There's a new bar in Dallas' Bishop Arts District which embraces one of the hottest recent trends: the speakeasy. Called The Branca Room, it's a concept created by bartender James Slater, and is now open at 324 W. 7th St., within Chimichurri, the authentic Argentinian restaurant from chef Jesus Carmona that opened in late 2020.
A release describes the Branca Room as an intimate speakeasy that celebrates the convergence of Argentine and Italian cultures. It's meant to be an intimate gathering space incorporating Argentine cultural influences with new techniques.
Slater is joined by bartenders Giovanni Alafita and Lauren Wahlstrom, who contributed to a cocktail menu with nods to classic and contemporary drink culture, including spirits long favored in Argentina and Italy.
The menu features 12 signature cocktails including:
- Garduña (Match scotch, Fernet-Branca, strawberry-balsamic reduction, lemon)
- Father Ernettis (Bombay Sapphire gin, Amaro, blackberry shrub, lemon, Topo Chico)
- Order of the Foresters (Fernet-Branca, Green Chartreuse, Pisco Caravedo, pandan, lemon, and basil)
The Branca Room is also going above and beyond via endeavors such as making its own amaro and vermouth, a meticulous process that guarantees flavors that are unique and distinctive to the bar.
Beyond the menu innovation, the Branca Room will also host special events including a monthly Bourbon Night with rare, highly sought-after bottles for whiskey enthusiasts.
Speakeasy bars started surfacing as a trend around Dallas in mid-2021. "Speakeasy" could mean a hidden location, an exclusive vibe, or, as in this case, a "bar within a bar" with a different and/or special menu.
As for the name, it would be fun to think The Branca Room was named for Glenn Branca, a brilliant post-punk no-wave guitarist who died too young at age 69 in 2018, known for his use of volume, droning, and repetition who created guitar "symphonies" where dozens, even hundreds, of guitarists would play at the same time and create waves of noise. Probably not, though.
More likely the bar is named for Fernet-Branca, the most famous of the Italian bitters and one that's extremely popular in Argentina. Slater, who has worked at high-profile bars and restaurants such as IdleRye, Oak, Knife, Spoon, Five Sixty, the Joule, and the Network Bar in Trinity Groves, was nominated for Best Bartender in 2022 in CultureMap's Tastemaker Awards. He has a serious thing for Fernet and began creating his own version of Fernet-Branca, aged for 180 days, when Chimichurri opened.
"The-Branca Room concept began with ideas in 2021 with myself and my partner Jesus Carmona," Slater says in a comment. "Now we're finally open with the help of my all-star team Lauren and Geovanni. Thank you to the global brand, Fernet-Branca, and all those who saw this project written in the ink of tears."