Friday, December 11, 2009
First-time author features Dallas’ best dives, clubs, and restaurants
He's not really a scenester, so you can toss your first impression of a smarmy 20-year-old schmoozing at too many bars.
DALLAS About eight months ago, West Plano resident Joseph Danny set out to drink his way through Dallas. After a few too many Crown and cokes and $15,000 later (spent on “research,” of course), Danny published his first book, Nightly Dallas. The 113-page book gives a quick synopsis to the bars, clubs, pubs, dives, restaurants, and hidden gems in the Dallas area.
It's a funny, irreverent rendition of his adventures and opinions from each place, littered with twentysomething references to girls, “scaraoke” (scary karaoke), and the best happy hours in town. He says that only a quarter of the material in Nightly Dallas was written under-the-influence, which seems impressive considering the assignment.
When the sun's up, Danny works for himself as a computer programmer and web designer. He says he was a homebody, not really into bars and a big fan of video games, until he decided to intentionally get out of the house a handful of nights a week – even on Mondays. He began posting his reviews on Yelp, but after they swiped his “elite status” because he is a business owner, he took his reviews elsewhere. (His web business had nothing to do with the bars and restaurants he was covering, but they said it was their policy.) That's when he started a blog called NightlyRampage.com. With a little help from his friends, Danny was encouraged in the summer of 2009 to turn his escapades into a book.
"Best of" list, according to Joseph Danny
Strongest drinks: Amsterdam Bar
Best patio: Bolsa
Best looking people: Victor Tango's
Best bartenders: Main Street Liquid Co.
Cheapest drinks: Barbara's Pavillion
Best selection: The Old Monk
Best bar: Lee Harvey's
There are a few rules to Nightly Dallas. One: “Dallas” does not strictly refer to establishments “below the border,” which he refers to as 635. “There are plenty of good places north of there,” he says. The book spans locales from Frisco to South Dallas. Two: Chain restaurants or bars will only be included if all of the locations reside within the DFW area. That means Sherlock's Pub, one of his favorite hangouts that's also in Colorado and Oklahoma, was scratched from the list. Three: No place with a cover charge will be included. See ya, Ghostbar. And four: Each place must be open for a year or more.
He'll admit that Nightly Dallas by no means covers every bar in the area. It's just Volume 1 of a series, and he'd like to have Volume 2 printed by December 2010. That means he's constantly visiting and re-visiting the 250-or-so establishments that he's considering for next time. “I have to see this through other people's eyes,” Danny said over lunch at Jack's Backyard. “The idea is to make it sort of a competition. I want bars to want to be in the book.”
So what does he have to say about each place? Here's a short list of some tippy quips – or quippy tips, if you will – from his book:
- Barbara's Pavillion: “Hidden in a corner of Oak Cliff not far from the Bishop Arts District, Barbara's Pavillion is quite possibly the most unpretentious bar in the entire galaxy. They're so unpretentious, they even spelled 'Pavilion' incorrectly and decided to just go with it.”
- The Amsterdam Bar: “Did a blind drug addict decorate this place? It's almost ugly, but you could care less because there's beer, liquor, and a small, busted up shelf completely stocked with board games.”
- Blue Mesa Grill: “Thanks to reliable sources like Saturday morning cartoons and our grandparents, we know that hell is occupied by fire, steel, pitchforks, and other things you find in classy kitchens. So, what about heaven? Well, heaven's on Earth, inside a place called Blue Mesa Grill.”
- Coal Vines: “The interior looks like a small, private room in Dracula's castle. … The setting is compact and the tables are close together. Chances are you'll end up chatting with the table beside you. And why not? You'll be doped up and high on pepperoni and having a blast anyway.”
- Whisky Bar: “You'll almost always bump into unsuspecting strangers, but you should know how I feel about public pelvis-to-pelvis contact in a small bar: it's awesome.”
- Matt's Rancho Martinez: “Honestly, if you live in Dallas and aren't into the patio scene, it's time to high-tail it back to Oregon.”
To keep his twentysomething, mostly-female readership content, the book has a few cheeky gestures to “old people.” But other than that, the book rarely tells you about a place Danny dislikes. He says this is intentional: It's meant to be a quirky, short travel guide to the bars in Dallas. If the second volume works like he hopes, Danny says he'd like to create a Nightly series. He's already snagged domain names for NightlyAustin, NightlySanFrancisco, NightlyHouston, NightlyBoston, NightlyMiami, and the list goes on.
The completion of his first book is also a personal triumph because English isn't his first language. Growing up in Monterrey, Mexico, and moving to Houston in elementary school, Danny says he struggled with English until high school.
Danny hasn't picked all the establishments that he'll feature in Volume 2, but he leaked us a couple: Jasper's, Stephan Pyles, and Five-Sixty. The first book doesn't contain very many high-end restaurants, so he wants to include a few more in the second. It's also missing a few of my personal favorite spots, so we'll see if they make the list next time.
In the upcoming weeks, Danny is hosting book signings to get the word out about Nightly Dallas. (He says: “This is my first ever party. Computer nerds don't throw parties! We play video games and eat chips.”) He's even carrying around pennies so that when people buy the book for $19.99, he can give them change. No one has taken his pennies so far.
“I just love Dallas,” he said. “I hope this book gets people exploring.”