Such a crime to be a little bit too classy.
In Dallas’ The Cedars neighborhood just south of Deep Ellum and the heart of the city’s downtown corridor, there is likely a debate to be had around just how divey Mike’s Gemini Twin really is, but a great place to grab a drink is a great place to grab a drink. Splitting hairs on just how dusty the surfaces are is a fruitless endeavor and the dive bar’s 2019 opening date certainly doesn’t bring with it the weight of Prohibition-era history, but at the end of the day, what looks like a simple storefront might actually be the Dallas cocktail promised land.
Driving up, you would be forgiven for underestimating Mike’s Gemini Twin, a tiny, windowless storefront with a simple green awning in a part of town not known for bountiful drinking options. As the owners would be the first to say, the term ‘dive bar’ is one that is earned and not decreed, meaning it might take a decade or two to evaluate just how divey Mike’s Gemini Twin really is, but consider this reviewer in for that ride given the potent drinking vibe already created here.
Signage plays no small part in determining dive bar credibility and beyond the simple green awnings over the front door, an impressive and small piece of neon hangs off the brick front. The name of the bar is depicted in twisted, red neon, but even better, a small white sign sits just below it, decreeing life’s necessities: “Cocktails. Dancing. Billiards. Hot Dogs. Espresso.” The presence of a hollowed out, graffiti-filled pay phone shell doesn’t hurt the look either.
The ’in-between’ nature of The Cedars neighborhood informed the vibe to be created by two Dallas restauranteurs who took on the project, hoping to parlay an in-between location into a dive bar open to all comers. And for a freshly christened might-be dive bar, Mike’s Gemini Twin is off to an impressive start, complete with a stripper pole reclaimed from previous ownership guarded by a velvet rope for no reason at all.
But all of that preamble buries the lede here. Walking into Mike’s Gemini Twin for the first time is an experience, the front door a portal from a sunny Dallas street into a warmly-lit cocktail paradise. The seating, the Christmas lights, the checkered tile flooring, every element here comes together in such a comforting way that its 2019 opening date is immediately forgotten in favor of that warm feeling that comes with visiting a place you’ve been countless times before. Is the interior space a little too nice to be labeled a dive bar? Maybe. But this is the vibe that comes with some of the best dive bars in the world, a sense of inclusion and comfort and memory whether this is a first visit or nightly stop.
Plush booth seating runs the full length of the space along one wall, large curved booths intended for groups large and small, creating a vibe for discussion amongst friends. Dimly-lit lamps jut out every so often from the wall here, just one aspect of an overall lighting scheme that runs low on lumens but high on ambiance. Christmas lights ring interspersed mirrors, just one of a few reflective surfaces that allow the dim light to bounce around the space.
To the left, a long bar that runs along the opposite wall, a simple presentation with the requisite liquor bottle shelving behind it. “Gemini Twin” is inscribed within the wood here, tall padded stools offering the seating. And while the bar itself is clearly newly constructed for the space, the deep color of the wood and the spot lighting of the liquor bottles makes for an attract backdrop to drinking, new or not. Chips can be found hung up here in classic dive bar fashion, just one of a couple of food options (for now), a complement to hot dogs that make up the Mike’s Gemini Twin food menu entirely. The drink selection includes the domestic classics that serve as the bare minimum for the words ‘dive’ and ‘bar’ to be uttered, but the bread and butter here is the slate of classic cocktails that this reviewer can attest to as extremely well done.
Throughout the space, the decades have not yet elapsed to allow for countless magazine clippings and faded photographs, but care has been taken to replicate a bit of that vibe with the artwork displayed. There are black & white photos here and there, a faded image of an athlete above one booth and a colorful depiction of a band along another. The off white color of the paint adds to the warm glow that seems to emanate from the photos, from the drop lights over the bar, from pretty much everything within Mike’s Gemini Twin.
Ideally, Mike’s Gemini Twin is allowed to let the decades wash over it, transforming the space from 2019 creation into something more timeless. And perhaps when that happens, any debate about the dive bar credentials of the space can be put to rest. But “official” dive bar or not, Mike’s Gemini Twin has created in its short lifespan a warm, welcoming, immersive experience that provides what every dive bar, cocktail joint and corner pub aspires to provide, a great place to grab a drink.