve got one of them.”
Each Graileys member pays a $2,500 yearly membership fee plus a hefty $20,000 minimum yearly wine purchase. And the space is designed like a fancy Chili’s man cave. Do they have food for you? If wine counts as food, then yes. LOTS.
Got a problem with any of that? Great. Roberts isn’t interested in messing up his club just to add you. He adds somewhere between five and 15 people a year, and he’ll be interviewing you himself. And, don’t worry, he’s friendly and happy to tell you it’s not going to work out within a couple of minutes. It’s nothing personal. (Except, it absolutely is.)
If you’re looking for something more expensive and more exclusive than Graileys, head to Tei-An and try applying for membership at their private club, in operation since 2019. Spoiler: you can’t. There is no application. Here, it’s invite only. And once you’re invited, you’re asked to pay a $23,500 initiation fee. After that, you’ve got a $500 required monthly minimum spend, and then make yourself at home!
If you’re saying to yourself, “What private club? I’ve been to Tei-An, and I don’t know where that would even be.” Exactly. Normals go straight through to the main dining room, and Fancies turn left and are guided behind a curtain to a part of the restaurant you’ve never seen. They’ve got a rooftop patio and everything. But not for you.
As of July, Tei-An had added only one member to its invite-only private club this year. The whole thing gives off “We don’t talk about Fight Club” vibes. In fact, according to general manager Best Ranglek, this article is the first time they have spoken to press about the membership.
When you’re at a social club, remember: it’s like you’re living in The Upside Down. Does the tasting menu cost extra? It had effing better. We don’t pay an initiation fee and a monthly subscription to this glorified hotel lobby to be subjected to a value. I swear, if I see a discount on this receipt, I’m taking it up with one of your half-my-age, preferably-British-accented managers.
“We’ve done Yamazaki 55. Think everyone heard about that?” Ranglek casually mentioned. He was referencing a dinner they hosted featuring one of the most sought-after and collectible bottles of Japanese whiskeys ever to come to market. (They released only 200 bottles, one of which sold at auction, in 2021, for nearly $800,000.) So how much were seats at the dinner? “I think we charged $5,555. You know, we had to charge that price because the price of the bottle.” The diners were almost exclusively private club members. Only two seats were opened to the public.
$5,555 for one dinner? For that price, the Yamazaki 55 had better serenade me, call me pretty, and come home with me in an Uber helicopter. Actually, Ranglek could probably make that happen.
If you picked up on the name-drop of the Yamazaki bottle right away, The Algiers might be your club. Owner Tucker McCormack is a member of Dallas Bourbon Club and noticed they didn’t have anywhere to meet regularly.
He said, “The problem with most of those whiskey clubs that are really about barrel picks and hanging out with other people who really like this stuff, is that there’s nowhere that has a place that you can just go. So, when we do a barrel pick, it’s like, ‘Hey, we’re going to sit out in front of the liquor store and hang out for an hour before it opens to go buy our bottles.’ ”
Seeing a need for a hangout spot for whiskey lovers, McCormack created a brick-and-mortar to act as that meeting spot for his friends and as a place where brands can come show off their wares. Like the people they have at Total Wine. Or, to a lesser extent, CVS in Las Vegas. Except, you know, exclusive. Fancy. Super special.
Above all, McCormack really wants you to know he’s not here to sell you alcohol. He’s not licensed for it, and it’s not happening. But he’ll introduce you to people who will. For McCormack’s not-selling-alcohol-to-you services, you’ll be shelling out a $2,500 initiation and “around $200 a month, paid annually.”
He’s an investment broker by day and uses that connection here. “Our portfolio brands or partner brands will engage with our members and the greater spirit community. It’ll be spirits-focused. Everything from cocktail classes to just general tastings and general brand engagement.” He’s more like the matchmaker than your date. It’s brand introduction only. He’s an in-person influencer. Like Instagram, but in 1992.
On the opposite side of town and social clubs is 55 Seventy. If paying someone not to sell you alcohol and hidden entrances aren’t for you, 55 Seventy has a big-ass sign out front, lockers that are nicer than my closet for your wine collection, and a valet waiting just for you.
55 Seventy is the social club baby that would result if Graileys and Park House met in a parking lot after Park House drunk-drove over Graileys’ feet and then they laughed about it until they made out and one thing led to a-really-weird-nother. Said another way, they can sell you wine, and they also have food and pretty furniture.
“So this is always kept at 55 degrees and 70 percent humidity. Hence, the name,” said owner Tommy Shuey as he walked me through “the Ferrari of locker storage” at his brand-new wine club. “When you look at the landscape of private clubs, sure, we’re competitors with Park House and Tower Club. But at the same time, our model is so differentiated. The big thing that we offer that nobody else does is locker storage.”
Well, nobody else except Graileys. “Exactly. But it’s so small and tiny. And they don’t have the kitchen. They don’t have the food. So we saw that model, and it was like, Why don’t we marry that with the Park House model and bring them together?”
Shuey brought on Josh Sutcliff, previously of FT33, to helm their kitchen. “The latter half of the dinner menu are heavier items, where you’ve got your flatbread, salmon, pork belly, and things like that. And they’re items that you can actually sit at a table and eat. It’s not a full sit-down steak dinner.” But if members do get a craving for steak, they can always host a private event. “And that way you’re not having to bring in catering.”
Membership here is “around 300. And we are going to add until it feels comfortable.” He thinks that’s another 200 or so members. “My guess is at the current run rate, we will be closed for membership by January, probably December.”
In addition to the wine program, 55 Seventy has a spirits program that they’re calling an amenity rather than a full bar. “So we will have sipping tequilas, high-end whiskeys and bourbons that you typically don’t find at restaurants. Very similar to our wine list. We’ll have a couple vodkas and a couple of gins, but, you know, a typical bar may have 20 vodkas. So, ‘Oh, my spouse only drinks Scotch, but I love wine.’ He can come here and have a great Scotch or great bourbon.”
Unlike Graileys, there’s no monthly minimum purchase. Shuey said, “Our basic membership, which includes one person and their spouse, is $4,000 initiation and currently $299 a month. We price everything at or below retail. So, membership-wise, you know, that’s another big value.”
But who around here is shopping for something as gauche as value? Social clubs are the places we go when we want to feel like James Bond for a night. We want to roll up, throw our keys at a stranger’s face in slow motion while a fan Beyoncés our hair. We want our friends to know they can’t come here without us. (Bonus points if you can plan to have someone attempt to get into the club and fail while we walk through the door effortlessly.) We want to have our favorite drink handed to us before we can order it, and we want our last name pronounced correctly. It’s a lot to ask, and that shouldn’t come cheap.
You can find five referrals who can vouch for you, pay tens of thousands of dollars to be included, and cheer like a Showcase Showdown winner when they call to tell you that their waiting list just went from 6,000 people to 5,999. Or, if you’re a real social pro, just convince a friend to pay the initiation fee, and show up as their guest until the general manager politely kicks you out.
Whether it’s wine, whiskey, food, or views of the HPV parking lot that makes you feel social, Dallas has an unmarked entrance and an exclusive tasting (for an additional charge on the card on file) just for you. And one or two turkey vultures.
This story originally appeared in the September issue of D Magazine with the headline, “Members Only.” Write to [email protected].