Today's the big day for KISS fans of North Texas: Nearly eight months after plans were first unveiled, Rock & Brews, the restaurant franchise owned by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, opens the doors on its newest location in The Colony. The newest addition to the quickly growing Grandscape development, Rock & Brews joins several restaurants, the sprawling Nebraska Furniture Mart and the future home of another musically ambitious spot, Lava Cantina.
“We've been looking for a long time to open in Dallas,” Stanley said on a conference phone call last July. He and Simmons will not be present for today's opening, but they will be in attendance for the restaurant's grand opening party on May 10, which will double as a benefit for local wounded soldiers. “I remember playing Tarrant County and the Reunion Arena. It's a great history not only with me and KISS but with every rock band. So here is our chance to pay homage.”
The Saturday preview offers a taste of ribs, burgers, pizzas and salads, with the menu also including fancier fare like pastas, steaks and seafood. But music fans will be most interested in the music-themed decor. Scott Paul, the manager overseeing The Colony location's opening, points to a handful of interesting items that will only be found in this Texas-centric locale.
“Name a band,” Paul says, scrolling through the gleaming new spot's expansive Orange Door automated music system. “With this system, we have over 2 million songs and videos to play. And the JBL sound system we have makes it so that every song can be heard perfectly no matter where you’re sitting. It’s pretty awesome.”
This is much more than a celebrity-themed chain spot to buy a souvenir key chain. Along the back wall of the covered patio’s bar, skate decks featuring hand-drawn and colored depictions of Willie Nelson, Jerry Garcia, Bob Marley, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bob Dylan are only upstaged by an uber-cool color picture of the Rolling Stones in their prime, from a 1975 photo-shoot in front of the Alamo, right as the group kicked off their “Tour of the Americas.” Other, more Dallas-intensive concert gear accents the walls inside, where a towering poster from the 1978 Texxas Jam takes up at least 6 feet of vertical space near the front door. Near the horseshoe bar there's a poster from the still-talked-about 1992 Texas Stadium concert featuring Metallica, Guns and Roses and Faith No More.
With the Booker T and the MG's classic “Green Onions” filling the spacious dining room — Green Day, Eric Church and the Foo Fighters had been on earlier — Paul beams, pointing upward to the massive, vibrant, hand-painted mural high above the 48 beer taps of the bar. “It’s different phases of David Bowie,” he says. “Along with many of the icons who were influenced by him.”
Nestled in with images of Ziggy Stardust- and Let’s Dance-era Bowie are renderings of KISS, Madonna and Iggy Pop, hardly faces that are common in family-friendly dining establishments. On the opposite end of the main room, the most local touch of Dallas musical heritage on display is the sprawling mural of Stevie Ray Vaughan, which features him slinging his axe in between the skylines of both Austin and Dallas with the sun setting behind them.
While local artists painted both murals, the funkiest piece of local art hangs almost inconspicuously near a live action shot of ZZ Top. Four different steer skulls are vividly adorned with crystal designs closely resembling the make-up style of each KISS member. As much as anything else on the premises, this cool oddity represents the blending of KISS style and familiar regional themes. That there seems to be as much, or possibly more, representation of the Doors, Led Zeppelin and Bowie than of KISS is refreshing, given how easy it would’ve been for fake blood, long tongues and the group’s trademark flare for pyrotechnics to take over and turn the pace into a circus funhouse.
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Tucked into a corner of the “party patio,” near some crescent couches and fire pits, is a stage where bands, primarily cover acts, will perform each Thursday, Friday and Saturday. A live video and audio feed of the band will stream out over many of the 75-inch televisions positioned throughout the restaurant. Paul says cover bands are more suited to Rock & Brews because the familiar vibe of the songs will be a big component of the party and good times.
Rock & Brews isn’t a club or a venue. The many cool, unique and substantial details that have gone into the designing and opening of Rock & Brews suggest this is a locally focused outpost of a worldwide musical brand. For Paul, careful consideration of much more than food and liquor licenses have gone into this new place. “For us to truly be different and provide this area with a great place, we’ve got to care about everything,” he says. “And we do.”