Chandeliers glitter from the ceiling, as pretty people nibble elegant appetizers at tables draped in white cloth. Contemporary art brightens the walls of Bistro 31, and its outdoor courtyard makes for Paris-inspired dining.
But I’m here for the drinks. I sweep past the host and through the posh, crowded dining area, as cool as I can, sidling up to the small bar at the front of the restaurant. The bartender, Allison, is busy wrenching loose the cork from a bottle of Champagne. Once it pops, her face relaxes into a smile.
“I used to work at a Red Lobster,” she tells me. “This place is a bit different.”
She’s pretty, wearing all black except tall brown boots and a chunky turquoise necklace. She seamlessly mixes drinks and chats up the patrons. An old gentleman drinking alone smiles as she quizzes him on the origins of his wine (it was Argentinean).
“I love it here. I’ve learned a lot,” Allison says. “The customers really know what they want. Recently, someone requested an Old Fashioned with rye whiskey. He told me that was the original way to make it. I had no idea.”
I don’t know what I want, and I don’t have any obscure cocktail history to share, so I ask: what’s the best cocktail on the menu? Without hesitation, Allison suggests the popular Picantitos (a spicy vodka concoction) and then her personal favorite, the Tangier (a mango, lime, agave, and orange blend).
I order the Tangier first. After a refreshing sip, Allison offers to escort my companion and me upstairs—to the real bar. We cross the beautiful European-style courtyard and head up the stairs where we meet William, the bar manager, sporting glasses and a blue-gray suit. He never stops moving.
Bistro 31’s upstairs (known as 31) is a beautiful, breezy terrace lounge, a hidden oasis that overlooks Highland Park Village but manages to hover above the bustle. Behind me, two sharply dressed men talk closely over sushi. In the corner, a couple cuddles under the clear night sky. At the bar, a pair of beautiful young ladies sips Tangiers and banters with the burly, polite bartender.
“I have an ongoing list of the best cocktails in Dallas,” says the young woman seated closest to me. Her name is Katie, a bleach blonde clad in a curve-skimming dress and mile-high heels. Her friend, a brunette with a long ponytail, nods.
“I keep the list in my head,” Katie says, motioning to her Tangier. “This drink? No. 2.”
Before I could ask about No. 1, she spots someone and darts away. So I turn to William for a little small talk. He tells me that Bistro 31 is about 2 years old, though the upstairs has been open for about a year and a half. The clientele? “Chic people.”
He gives me a glimpse into the private party room, closed off during weekdays. It has a beautiful balcony overlooking the Parisian patio below. A moment later, Katie returns to her bar stool and announces a sudden change of heart: the Tangier has risen to No. 1 on her list. (I haven’t the heart to tell her that by now I am more in love with the spicy Picantitos.)
Pretty people, perfect drinks, a beautiful night. And to top it off, a song coming through the speakers that causes William to perk up (even more) and crank the sound system. It was Nightmares on Wax’s “You Wish”—a chill beat for a cool place.
Evidently, William thought so, too. “I love this,” he says, nodding his head in time with the beat and relishing the moment. “Very sexy.”