Fedoras and $12 Drinks Don't Make the Bar

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It's a relatively quiet Wednesday night at Deep Ellum's newest watering hole, Swallow Lounge (double entendre or just a hastily chosen name? You be the judge). I take a seat at the empty bar lined with bright red vinyl stools. Above the bar, back-lit swallows -- those little birds that adorn collarbone tattoos on every wannabe rockabilly kid from here to Tokyo -- slowly change from red to blue and back again. Old blues plays weakly from somewhere out of sight.

According to the bartender, they're still in soft opening mode, so there's no real cocktail menu to speak of yet, other than a little table tent with a few house concoctions. He instead asks my preferences, and I relay the usual parameters: I like gin, nothing sweet, fruity is cool, herbal is great.

What I get is something they call the Jimi Hendrix: Jim Beam, Hendricks gin, Cointreau, and cucumber, shaken till icy cold and poured on top of a layer of Chambord in a martini glass, garnished with a slab of cuke. Twelve dollars.

Huh?

This is a giant shot at best, not a drink that should be sipped, as they apparently intend. It's nearly flavorless on intake, but once swallowed the Jim Beam bitch-slaps your palate, its alcoholic burn (but not its flavor) furthered by all the other liquors.

I came here because this place was being touted as a sexy new lounge with pinup girl cocktail waitresses (ooh!) serving up "libations and adult cocktails." I'd even heard they'd be making their own syrups and infusions.

So where are the fresh ingredients? I guess the nearly empty bottle of Midori behind the bar should've tipped me off, or the fact that every drink listed on the table tent contains Jägermeister, 151 or Fireball cinnamon whiskey, and that most of them are served lit on fire. That's all well and good, but put it in a damn shot glass and call it eight bucks at best.

I can't help but guess that the extra four bucks probably went to pay for the bartender's ultra-stylish fedora.

A similar ruse will play out, I suspect, at a "premier martini lounge" coming to Plano, as reported by CraveDFW yesterday. With a name like Blue Martini, they've got to be mixing up a drink that would make James Bond proud, right? According to their website, their signature 'tini combines vodka, orange juice, blue curacao, Cointreau, and sour mix. Over ice. With a glowstick. In a martini glass.

In what strange universe do these ingredients make a martini? What self-respecting bartender puts ice in a martini glass? The only drink for which a glowstick makes an appropriate garnish is one of those $14 neon blue frozen "margaritas" you get at a Mavericks game. I have no beef with those drinks. What frustrates me is when a bar tries to straddle both sides of the fence: They want the glory and the high price point that comes with craft cocktails, but they don't want to put in the effort and legwork to really qualify their drinks as craft.

Unless you live under a rock in the garden of a rehab facility, you're probably aware that the state of cocktails in Dallas has been undergoing a gradual but dynamic change over the past few years, with outstanding beverage programs at restaurants like Bolsa, Private Social and Marquee Grill, and new specialty cocktail bars such as The People's Last Stand, The Chesterfield and Tate's. The way we drink is being elevated in a number of ways, including that commercially made sour mix and saccharine-sweet flavored vodkas are largely being replaced by fresh-squeezed juices and house-made syrups, infusions and bitters. (Not to mention the improving state of the city's craft-beer scene.)

Where there used to be young ladies with copious amounts of cleavage pouring liquor into patrons' mouths, many bars are now occupied instead by highly educated bartenders (some of whom prefer the term "mixologist") all too happy to provide a history lesson along with your cocktail. I know, I know -- there are plenty of drinkers out there resisting the trend and its fedora-clad barmen, happy with their Bud, their scotch on the rocks, their G and T. Which is obviously fine. Who is anyone to foist a kumquat and elderflower concoction on those who just want to sit and sip without having a full history of obscure spirits forced on them?

To each his own, and luckily there are plenty of hideouts that will never embrace the mixology movement and will always offer up solid, straightforward drinks: Lakewood Landing, Windmill Lounge, Lee Harvey's and countless other beloved outposts of good old-fashioned drinking.

But places like Swallow Lounge and Blue Martini just trivialize everything that forward-thinking, inventive bartenders have worked to establish here. You've got to walk before you can run. New bars trying to burst onto the high-end cocktail scene would be advised to master the classics before attempting to reinvent the wheel. (Or light Midori on fire.)

