Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Venue review: Reno’s Chop Shop in Deep Ellum
Yes, it's a biker bar. But the atmosphere was pleasant and much softer than its prickly persona.
DEEP ELLUM The reputation of Reno’s Chop Shop Saloon precedes it. On the outside, Reno’s rings of cautionary “biker bar” tales, with its candy red neon sign glowing over rows of parked motorcycles and their leather-clad owners. I was told Reno’s was home to scary biker gangs as seen on primetime TV cop shows, regular bar brawls a la Roadhouse, and an altogether troubling sort of brew-ha-ha your parents warned you about. Reno’s, so I had heard, was the type of place where the term Stranger Danger originated, where the floors were sticky and the patrons even stickier.
So when I entered the bar, positioned off the main drag in Deep Ellum near a back alley and a few sparsely lit parking lots, I was apprehensive. But from the red glare of the tube lights lining a cage-like rectangular bar, a sprightly female bartender hustled whiskey shots and Shiners to and fro to a stately assortment of scene kids and metal heads in faded black tees – all who looked innocent enough.
This wasn’t exactly the gnarly opening scene I had anticipated (or secretly hoped for). The décor was this side of homey, complete with several cocktail tables adorned with comfy red bucket swivel chairs and windows treated with black curtains. Flatscreen TVs lined the back wall parallel to a, dare I say quaint, patio area on the side of the building. A hefty blend of ‘80s to late ‘90s metal and hard rock blared over the bar’s sound system. And songs like Deftones’ “My Own Summer” and White Zombie’s “More Human Than Human” seemed to live on unabashedly in this darkside oasis.
Could this be evidence of a kinder and gentler Reno’s wrongly shrouded in unproven rumors of motorhead debauchery? Well, kind of.
Upon arrival early in the night, The Roomsounds were finishing up their set in the back room, which accounted for the peasant-topped scenesters at the bar. And as the night progressed, a different (and equally unthreatening) sort of crowd emerged.
By the end of the night, the inside and front patio area was bustling with bearded, longhaired, leather-vested Harley wranglers and all the pierced, sleeve-tattooed, Slayer-teed cohorts in between. As much as one could say the bar’s patrons eventually fit a certain cliché associated with biker bars, the atmosphere was pleasant and much softer than its prickly persona might have conveyed.
But alas, the bar and its patrons were easy going, albeit a little shifty-eyed. And their drinks were super-ultra-mega cheap. We’re talking Red Bull vodkas for $5 and Shiners for $3. That kind of tab nowadays is tough to say no to. And there’s also a kitchen that serves up burgers and fries to soak up the late night booze. So while Reno’s isn’t exactly a bar you’d want to take your SMU frat buddies to, it definitely doesn’t live up to the harrowing rep. And that’s a good thing.