There’s an old joke that first arrived on the scene around the time of the Big Bang, where two people are in a crowded place trying to have a conversation.
"It's really loud in here!" the first person shouts over the din.
Dallas Beer Kitchen is only about half full, yet sounds are bouncing off every wall and the ceiling.
"What? I can't hear what you're saying – it's too loud!" says the other. Then the laugh track plays, and everyone watching at home wonders what their life has come to that they're watching a Two and A Half Men rerun.
I'm trying to tell this joke to my date as we sit at Dallas Beer Kitchen, because I try to open with my best material.
When I finish, she looks at me for a second, then yells, "I didn't hear a word you just said – it's so loud in here!"
Instead of trying to continue the conversation, I sip my beer and she drinks her cider. We watch highlights of the Rangers game on the TV. It's fine by me. I had already used up most of my banter skills trying to talk about the joke.
The weird part is that Dallas Beer Kitchen is only about half full, yet sounds are bouncing off every wall and the ceiling. It's like the most uncomfortable blanket you can imagine.
It's a symptom of a long, narrow space with exposed brick and ventilation. I can't be certain, but there must've been a law passed in the last year requiring any new bar or lounge to feature exposed ventilation and brick walls. If you don't feel like you're living in a loft in Brooklyn, how can you enjoy your drinks?
Dallas Beer Kitchen opened a little over a month ago as Lower Greenville's answer to Common Table and Goodfriend. It carries a heavy lineup of craft beers from across the country, on tap and in bottles.
Dallas Beer Kitchen lacks comfort. It feels like we're there to have a few beers and leave, instead of seeing where the night takes us.
I order a Firestone Walker Wookey Jack, which earns a commendation from our server. Thanks, man, you're going to get an extra nickel on your tip. My date selects a Pacific Pear cider, which makes sense because it's approximately 389 degrees outside, even at 10 pm.
We're here on National IPA Day because people need a day when they can explain to their friends why IPAs are the ultimate beer. It's okay; once you really start drinking craft beers, you'll get it.
Using SWAT team hand signals, we order pulled pork tacos and "DBK" fries. The fries have a crisp shell and meaty interior; they're seasoned with an addictive sweet-and-spicy flavoring. The tacos have pork, chunky guacamole and pickled onions on a soft corn tortilla. Their pleasant sweetness is offset by the sharpness of the onions, but the guac and pork run together to create a mushy texture.
What makes Common Table, Goodfriend and the Ginger Man such fantastic beer joints is how comfortable they feel – like a friend's house that just happens to have tons of taps featuring an excellent beer selection.
Dallas Beer Kitchen lacks that comfort. It feels like we're there to have a few beers and leave, instead of seeing where the night takes us. That could just be a symptom of being so new.
Dallas Beer Kitchen ruffled feathers before it opened by stating that Lower Greenville didn't have any great beer spots. Fans of the Libertine took offense, and it completely ignored what the Bottle Shop is doing. But DBK does deserve recognition for knowing its beer. The selection rivals any of the established joints in variety and quality.
It’s just that there's a sterility to the place, as if it were envisioned as a magazine spread first and reality second, though it's not as bad as Mockingbird Taproom was. Perhaps as it grows, Dallas Beer Kitchen will soften around the edges and that natural comfort will settle in.
It has the beer to make it happen — as long as everyone learns sign language before they go.