Drinking Diaries

The Rustic may be Uptown's hottest new bar, but it feels like the same old song

The Rustic may be Uptown's hot new bar but it feels like same old song

The Rustic
The Rustic's stage makes it a must-visit if you're in Uptown. Photo courtesy of The Rustic
The Rustic
Is this a picture from the Rustic or Katy Trail Ice House? Does it even matter? The Rustic/Facebook
The Rustic
The Rustic

Earlier this week, Karl Lagerfield and his stable of rich and famous followers — including Anna Wintour, Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart — descended on Dallas just as the ice was starting to melt for Chanel’s Métiers d’Art, which is French for “you are not getting an invitation, so stop asking, you peasant.”

It was a cultural appropriation of Texas’ boldest flavors: Lone Star beer, Frito pies and mechanical bulls. Never mind that the hedonistic Trophy Room has a mechanical bull; this one was classy because well, if you don’t get it, you just don’t get it.

Anyway, you might have heard about it.

 Although The Rustic deserves its accolades — and your patronage, if you like Ice House or music — it ultimately feels a bit hollow, like a German fashion designer doing a line dance with the editor of Vogue.

There were guffaws as people more familiar with Le Bernardin than ropers began line dancing. Depending on your attitude, it was either a cheesy spectacle that made a mockery of a form of Friday night entertainment enjoyed throughout the state or a misguided attempt to regionalize a Parisian fashion house.

I mean, Dallas has Uber now; we’re practically metropolitan at this point.

Although I (and you, peasant) was unable to attend the show, I felt a tinge of similar hesitance the first time I walked into The Rustic. It started the moment I drove up and experienced the light-bulbed marquee letting me know that this was, indeed, The Rustic.

As if it could be confused for anything else. Well, except for Katy Trail Ice House.

The cavernous interior is a mash of Stampede 66 and Ice House, a wholly “Texan” enterprise complete with exposed ventilation and polished cement flooring. It’s at once impressive and lacking in originality. It doesn’t rival London’s now-defunct Texas Embassy Cantina in “yeehaw” kitsch, but it’s a fairly lame execution of Texan tropes to stack cattle skulls on a wall and call it a day. 

There’s the requisite wall of local and craft taps, resting in front of a massive American flag made of beer cans, with a horseshoe bar extending out into the middle. Casual tables dot the area before descending down into a proper dining area in front of the stage.

It must be said that The Rustic’s best selling point is that, by merely existing, it is Uptown’s best spot for live music. The dual-use stage can open up to the outside with the lift of a gate, or act as a deep, narrow space for indoor performances. With a bevy of free shows each week, The Rustic is a must-visit just for this.

But there’s an overwhelming sense that this is all a remix. It’s particularly striking from the patio which, when the stage is closed, is so similar to Katy Trail Ice House that it feels like you’re watching a sequel.

Long picnic tables over gravel are hardly unique to Ice House, of course, but the aluminum siding on the building and exact same glass goblets that Ice House uses don’t earn The Rustic any creativity points. But then, people seem to really enjoy Ice House, so it’s not the worst place to emulate.

And when the band is playing outside and the world isn’t covered in ice, the patio’s grassy knoll, which wraps around the back, offers a flavor of Gexa Energy Pavilion without all the high schoolers running around hopped up on Schnapp’s. The large, wooden chairs around fire pits also provide the chance for quieter moments among the din of Fireball shots and talks of whether this year’s ski trip should be in Steamboat or Beaver Creek.

The Rustic really is little more than a clone of Ice House, but— obviously there’s a but — it’s an impossible establishment to deny because of that stage. It elevates The Rustic, ostensibly wresting the Uptown beer garden title from Ice House by dint of one obvious improvement. After all, if you do what the best does and then top it off, shouldn’t that make you the best?

Unfortunately, bars aren’t as simple as basic arithmetic. Although The Rustic deserves its accolades — and your patronage, if you like Ice House or music — it ultimately feels a bit hollow, like a German fashion designer doing a line dance with the editor of Vogue.