It's a picturesque summer night. My mother is in town for the week. I'm taking her to the theater in the downtown Dallas arts district. With the simple hope that we confab over a cocktail before we settle into our seats at the City Performance Hall, we head to One Arts Plaza.
Usually I know better.
If you want to grab a spot on a patio and watch the sunset over Dallas, you should go somewhere else - anywhere else. It's not that the restaurants in One Arts Plaza are unequivocally crap. In fact, Tei-An rules the Dallas kingdom of eats. No, this culinary semi-circle has one very simple problem: THE PATIOS ARE A PARKING LOT.
Wait, no. It's worse than that. The patios are a valet line. Separated only by a line of metal barriers, a drink on the patio at Jorge's, Proof + Pantry, or any other foolhardy tenant, is a first row ticket to the nightly performance of the "Valet Shuffle" - a dance familiar to Dallas residents.
"Last name, please?" "Schlegel-Kinney-Warren-Grant-Perot" "Keys are in the car?" "Mind the Swarovski crystal coffee tumbler in the cupholder." "Enjoy!" *Five Minutes Later, Valet Guy Sprints Back, Nearly Tripping Over Unsuspecting Patio Diner at Proof + Pantry. He Sweatily Greets Next Mercedes.*
Convenience, I understand. But it's as though One Arts Plaza were actually designed to showcase the Valet Parking line. And though I've never run a restaurant before, I've contributed my fair share to the patio/cocktail economy and I think I have a solution. That solution looks an awful lot like Trinity Groves.
Step one, move the valet line. You have a red golf cart that taxis people around the arts district. Buy a few more, pick up the grannies from a little bit further away and drive them to their margaritas. Tell your drivers to stop picking up young, leggy blondes and drive grannies exclusively. They're better tippers anyway.
Step two, forego the concrete. In a few of the preparatory sketches for the Arts District there is a lot more greenery. Plant grass, xeriscape, plant succulents... hell, glue down fake grass! But concrete makes things hotter and less pleasant. You want less skateboarders in the arts district? Have less concrete.
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Step three, use more comfortable chairs and place them throughout this freshly xeriscaped patio that now surrounds the fountain centerpiece. Even those of us who don't love the restaurants in Trinity Groves will go all the way over the bridge to sip a beer at Luck or a glass of wine from Souk, because we can head out to the edge of the patio to sit back in the tall wooden chairs and look up at the twinkling lights in the tree overhead. A good patio is the stand-in backyard for city dwellers.
Step four, live music. Sure, you have residents who paid millions of dollars to live in your condos. But they wanted to live in the vibrant, happening arts district. Not the empty, depressing parking lot you've created. Find a way to put a piano outside (it's possible, just ask Klyde Warren Park). Everyone enjoys the late night tinkling of keys playing "One for my Baby."
Look, I know it won't be easy to part with the tan, panting valet men. But trust me, there are people who come to see shows in the Arts District from out of town who want nothing more than to fall in love with Dallas and you're making it real difficult. Now, you've got Mr. Michael Martensen serving up the finest cocktails in Dallas. Don't lose him.
Xoxo, The Mixmaster