When it comes to the classic Deep Ellum bars we’ve come to love, it’s important to know the rich history behind the East Dallas bar scene.
In every large city there is the legendary tale of that particular city having the best bar scene around. From college towns to popular tourist destinations, a good bar scene is a way to foster community spirit, increase tourism and boost the economy, all goals any city would be proud to attain.
In Los Angeles, the nightlife is home to cocktail bars and patrons alike who are fighting to see-and-be-seen in the west coast metropolis. Likewise, Las Vegas has a strip of bars and casinos whose lights illuminate the desert roads for miles. In Texas, Austin has its legendary 6th street, where every year, a huge Halloween celebration is held, leading to a shoulder to shoulder crowd in its packed out bars.
While these particular bar scenes may seem to be the epitome of what a bar scene should be, they are missing the three tenets that make what many believe to be a legendary bar scene: culture, a vibrant history, and a sense of community. The great news for Dallas is that the Deep Ellum Bars just east of downtown host everything you’re looking for in a bar scene.
Deep Ellum Bars At a Glance
On the surface, Deep Ellum may seem like any other place where bars can be found. From the highway, it seems like the everyday hipster neighborhood. Fortunately for Deep Ellum’s visitors, this is a misread and underestimation of Deep Ellum’s true identity and worth.
When touring the streets of the area there are plenty of restaurants to frequent, catering to a myriad of tastes. Plus, there are bars of every type and persuasion. If one so desires, one can even grab a tattoo from some of the best tattoo artists in America. Walking down the street, one can admire the work of local muralist Izk Davis and others whose graffiti style art work adorns the walls of many of Deep Ellum’s buildings. And, the sounds of live music rise hauntingly from many of the local Deep Ellum bars, tempting visitors to come in for a listen and a drink. The bar scene, at the very heart of Deep Ellum is one that will have you coming back for more after that first, culture-filled night on the town.
Once you have been drawn into the area’s bar scene in large part by the flood of neon and bustle of activity, you may find yourself eating one of the greatest fried chicken sandwiches at HIDE, or embracing the more rural side of Texas at the Double Wide, a trailer park themed. If you have more macabre tastes, you could find yourself sipping drinks in a dark corridor of The Church while mingling with Dallas’ Goth royalty. One thing you can count on when experiencing the Deep Ellum bar scene: variety is always on special.
The History Behind the Deep Ellum Bar Scene
The history of Deep Ellum goes all the way back to 1873, when it was a residential and commercial neighborhood and was originally dubbed Deep Elm. However, the Texas twang that Dallas is known for took hold and “Deep Elm” was pronounced “Deep Ellum” by the locals. And, the moniker we know the area by today quickly took hold.
Before looking into the real claims to fame of Deep Ellum, here are some cool historical facts about this part of town:
- It is one of Dallas’ first commercial districts to be populated by African-American and European immigrants.
- 1914 was a special year for Deep Ellum, as Henry Ford selected the area as a site for one of his first automobile plants. This plant was intact until 1930 and Ford continued to build cars in Dallas until closing its last plant in the city in 1998.
- In 1916, architect William Sydney Pittman, son-in-law of Booker T. Washington, designed and constructed the Grant Temple of the Knights of Pythias. This was home to some of the earliest offices of the city’s African American doctors, dentists and lawyers.
It is easy to see that Deep Ellum’s personality has been driven in large part by its diversity. With diversity came a cultural melding pot. These cultural influences led to the rise of a world class music scene that grabbed ahold of the community in the 1920’s and hasn’t let go since.
In the 1920s, before the boom of Deep Ellum bars, East Dallas hosted musical talent the likes of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Texas Bill Day, Alex Moore and Bessie Smith. This popular music and arts scene took shape during a boom time in our nation’s history, a time during which many of society’s social rules were challenged. This atmosphere was integral to molding the neighborhood into the booming center for the arts it is today.
Not all was roses for the area, however in 1969, the Central Expressway consumed 2400 blocks of Elm Street, which is at the heart of the neighborhood. Shortly thereafter, not many original businesses from the booming era remained.
As more Deep Ellum Bars started popping up, the 1980s brought a revival of sorts as the Toadies, The Butthole Surfers and scores of other bands began to reignite the music scene. From this new blood, classic venues like Trees opened their doors and nationally renowned acts began to perform in the area. All this attracted musical artists, fans, and artists of all persuasions to Dallas’ cultural epicenter.
This revival that had its genesis in the 1980s faltered a bit from time. But, several years ago Deep Ellum began experiencing another full blown boom. Deep Ellum bars, restaurants, retail stores and residential developments began springing up in all corners of the neighborhood. Deep Ellum continues to flourish and grow to this day, with HIDE being an integral part of this latest Deep Ellum revival.
First and foremost, HIDE has a deep appreciation for the rich history of Deep Ellum as well as a respect for the eclectic personalities of the Deep Ellum bars who are HIDE’s neighbors and friends. HIDE’s personality is to be as unique as Deep Ellum itself. This personality is exemplified by a willingness to take risks with our creative cocktails, and devotion to delivering a remarkable cocktail experience to each and every guest.
At HIDE, the cocktail experience stems in large part from our firm belief that a truly great bar needs to first toss out the rule book others have chosen to live by. With the rule book a distant memory, unconstrained innovation can occur. As HIDE’s Principal Bartender Scott Jenkins says when asked about the philosophy behind his team’s creative work at HIDE: “No Rules. Killer Cocktails.”
When you stick to the old-fashioned ways of creating cocktails, you’re no longer unique. And if you’re not unique, then you’re not a true Deep Ellum bar. We don’t believe in following the same bar formula that Dallas has gotten tired of. We toss the rule book to create killer cocktails.
To create killer cocktails, HIDE experiments with high-quality ingredients, flavors and techniques unlike those used in other Deep Ellum bars. We’re unlike any bar in the city of Dallas.
Exceptional spirits like Armagnac, Genever, Amoroso Sherry, Italian Italicus liqueur, French Suze liqueur, hand selected single barrel bourbon and more create the foundation for HIDE’s cocktails. These great spirits are merged with fresh ingredients like house made tinctures, syrups and bitters, clarified fruit juices and more.
Experienced, expert bartenders then deploy new and exciting techniques to shape these ingredients into the unexpected flavors and exceptional cocktails that have quickly become HIDE’s trademark. At HIDE’s Deep Ellum bar one can always count on experiencing a killer cocktail!
Not to be outdone by their bartending counterparts, HIDE’s culinary staff has crafted a food menu worthy to be paired with HIDE’s cocktails. HIDE’s made from scratch food, which draws its inspiration from many of the comfort foods we have all enjoyed over the years is an integral part of the HIDE experience for many of our Deep Ellum guests. To these guests we say both “Bon Appetite!” and “Cheers!”
At HIDE, our unbridled creativity and imagination results in cocktails that pay homage to the history and creative roots of Deep Ellum. Join us soon and experience one of the best Deep Ellum bars for yourself.
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