While we quietly mourn the loss of Craft Dallas and Ghostbar, W Dallas Victory Hotel is offering a brand new aesthetic to their upscale décor. Patrons will now be able to look forward to the inviting and laid-back atmosphere of Cook Hall, a classic American gastropub vision from NYC-based company CCHG (Culinary Concepts Hospitality Group). Cook Hall’s replacing the often unaffordable Craft Dallas menu with moderate pricing, sharable plates, and a Cocktail Kit. It will open for dinner on Tuesday, October 30.
Jump for a visual preview of Cook Hall.
The design inside the new restaurant is reminiscent of a world traveler’s bachelor pad. Chocolate brown leather covers the booths and matches the wooden shelving and table tops. Classic literature, empty glass bottles, globes, and retro fans line the various shelves by the entrance. Mirrors and vintage paintings grace the walls, and bring bursts of color to the otherwise tri-tonal color scheme. Most of the decorations are from garage sales, throwaways, or what would otherwise be known as trash. But these centerpieces really help to bring the new vision of a casual, vintage, contemporary hangout like Cook Hall to life.
As an offset to the leather interior, the seating area upon entering also includes white furry ottomans and marble counter tops on the tables. The new glass windows are lined with a curtain of bronzed beading, but the main focal point of the entire place is still the bar. The bright hanging lights from the ceiling are put to better use in this new gastropub setting, where the new zinc counter top of the bar is illuminated in a warm and inviting way. Fresh seasonal fruit and herbs line the bar area, creating a lovely atmosphere among the many beer taps and traditional bar attractions.
An oversized chalkboard menu by the side of the bar displays the new “5 for 5” daily special from Chef Rick Graff which offers five different sharable plates on one side and featured drinks on the other for $5 each. Choose from menu items like Conway oysters from Prince Edward Island with a cucumber sauce, popcorn shrimp breaded in actual popcorn and topped with housemade ranch dressing and garnished with popcorn pieces, roasted radish crostini toast, or my personal favorite, the deviled eggs with Gulf blue crab meat. All items are farm-to-table fresh ingredients that complement the cocktails.
Despite the new dishes and design, the real attraction of Cook Hall is drink mixer extraordinaire Belinda Chang’s clever alternative to bottle service, the Cocktail Kit. Chang refers to herself as “in charge of all booze” and we can definitely see why. The Cook Hall Cocktail Kit has a variety of tinctures, bitters, syrups, fresh seasonal fruits and herbs, a choice spirit, recipe book, and an array of mixing tools to create your very own personalized drink.
“My dream is that everybody is a part of the bar,” Chang says.
In addition to a guaranteed entertaining conversation about who’s drink is superior, the barkeeps encourage you to write down your concoctions in the recipe book so that future patrons can sample your genius inventions. My only concern is in dealing with the tinctures, where adding too much (which isn’t a lot really) can completely overpower your drink. Maybe Chang can find a way to incorporate eyedroppers somehow.
Otherwise, the new décor, menu, and ambiance of Cook Hall already breathes new life into the W. It’s a great alternative to fine dining with reasonable prices and a laid-back atmosphere.
D Magazine intern Iris Zubair graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in December 2011 with a BA in Magazine Journalism. She has written for Austin Monthly Magazine and UT’s student newspaper, The Daily Texan.