First Look

Squid Ink and Short Skirts: A First Look at Quill, the New Design District Cocktail Lounge

Quill is many things, but understated is not one of them.

Walking into the new Design District cocktail lounge, you become immersed in emerald; brass; and dramatic, sweeping light. White marble is offset by luxe green lounge seating and sharp tilework that gives even the bathrooms a touch of drama. It's an appropriately over-the-top space for its over-the-top chef: John Tesar. 

The bold green tones that make this space hum are an appropriate choice because Quill wants your money. Well, not my money or probably even your money — Quill wants moneyed people's money, as evidenced by the bottle service menu. I didn't even think bottle service was still a thing for anyone but young, new-money bros trying to impress their prostitutes, but apparently bottle services lives on. At Quill, dropping between $300 (Hendrick's) and $425 (Hibiki 12) will get you your own "luxurious booth" and standard mixers like soda and OJ or Quill's house-made mixers like orange-ginger or cranberry-mandarin juice. 
Ponying up for bottle service also means you'll get service from one of Quill's modelesque servers dressed in skin-tight white dresses and stiletto heels. When you spot one of them walking past, you hardly notice — this is Dallas, after all — but when they congregate in a group at the server's station, it's hard not to take note. It's a very nightclubby choice for this spot, as these ladies' uniforms leave so little to the imagination that you can easily tell what's going on under those dresses. It's another touch that reinforces Quill's target demographic: rich dudes who prefer their servers to be Instagram models on the side. For people like me, however, it feels weird to watch a server teeter precariously across the room in an outfit that barely allows enough movement for, you know, serving things. But if you've ever wanted to order squid ink cones from a woman whose underpants you can clearly see through her dress, this is the place for you.
Between the subtly thumping electronic music and the stilettoed servers, Quill surely evolves into a more club/lounge atmosphere as the night wears on. My first visit happened around 5:30 p.m., when sunlight still seeped into the cavernous space. I did feel enticed to return at a later hour to see how vibes shift once the DJ gets into that stack of vinyl lying in wait behind the DJ booth.

If you're more interested in comestibles than clubbing, the menu features a small selection of Tesar's "global tapas," including kimchi fried rice, mini Cubans and naan flatbread adorned with whatever the chef is into that day. For fans of Knife's Ozersky burger, you'll find it on this menu in slider form. If you've been following Quill's launch on social media, you've no doubt seen the OMG SQUID INK CONES!!?!! posts touting the menu's most Instagram-worthy dish. Crunchy pitch-black squid ink cones ($4 each) come filled with big eye tuna and topped with caviar. It truly is a fresh, light, delightful little bar snack. If you're not casually shelling out $350 for a bottle of Patron with fixins, the specialty cocktail menu has options ranging from the $12 Dark Moon (Averna Amaro, Fernet Branca, lemon juice, simple syrup) to the $18 Seven Presidents, made with WhistlePig 10-year rye, vanilla liqueur, white grapefruit juice, fresh carrot juice and honey. Since there's no way in hell I'd ever order a cocktail called "Forbidden Kiss," I opted for the Snow Healer, a $13 cocktail made with matcha-infused Kappa Pisco, Patron's mango liqueur, lemon juice, honey and egg foam. The bright green-tea and citrus-flavored drink was sweetly garnished with little pink hearts and a small pile of lavender in the middle of the foam. It all held together nicely until my last few sips, when lavender got into my mouth and made me feel as if I'd just eaten a huge bite of potpourri. I'd order this drink again but ensure that lavender stays where it belongs: in the glass.
Quill is beautiful, to be sure, but when it all comes together, it creates an experience that is obviously not targeted at me — or anyone even remotely like me. The bottle service, the waitress uniforms, the frequent reminders that the entire space can be rented out — it all screams loudly that this place is hoping to attract wealthy men ready to drop plenty of cash. And there's nothing at all wrong with that. After all, rich dudes gotta sip $160 glasses of Champagne somewhere.

Quill, 1628 Oak Lawn Ave.,