An easy place to lose about 10 hours patio day drinking.
The Grapevine Bar is really the everything bar, a gay bar, a straight bar, a neighborhood pub and a Dallas-famous dive bar wrapped into a single stucco building at the end of a largely residential block in Dallas’ Oak Lawn neighborhood. Opened in 1996, this isn’t a Prohibition-era dive, but it is an organically grown, true to the neighborhood evolution of a space that has slowly transformed since opening into the exemplary dive bar it is today.
And calling The Grapevine Bar the everything bar extends beyond just the dynamic nature of the space itself into the clientele, a broad mix inside and out, a reflection of the multicultural appeal of dive bars, especially in a city as diverse as Dallas. All comers are found and welcomed here, as the bar’s web site says, “from drag queens to prom queens.” On this reviewer’s first visit, that truth was well displayed, a weekend afternoon with every table packed across demographics and beyond.
Outside, the building resembles a Santa Fe-style squat structure, orange paint caked onto a stucco exterior ringed with ornate metal bars on windows more prevalent than the typical dive bar. The signature exterior feature is clearly the pink cursive neon sign emblazoned with “The Grapevine.” A matching mural makes no mistake as to the name of this particular neighborhood drinking spot, colored spot lights providing a little extra flair during the evening hours.
The vibe inside matches the attracted drinking horde, a mismatched space that has changed over the years, adding layer after layer of paint, decoration, furniture, fixture, an assembled appeal the result of a sale or two here and there as well, notably a pair of vomit-soaked chairs on Craigslist for the paltry sum of $1 apiece. The Grapevine Bar’s first bar area sits just inside a front door emblazoned with “Check Your Attitude At The Door” in Scrabble letters. This is just the first of a two spots to grab a drink, a small room that feels a little bit like an alcohol waiting room.
Ornate drapes set the tone both in this first room and throughout the interior space, deep purple, fringe of course, green paint to set them off and the overall feeling like this is a decorative pillow brought to life. Behind the bar, three frozen drink machines crank out a series of potent cocktails to be pursued with great respect. Color is splashed everywhere here, stained glass-style lamps giving way to reflective glass grapes blending into streamers throughout. Even the bathrooms look like Harry Potter portals, decorative mirrors on either side of complex wood carving on the dividing wall.
The drink selection is a bit of an ‘everything’ catch all as well, the churning drink machines up front brewing bellini-themed frozen concoctions based on Everclear, the kind of potent punch that makes moderation the right approach despite surroundings that make day drinking a wholly enjoyable pastime. Traveling further into the space, a second room includes a pool table (dive bar normal) with purple felt (ah, there’s The Grapevine Bar touch). The pool lamp here isn’t a classic beer sign vintage piece but rather a stained glass lamp suspended from the ceiling.
With the blessing of friendly weather, the main event at The Grapevine Bar is the porch in back, part of it covered before extending into another set of spaces with additional seating and even a half basketball court. A larger bar is available here to serve outdoor drinkers, fabric over a pergola-style structure to provide some shade. Plastic chairs and short tables provide the seating here, a collection that matches and yet feels just as haphazard as some of the eclectic indoor elements. Where the overhead cover ends, another small section of seating takes over, stone picnic tables atop wood chips providing permanent overflow capacity. Everything is fenced in and intimate, making the existence of a basketball hoop both completely weird and entirely sensible, a secluded drinking haven with a quasi-competitive outlet.
The Grapevine Bar captures the authentic and organic growth that makes a neighborhood dive bar great. Deeply colored walls, ornate features, mismatched furniture and some seriously strong cocktails come together in a way that demonstrates layer by layer, bit by bit evolution of what might otherwise be a simple stucco building on a Dallas neighborhood corner.