I'm not saying there's no place for you here, Swallow Lounge -- just decide what you want to be and go with it. And if that's a place where sluttily dressed cocktail waitresses with retro hairstyles guzzle Fireball whiskey from an ice-cold tap, there's probably a market for that. Just don't expect anyone to take you seriously enough to order a Manhattan.

Whitney Filloon is a local pastry chef who regularly writes about drinking for City of Ate. Follow her and City of Ate on Twitter

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Swallow Lounge - CLOSED

2820 Elm St., Dallas, TX

Category: Music

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TheBiboSez
TheBiboSez

My Dearest Beloveds -

Because God loves you, and also loves Filloon and her Toy, we can once again bring the light of righteousness to shine upon their cant, in the hope, perhaps in vain, that a human female like Filloon can learn enough grace to apologize for her lies and failures.

It is a long shot, to be sure, but God's concern for us and indeed, simple fairness demands that we offer her forgiveness and salvation, even given her reprobate mind and writings.

Now, in addressing her sort-of rebuttals:

First off - that the Observer reprinted Filloon's tirade is not evidence of their support, but rather, is an artifact of dead tree printing deadlines. 

Secondly, my insight into this kerfluffle comes from the fact that I own a bar in Deep Ellum that COMPETES with the Swallow Lounge.  The unending negative media falsehoods about dangerous Deep Ellum (which is the safest neighborhood in Dallas, bar none, according to the DPD) have come to create a sense of family and community among the surviving Deep Ellum denizens that is unique to Dallas and indeed, almost anywhere.  This incredible story is one that the Dallas Observer will never grow balls enought to tell you about.

If there comes to exist a FAIR review of the Swallow establishment once it has had a FAIR chance to work out opening jitters, then I'll reassess, but the early mendacious attack on Swallow was so vile that even a competitor like me found the review to be wretched and unworthy of any serious publication.

And thus, Filloon's journalistic skills fail yet again: contrary to her silly speculations, I don't own Swallow.  I don't tend bar there.  Her lies grow like an evil cancer on her future.

Thirdly, Filloon acknowledges (rather grudgingly) that her boytoy's drinks were, in fact "comped", and yet she admits that she is so clueless that she puts scare quotes around Ethics (which had I questioned) and Integrity (which I did NOT question, to my shame).

Ethics 101: do NOT accept gifts or other inducement from those you are charged with investigating. To do so makes you look like a co-conspirator, a shill, a patsy, or a traitor.

Yes, it is perhaps in these fallen times a common practice to compromise one's moral and ethical authority to order to secure a free gift for one's boytoy, but a commonplace sin is still a sin and ruins one's future credibility.  Filloon's open cluelessness in this regard is damning, indeed.

Fourthly - in a revealing switcheroo worthy of Romney, Filloon admits that (1) her boytoy was with her, (2) he drank on her tab, (3) his drink was comped.  Sort of.  Because it was a weak cola, sez her, well after the fact.  All of which, she omitted from her original review.

If this was true, then, why oh why did she omit all this truth from the original review?  A weak cola, if TRUE, would seem to be a great and unforced "gotcha" point for a journalist to make in her original review of a well-established venue.  At best, if true, this was an oversight by Filloon that nevertheless, had she reported it, would have given a crisp insight into the bar.  However, the fact that it was suppressed until now indicates that darker, Midori-esk forces were at play here - a new and unprovable lie in a vain effort to deflect and cover up the larger failures and more glaring errors in her review.

It is worth noting that Filloon offers NO defense or rebutt to the charge that Journalistic ethics eschews early reviews of nascent establishments (like just-opened bars), and NO defense or rebutt to her failure in substantiate her lies and innuendo about the depleted bottle of Midori.  Accordingly, I claim outright wins on both of these points, which is more that enough to shred any claim she might make to have written the truth.

Finally, after Filloon's boy toy kicks the toddler in the face, he acts all aggrieved, and sez he won't returm to the scene of his crime.  God has blessed us greatly if his words are indeed true, for the rest of us can enjoy the smart, sexy charms of the Swallow without the whines of these limp liars.

And that is what the Bibo Sez.

