Best Of Dallas

Inside the Best New Bar in Dallas: Twilite Lounge

It's a cool, breezy September night as Danny Balis and Jess Barr watch the Saints/Dolphins game on the patio of their new Deep Ellum spot, Twilite Lounge. They drink beer, and snack on some leftover pizza as the boys in black and gold dominate in the Superdome. Balis is the bassist for both Calhoun and The King Bucks, as well as a producer for one of Texas radio's longest-running sports shows, KTCK-AM 1310 The Ticket's "The Hardline." Jess Barr is the guitarist for longtime local favorites Slobberbone. Four months ago, the close friends of 17 years opened the doors to their newest project, which has quickly become a favorite for East Dallas regulars -- Twilite Lounge just won our own Best New Bar award.

See also: Best New Bar: Twilite Lounge

"We were bored, I guess," Balis says of their decision to open up shop together. "We wanted to open up a dive bar, but I don't think that's how it turned out. It's nicer than we planned on."

It all started about three years ago, when the two began talking seriously about the concept for Twilite Lounge. Their aspirations were simple. They wanted a laid-back sanctuary from the often high-energy East Dallas nightlife. After the originally intended location at Ross and Haskell fell through, the two decided on Deep Ellum.

The two felt it was important to create a female-friendly atmosphere, including purse hooks under the bar and a ladies room stocked with toiletries and accoutrements. They wanted Twilite to be the kind of place you can feel confident bringing a date for a relaxing and unpretentious night of live music. So far, they have been successful.

"I've worked in bars my whole life, and this is by far the tamest bar I've ever seen," Barr says.

"In four months, we've only had two [patron] pukings, and we've only had to throw one person out," Balis adds. "A few people went really crazy one night and put a band sticker on our toilet."

As for the live music, which is curated by both Balis and Barr, they've already established themselves among Deep Ellum's crowded venue scene. Intimate patio performances have featured the likes of Centro-matic's Will Johnson, local jazz stalwart Shelley Carroll and Ryan Thomas Becker.

Last month's Elm Street Tattoo and Music Festival coincided with maybe Twilite's best show yet: A secret performance from The Old 97's Rhett Miller. Though they could reveal no performer details, Balis and Barr advised that they will be hosting another secret show later this month.

In a city where bars, venues, and restaurants pop up and close down seemingly overnight, Twilite Lounge's proprietors plan to stick it out for the long haul.

"We want this to be a Dallas entity to perpetuity, like Ships or the [Lakewood] Landing ... the economics of this place will allow us to withstand some slow times if need be, and luckily, Jess is really great at running a business," Balis says. "I love Dallas. I think it's one of the best places to live in the country. ... I want people in 30 years to be able to say that Twilite Lounge is a part of the fiber of this city."

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Vanessa Quilantan