Have you tried the “new” Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar? No, not THAT South Lamar, I mean South Lamar in Dallas! For this movie-lover transplanted a few years ago from Austin to Fort Worth, news that there was another Alamo Drafthouse coming to the DFW area was welcome news indeed. How would it compare to the venerable South Lamar location in Austin, a location I’ve visited dozens of times over the years? Though usually reluctant to drive to Dallas unless we have to, my husband and I looked forward to checking out the new venue.
We chose a Sunday morning movie for a field test, and the smooth sailing without a traffic jam in sight confirmed the wisdom of that decision. The location is right off I-30 and as we pulled into the theater, we immediately appreciated the ample parking lot with plenty of available parking spaces.
The location is in a former industrial area known as the Cedars just south of downtown Dallas, with a fabulous view of the city skyline from the back porch of the bar upstairs. The standalone bar and restaurant on the second floor of the building is called Vetted Well, and is one of the many reasons this location is taking the Alamo Drafthouse brand to the next level.
The expansive open-air lobby has the feel of an old-time grand movie house, and as we strolled to the theatre, we admired the unique fixtures and the vintage movie posters. The seating in the theater was a welcome surprise. Instead of the stadium seats in front of a long bar like I’ve been used to in Austin locations, we settled into comfortable recliners with individual tables. There was even a hook underneath to keep a purse out of the way and off the ground. We perused the menu as a series of animated shorts played on the screen. The custom pre-shows are a signature Alamo Drafthouse feature and always tie into the film you are about to see. The silly vintage cartoons we watched before “The Jungle Book” just added to the experience.
The menu features locally sourced ingredients with some offerings riffing off movie themes. I ordered a tasty frittata with asparagus, bacon and goat cheese, served with sourdough toast. My husband ordered the “Benedict Cumberhatch”, a tasty concoction of eggs over scratch-made biscuits smothered in hatch green chili pork stew and topped with cheddar. We enjoyed our brunch and sampled each other’s choices as the movie kept us riveted to the screen.
Afterward we went upstairs to check out Vetted Well. As we walked through the bar to the porch, we couldn’t help but notice the huge chalkboard with more than two dozen craft beers listed. An inventive cocktail list rounded out the offerings and a full menu is available, too. We enjoyed chatting with a few other patrons on the back patio and appreciated the comfortable ambiance enhanced by the old red bricks used in construction of the building.
“We want to fit into the community where we land,” said Bill DiGaetano, who is chief operating officer and owner of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema DFW. “We didn’t want it to feel as though this building was brand new, even though it is. We wanted it to have the same aesthetic as the incredible original buildings that were here. That’s why we salvaged the original brick from many of the condemned buildings in the Cedars and used it in our construction.”
Besides the downtown Dallas location, DiGaetano also built the Alamo Drafthouse in Richardson from the ground up and has his eye on other locations in the DFW area. The Dallas location is the first with a standalone restaurant and bar. DiGaetano made that decision as he observed the changes happening in the neighborhood. The area is beginning to take on a new character as apartment buildings and other new development is springing up.
“People living in and around a downtown or urban area are there for a reason,” said DiGaetano. “They want the amenities and nightlife and we wanted to tap into that and give residents a fully integrated entertainment site. You can see a movie, have a great meal or experience one of our frequent special events.”
In a return visit during the middle of a work week, the bar was filled with a happy hour crowd. As I sipped on an Apricot Rumba, I only had one question: When will there be a location in Fort Worth?
“Our Las Colinas location opens in early 2017, and we have plans for more theaters in DFW,” said DiGaetano in response to my question. “And we are looking VERY hard in Tarrant County right now.”
We may have to drive to Dallas for an Alamo Drafthouse fix for a while longer, but hopefully soon there will be a location a little closer to home!