Bless you!

the boy toy
the boy toy

You can quote the lord all you want.. it doesnt make swallow lounge or the thoughtless concoction that the bartender created any better.. there is also a saying an eye for an eye... if you attack me, i will retort, i will not hold my tounge because i had nothing to do with this article other than i was there. I will be returning to swallow tonight to throw four hundred pennies across their poorly manufactured bar top to pay for my disgusting coke and level the playing field. although many bars everywhere offer free water/non-alcoholic beverages to designated drivers as an incentive to bring one... i guess swallow supports drunk driving. I would have been happy to pay for the soda one, becuase im not a cheap bastard, and two, so there wouldnt be any question of journalistic ethics. I took one sip out of that coke and pushed it aside due to an unpleasant taste caused by unbalanced lines, but thats neither here nor there. If the coke was infact comped it wasnt because we asked for it or even because he knew who we were.. he was too busy on his phone and hitting on some girl to be bothered with making conversation with us.. he did not even return 6 feet down the bar to ask how the drink was... back to that soda... he didnt know who we were.. he just failed to ring it in... that is stealing no matter how you look at it.. he wasnt comping a drink because he was trying to get in good with a writer, he was just stealing from the bar.... so in summary swallow lounge promotes theft and drunk driving! if you concluded that she is unethical by her article, then think about the ethics involved in stealing from the owners of the establishment.

Noeljerry
Noeljerry

THIS IS AN EMBARRASSMENT TO JOURNALISM.  What a waste.  This whole article and your comments are pathetic.  Journalists have a responsibility to introduce new things in the community to the DFW public, not *hit all over new places like Swallow Lounge, or especially their fair honest feedback once provoked.  Childish, immature, and a slippery slope.  That is where this went.  Boy Toy just further ruins the authors credibility and reputation, which is now, nil.   I will be sharing this with my media partners.

Whitney Filloon
Whitney Filloon

Yawn.  I haven't bothered to make rebuttals to most of your outlandish claims, dearest Beebs, because I just don't care enough and feel no real need to defend myself.  The blog speaks for itself.  Curious readers are certainly encouraged to go investigate Swallow Lounge for themselves.

the boy toy!
the boy toy!

Anybody see page 42 of todays observer??? Featured cover article???? Writing must not have been so scatterbrained or weak after all!

TheBiboSez
TheBiboSez

My Dearest Beloveds - Whether it is for good or ill, it is always a pleasure to read a thoughtful and insightful review of a local bar or restaurant. The Dallas Observer has had some real gems lately - some of which my writer friends and I have made it a point to read aloud to each other as we laugh our asses off in wonderous appreciation. It is all the more unfortunate, then, that the writing in this review of the Swallow Lounge is not one of those gems. We are taught not to judge, but the Bibo Sez also that "There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known" (Luke 12:2). Not only does the author Filloon violate several principles of basic journalistic ethics (yes, there are such things as ethics, Ms. Filloon, even in journalism), but the weak writing and scatterbrained focus are, well, embarrassing. First off, just as one should try to avoid kicking a toddler in the face, it is standard practice for reviewers to wait several months while a new venue fixes problems and addresses issues before an actual review is attempted. Basic journalistic fairness, and a concern for one's community in economically tough times, DEMAND this - the owners of bars like the Swallow Lounge have invested their life savings in order to create jobs and built up recovering neighborhoods. That their courage in this good hard work is rewarded with her vile rag is excrable. Filloon's looney tunes screed even acknowledges that she knew that the venue was new, and yet, ethics be damned: she aimed her Birkenstocks at the beak of the Swallow and punted away, anyway. Secondly, just one should try to avoid stealing toys from tots, it is a journalistic standard to tell the fair and whole truth. Or at least, try to do so. The twelve dollar tab for a drink with multiple shots of premium booze (four shots, by her own listing) is not out of line at all - especially when one considers that her herb of a boyfriend's drink was also included in that total tab, a FACT that Filloon omits. Or, perhaps, Filloon believed her future ex-husband's drink could be omitted from the check and her column because it was comped: if it was, then receiving such a gift from a review subject is further evidence of Filloon's compromised ethics. Almost every bar patron of any experience knows to Ask the Price before ordering an elaborate concoction or even a Bud. Any experienced bar reviewer ought to know this. It is the worst form of gotcha journalism to ask for something stupid and then blame to subject for one's own stupidity. Perhaps the bartender should have risked insulting her and her boyfriend by warning them of the price; then, of course, she could have sputtered about that insult, too. Thirdly, just a child crawls before it can walk, so too a journalist ought to know something about the subject she is writing about: the Midori bottle was nearly empty, duh, because on St. Patrick's Day (the weekend before?), a lot of folks drink green stuff. Like Midori. Which is like, green. This was not some ominous clue about the bar's practices, but rather, a test of Filloon's competence about the ebbs and flows of the bar business. Which Filloon failed, again. An actual journalist would have asked something like "Wow - who's drinking all the Midori?" and then learned something about March 17. Reading her work and its complete disregard for human compassion and curiosity, I get the impression that if Filloon wrote a sequel to "Eat, Pray, Love", the title would be "Drink, Bray, Spit". As bad as I feel for the Swallow Lounge having to suffer from her prattle, we should also pray for two others: first, Filloon's boytoy, for the Bibo Sez it is "Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife." (Proverbs 21:9). And second, pray for the poor advert saleswoman from the Dallas Observer trying to support her family despite editoral rubbish like this. The owner of the Swallow, and indeed, any bar, ought to rethink plans to buy space in a publication so hostile to business and community. The fedora is not everyone's sartorial touch, but a bitter, doughy harridan whose heart is colder than Dick Cheney's should not touch, or BE touched, by anyone. And that is what the Bibo Sez. Bless you.

