Neighborhood Crawl: Deep Ellum

Dallas, Texas

Dive Bars With Roots

It’s easy to look at a quickly gentrifying part of a major city and long for grittier, more authentic days, but Deep Ellum, just east of downtown Dallas is anything but a recent phenomenon. With roots that stretch back to the 1800s, Deep Ellum has lived through cycle after cycle of rebirth, explosion and decline, bursting onto the scene in the 1920s as a hub for jazz musicians, a reputation that laid the foundation for the area’s current music credibility.

After another burst of popularity in the 1990s, a perceived increase in local crime tempered the flow of visitors before, you guessed it, the cycle started anew with another round of development and investment that has carried through to today. And make no mistake, there are a number of glossy, high price tag bars and music clubs in the area taking advantage of that popularity, but there are also some gems that have seen a cycle or two, and will likely live to see a few more.

The itinerary below suggests starting at Deep Ellum Brewing, partially because of the geographic advantage of grabbing a cab to the southern tip of the neighborhood and working your way north, and partially because the brewery’s decision to open this location in 2011 was one of the catalysts for renewed growth. From there, a handful of breweries and dives dot the area, with the unquestioned king Adair’s Saloon beckoning as the night capper (especially considering its diverse menu that ranges from amazing hamburgers to a single egg).

No matter the path, Deep Ellum is the kind of neighborhood that offers a little something for everyone, and for us, that means breweries, dive bars and a few cheap eats to keep the ship moving forward.

The Stops

1. Deep Ellum Brewing Company

2823 St Louis St, Dallas, TX 75226
Getting to the brewery will look like you’ve overshot the neighborhood by a couple of blocks, and that is probably true to an extent, but what better way to start a crawl than at the brewery that bears the name of the neighborhood itself. The interior offers some familiar modern brewery flair (concrete floors, metal accents, exposed brick), but the beer selection is of high quality, as are the murals that adorn the building.

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2. Reno's Chop Shop Saloon

210 N Crowdus St, Dallas, TX 75226
he unmistakable paint job will be hard to miss, as is the near-alley location that adds that extra dose of divey-ness that is always welcome. Inside, the concept of a dollar bill on the ceiling has been taken to a new level, with a cascading flow of dollar bills, bras and literally anything that can be stapled hanging above the bar area. The artwork is in a league of its own, supportive of the bar’s reputation as a biker hub if the name wasn’t enough of a tip off.

3. Wits End

2724 Elm St, Dallas, TX 75226
Wits End looks a little like a fortified complex that could potentially house a cult, a recluse or someone fabulously wealthy. The rooftop view of the neighborhood madness below should be the first stop if the weather cooperates, especially should a concert break out on the outdoor stage on that level. Inside, exposed brick gives way to an overload of visual stimuli, ranging from a barrage of stickers to a sawed-off delivery van that looks to be emerging from the walls of the bar itself.

4. Three Links

2704 Elm St, Dallas, TX 75226
The artwork above and around the beer taps is reason enough for a visit, with vibrant lettering proclaiming current availability. If you’re sensing a theme for the bars in this neighborhood, it holds true here as well. The bones are bare, the walls are exposed and there’s a stage up front. The space is definitely a bit too polished to be strictly classified a dive, but the wood fence-ringed back patio redeems enough of that vibe to be a worthwhile stop.

5. Braindead Brewing

2625 Main St, Dallas, TX 75226
When in doubt, head for the gigantic yellow metal head, words to live by. Braindead’s aesthetic looks a bit like Green Day started a brewery, especially if the band shared an affinity for the shipping palettes integrated throughout the space. While it can certainly get crowded, the large footprint is a benefit here as a bit of a refuge from some of the smaller bars in the area. Try anything with a hefty ABV on the rotating menu as the brewery has nailed a good balance of packing a punch without scorching the flavor.

6. Adair's Saloon

2624 Commerce St, Dallas, TX 75226
If you’re pressed for time, skip to the end of this itinerary and head to Adair’s, the living embodiment of everything that makes a dive bar great. Graffiti, questionable bathrooms, bare bones architecture and laminated food menu that features everything form hamburgers to individual hard-boiled eggs. The music is the draw here, with a stage up front hosting artists on a regular basis, but music or no music, Adair’s might just be the perfect Texas dive.

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Reviews Along This Route

Pete's Bar - Jacksonville Dive Bar - Neon Sign

Deep Ellum Brewing

Dallas, Texas
Neighborhood anchor.
Ginger's Place - Jacksonville Dive Bar - Outside

Adair's Saloon

Dallas, Texas
All graffiti, all the time.

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