There's a new bar in Dallas where you can actually have a conversation. Called Bernie's, it's a cocktail lounge on the ground floor of Preston Tower, a condominium building behind the "pink wall" at 6211 W. Northwest Hwy., across the street from Preston Center, where it's slinging classic cocktails in an intimate and oh-so well appointed setting.
The bar opened quietly in December, and is serving basic but well made cocktails plus a small menu of bites including flatbread pizzas and dips. Owners Stephen Becker and Leslie Merrill live in the neighborhood and wanted to have a local bar. "Bernie" is Stephen's dad, who passed away last year.
Behind the bar is a familiar face to any Dallas bar denizen: Louise Owens, former owner of The Windmill Lounge, and an early player in the local craft cocktail scene.
Owens sold the Windmill in 2017.
"After I sold the Windmill, I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I never thought I'd go back to being in a bar," she says. "But when I walked inside Bernie's, it felt like kismet. Leslie did a phenomenal job and turned this place into a jewel box. The wallpaper is from France, the floor tiles are from Italy — if I'd had a million dollars when I opened the Windmill, it would've looked a lot like Bernie's."
"It's such a pleasure to be in a place where the building is not falling apart and all the equipment works," Owens says. "All I have to worry about is making sure the customers are happy and the drinks are fabulous."
Preston Tower is a cool structure built in the mid-60s. The bottom two floors are all commercial, home mostly to insurance offices, hairdressers, and the like.
Bernie's space is small, holding maybe 60 to 70 people, and the menu is intentionally limited.
"There's plenty of places you can get elaborate cocktails, but that's not what this is about," Owens says. "This neighborhood is older and a little more conservative, so we're keeping it classic and cool."
That said, the cocktail list is not exactly shabby. Their signature drink, called "Leslie's lemonade," consists of lemon juice, St. Germain, and vodka. There's a "Hemingway" daiquiri with Bacardi rum, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, and grapefruit juice; and a "swanky" whiskey sour with lemon juice and egg white. They have a few beer options, some wines by the glass, and also wine on tap.
For food, they wanted to have a few bites, but the kitchen is small, and so is their menu, featuring a selection of pizzas, with the bread and pizza dough procured from La Francais, a well-respected bakery in Garland. Three dips include spinach-artichoke, pimento cheese, and hummus.
As a kind of coming out, Owens invited noted local bartender LeAnn Berry to come in for a guest pop-up which will take place on February 29, from 6-10 pm, when she'll do some original whiskey cocktails.
Owens says one of their big goals is to make the space feel welcoming and approachable. "We're the bar that doesn't have music blaring," she says. "It's quiet enough that you can actually hear people talk."