Whitney Filloon
Whitney Filloon

A most interesting response by Swallow Lounge's bartender or proprietor, most of which I won't touch, but I'll reply to a couple points of note:

1. Bars I drink at often "comp" my boyfriend's drinks because his preferred beverage is Coca-Cola on the rocks.  I ll to see how this brings my "ethics" or "integrity" into question.  (Also, he only took two sips of said drink because it tasted off, as if the syrup was running low and needed to be swapped out for a fresh one; but that's all irrelevant, as far as I can tell.)

2. In response to this "Almost every bar patron of any experience knows to Ask the Price before ordering an elaborate concoction or even a Bud. Any experienced bar reviewer ought to know this. It is the worst form of gotcha journalism to ask for something stupid and then blame to subject for one's own stupidity." I didn't specifically ask for this drink, it was made for me after relaying my preferences to the bartender.  If you've read my other columns, you'll know that I don't balk at twelve dollar drinks when they're made with fresh ingredients and hand-made syrups, and, you know, taste good.

It's always nice to see a new establishment accept criticism gracefully.  Cheers!  I just call 'em like I see 'em.

pissydan
pissydan

I know for a fact Bibo is not affiliated with Swallow in any form. Just to keep all facts straight. I know the owner from him tending at another place and I also know he feels his place is a work in progress, willing to take criticism when heeded. Please try him again in a while and run an updated article if you feel its improved.

"the boy toy"
"the boy toy"

I will continue to bash swallow lounge to anyone interested in attending... whats the fastest way to make or break a business... word of mouth...

"the boy toy"
"the boy toy"

We would never be back because of the personal nature of their insults and their inability to take criticism. If they think that the words of one blogger from the observer are going to make or break their business, then they are already showing an extreme lack of confidence in what they are doing. 

Swallowlounge
Swallowlounge

After reading the above reply to the comment that was posted by Bebo, I would like to clarify that Bebo is not someone that involved with the Swallow Lounge, however it is someone in our Deep Ellum family. So Mrs. Filloon, you might want to do a little research and get your facts straight before you take more shots at the Swallow. After reading your distasteful view of our establishment, I was truly disappointed not because you didn't enjoy one of our signature cocktails, but that you took a cheap shot at one of our family members of the Swallow. It seems like a true journalist would have the self control and obligation to be factual and fair, not mean spirited and brutal. I understand that you are stating your opinion in the review, however, you never looked for any of the good aspects of the bar. You never mentioned how attractive the bar is, especially being in the Deep Ellum neighborhood. You never mentioned how well laid out the back of the bar is with all of the new LED lighting or comfortable the new furniture is or even the fact that the entire space was hand built by the owners themselves. We are do our best to make Deep Ellum thrive again and we have tried to create a new standard for future bars in the neighborhood to follow. I am sorry that your opinion of our funny hats and cocktails isn't what we were hoping for, but I would like to thank you for a great marketing idea. From now on, every Friday will be known as Fedora Fridays, and will feature half priced Jimi Hendrix if you show up wearing a fedora! And we figured that In your honor we would also add a Cupcake shot to the list. So I would like to take this time once again to thank Bebo and ask you to come into the Swallow with an open mind and positive outlook before you write another review on us... Preferably after we have our grand opening and actually are running at full capacity. God Bless!

