Like a ransom note turned into a dive bar and brought to life.
The Deep Ellum neighborhood just east of downtown Dallas is an ever-evolving, packed with bars & restaurants part of town that represents the classic revitalized urban neighborhood. Deep Ellum’s transformation is so thorough that upscale clubs and breweries intermingle seamlessly with a handful of dive bar stalwarts. Wits End straddles that line, a two-story, rooftop bar complex that clearly shows some intention in the quirkiness that has been cultivated here but executes the theme exceedingly well, especially in light of some of the hipster-attracting locations nearby.
Wits End looks a bit like the neon graveyard in Las Vegas crossed with a flea market from the outside and within, the signature exterior feature an open mouth mural painted around one of the bar’s exterior windows. Signage over the front door has that mismatched, yard sale look to it, each letter looking a bit like a ransom note extraction. Taking a lap around the building yields some additional mural work that does seem to rotate over time.
The layout inside feels a bit like a patchwork of brick alleys stitched together, an explosion of graffiti and stickers. Because each room unfolds into the next through a brick-lined portal, the space feels a bit like a maze the first time through, the front room home to the main Wits End bar. A long set of taps is complemented by an equally formidable signature cocktail menu suspended above the bar. This is a tight space easy to envision getting slammed on a busy night, some low seating available here during lighter times making for great bar adjacent drinking.
This first room also includes the eye catching indoor feature as well, the sawed off half of a food truck jutting out of the wall opposite the bar. The vehicle’s history seems to be ice cream truck related, but over time the area has become home to a TV, some string lights and an all-purpose area that seems to rotate purpose as needed.
Through portal number one, let’s say the one just to the right of the half-truck, a surprisingly large room unfolds packed with games, like a Dave & Busters yard sale spilled out into a city alley. Pool tables, punching bag game, foosball, Golden Tee, pop-a-shot, the Wits End competitive options are plentiful back here, again a place that can get well jammed up on a weekend night but during an off period is probably the best dive bar gaming option in the area.
Portal number two, straight ahead from the main bar area’s front room, leads to the staircase up to the rooftop patio as well as the bathrooms. Notable here is the impressive proliferation of stickers (Scoundrel’s Field Guide included) that covers pretty much every non-brick surface to be found. Retired Texas license plates provide a little bit of local flair and the mural game pops back up in this small alcove as well, a broad collection covering the wall along the staircase. Keep an eye out (before it rotates to something new) for the mural depicting a mixture of elephants and PBR cans tumbling through the sky.
As a people watching location, Wits End is the Deep Ellum king to be sure, the rooftop bar looking out onto a prime pedestrian intersection in a part of town that can attract hordes of people on busy weekends. During high traffic times, the rooftop bar itself is well stocked, avoiding that pesky trip downstairs for most options, but be prepared to do some ferrying back and forth during lighter periods. Some shelter can be found up here, fortunate for the unforgiving Texas sun, dangling porch lights tying everything together. A handful of graffiti-laden planters provide a little life to the area and the raw square footage up here makes for an attractive drinking options during even heavily trafficked Wits End evenings.
Though there is some intention to the design here, a crafted environment purposefully designed, there’s a layer of authenticity here that pulls it all together. The exposed brick, graffiti and general unpretentious vibe serve as a stark and welcome contrast to some of the other nearby options, making Wits End one of the better Deep Ellum stops.