Hats off to new Uptown Dallas bar Next Door for having one of the sauciest motifs in town: a wall of door knockers, ripe for puns and knock-knock jokes galore.
But there's more to Next Door than a multitude of knockers (850, if you're counting). This McKinney Avenue spot is a fun, classy-but-casual bar that offers food and a spot for late-night dancing, if you're so inclined.
Owner Sam Sameni and his partners also own Avenu Lounge in Dallas as well as Landmark Bar & Kitchen in Fort Worth. Their concept for Next Door — a neighborhood bar — emerged as a result of the space itself.
"It's not a big space, so we decided to create a casual, fun bar with good food and late-night hours," he says. "As the night progresses, we turn it up a little. We go from having a margarita on the patio at 7 pm to dancing at 12:30 am on a Saturday night."
They gave the building, formerly Three Sheets and before that Pozo Mercado, a thoughtful renovation. "It seems like many bars just add a new coat of paint, but we invested a lot of time, money, and consideration into this," Sameni says.
That included tin ceilings sourced from a company in Milwaukee, and new windows that open onto the patio. "Outdoors has become so important these days," he says.
On the second floor, an entire wall is filled with vintage speakers.
"We have more than 80 speakers of various sizes and shapes," Sameni says. "It's a visual cue that it's okay to dance upstairs and get rowdy, but we also like making things feel more personal, and creating a connection with the space. Vintage speakers are nostalgic to a time when things were simpler. As a high school student, the biggest part of my day was turning on my music."
When they went to acquire the speakers, they discovered that you can't just go to a store and buy 80 of them.
"We had our team go to vintage stores and audio-visual stores and snatch up whatever they could find. We traveled from Dallas to Fort Worth to Waco to Austin," he says. "I think we have all the vintage speakers in the area here now."
The vintage music theme continues behind the bar downstairs, where more than 600 vinyl albums are stacked on shelves in-between the bottles.
The bar has about a dozen taps for craft beers and offers a number of cocktails, including a set of signature champagne drinks that combine bubbly with a spirit. Food is overseen by chef Paul Niekrasz, a Chicago native who worked for Restaurants America and was the opening chef for HG Sply Co.
"Almost the entire menu is made to share," Sameni says. "Almost everything can be eaten with two fingers. The idea is that you're eating with one hand and holding your cocktail with the other."
The food exists primarily to complement the cocktails, but with plenty of creativity and invention. Cobb salad bites are little cups made from bacon that contain bites of salad. French onion soup dumplings combine all the flavors of French onion soup — caramelized onions, melted Gruyere cheese — inside a dumpling that also scores points for presentation, served as it is on an escargot plate.
And then there's those 850 knockers. Double entendres aside, they have a sweeter theme that cuts to what Next Door is about.
"Our logo is a little door knocker, and we had this wall that just screamed for some kind of art installation," he says. "The whole thought process behind the bar was that we wanted to be 'next door,' like a neighbor's house, where you feel like you're at home."