"the boy toy"
"the boy toy"

boo-hoo! you open a business, you're open for criticism. if bibo wasn't a member of your staff how do they have access to information that isn't posted such as me even being present or, my awful coca cola being "comped." I don't appreciate you dragging me into this because i have nothing to do with it. I don't care about paying top dollar for drinks that are worth it. present that list of ingredients in your "Jimmy Hendricks" and see how many people make a disgusted face... get over yourselves. If you can't take some negative publicity then you shouldn't be in the bar business. Taking cheap shots at someone who didn't write the article is childish. Only time will tell the of your story of failure...  So good luck newly opened lounge in Dallas, suck it, and SWALLOW, we will see where you are at in 6 months! I give you a year max! Keep Douches out of Deep Ellum! 

GusMitchem
GusMitchem

The market will decide when this fad is played out, well the market and the asshats that keep funding the establishment of these establishments after they loose their asses a few times over they can try "investing" in the next big thing 

Marvin
Marvin

many bars are now occupied instead by highly educated bartenders (some of whom prefer the term "mixologist") all too happy to provide a history lesson along with your cocktail.I don't need a history lesson from anybody who thinks the title of bartender is beneath them.

NewsDog
NewsDog

Go to Louie's and watch a real Bartender make a real martini. And if you're not at the bar, a real waitress will bring it to your table.  

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

I live in Deep Ellum and I think the hipster "mixologist " lounge concept is played out. Why spend $12 bucks for a well drink w/ attitude when I can go to spirits and spend real money on a quality bottle and use my own home-made mixers..

todd
todd

Welcome to Dallas, where style is always over substance. 

therrick
therrick

I think the glowstick also works in the ecstasy smoothie.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

Maybe it's just me, but the only time I want a bartender in a fedora serving me is if I hopped in the Delorean and was transported back to the 40's.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Give me Chili's on 75........that way I don't have to listen to stories about how frickin' great the bartender thinks he is, I don't have to consume a fruity drink delivered on fire with six multicolored straws made of meat bacon, and lastly (and most importantly), I don't have to sit next to some guy in a fedora with wandering stories about Deep Ellum. 

At Chili's I can just tell the guy I'm real busy, and I demand quiet, and then watch the tv.  And the selling point: at Chili's on 75, I CAN SEE DAYLIGHT.  I won't need antidepressants after a couple of drinks.  

Jon Daniel
Jon Daniel

which Chili's on 75. There are about six of them

Mervis
Mervis

Why do you want to know? You want to me the Kergs for a drink or something?

mark
mark

 Seven.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

You can make unique drinks, and you can even charge a pretty penny for them, just don't be pretentious asshats about it. 

And take a lesson from Marketing 101--if you want people to try something new and "special", make it a no-brainer price. Put your elderberry/ramp puree/rye with a twist of persimmon cocktail for $4 for a week--then add it to the menu later for more if it works. 

G_David
G_David

You mean, like, a person being used as a hat to adorn somebody's ass?  WTF does that mean?

Mervis
Mervis

Urban Dictionary: asshatwww.urbandictionary.com/...One who has their head up their ass. Thus wearing their ass as a hat. Asshat.

G_David
G_David

Being that I'm well past 3rd-grade, no.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Would you have preferred assclowns? Or dickwads? Or peckerheads?

Mervis
Mervis

Hmmmnnnn.... re-read my post and don't see any arguing. 

Why is it bad to use Urban Dictionary to get the definition to an OBVIOUSLY slang word.

G_David
G_David

Should have known never to argue with somebody that uses urban dictionary as a reference. 

Deep_Sigh
Deep_Sigh

Off topic but related to a good drink.  Does Dallas have a Russian vodka bar?  I recently visited NYC, first trip in long while, and spent a great evening at the Russian Samovar.  They handcraft their infused Vodkas, savory and sweet and have them lined up at the bar like margarita machines.  It was pretty fun, I did look for the russian mob....too many Liam Neeson movies I guess.

Nic Rodriguez
Nic Rodriguez

That bar top looks like it would be a Miller Lite killer...I'd have to slap a koozie on my beer.

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