Movie theaters are not typically the most social environments, but with the opening of a new restaurant and patio bar, you may be planning your next happy hour at Alamo Drafthouse in Dallas.
Vetted Well, which resides on the theater's second floor, opens March 9 and offers patrons the opportunity to dine, drink, catch a concert and even rent a room for private karaoke without buying a movie ticket.
"We wanted to create a venue that specializes in having fun," says co-owner Bill DiGaetano.
Most Alamo Drafthouse theaters have a restaurant component, the company's signature Glass Half Full taproom. But DiGaetano, who's also a partner in the Richardson site and soon-to-come location in Irving, diverged from the model in hopes of shattering the notion attendees have to see a movie to enjoy the space.
By all accounts Vetted Well accomplishes this. With roughly 5,000 square feet split between a dining room, bar and two massive outdoor patios with killer skyline views, the venue feels miles away from the cavernous, popcorn-scented theaters below it. Judging strictly by the chic interior, decked in warm wood and worn metal fixtures, Vetted Well seems plucked from a trendy district like Deep Ellum rather than supplemental to a movie theater.
"It's a brand new building in the Cedars, but we wanted it to feel like it fit in," says DiGaetano, pointing to the exposed brick that was salvaged from long-gone structures in the neighborhood. "We just wanted to play off the dichotomy of elegance and rustic."
Is it 5 o'clock yet? Here's what you can expect from a visit.
Most moviegoers know to come hungry for a showing at Alamo Drafthouse, but the Vetted Well may soon be known as a dining destination on its own. The menu, though a slim 14 items, boasts creative, from-scratch plates that range from desserts and apps to steaks and brunch-inspired dishes.
Concept chef Dustin Patek told GuideLive during a recent tasting he adds a personal touch by taking well-known meals and combining them with unlikely flavors. His version of chicken and waffles, for example, pairs a brined pork chop with a bacon-cheddar waffle and maple gravy ($13). The standard turkey sandwich gets a unique spin with peach preserves, brie cheese and tarragon aioli ($13). (See full menu below.)
"Skeptics welcome," Patek says.
Vetted Well is currently only serving lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the weekdays, since one kitchen feeds both the restaurant and the theaters. But DiGaetano expects to roll out brunch by summer and dinner by fall. Patrons who show up after lunch hours can still order food from the theater menu.
In addition to nearly 50 craft beers on tap and in cans, Vetted Well's specialty is cocktails. (Could you tell by the name?)
It's 13 mixed libations range from the standard Moscow Mule (with copper mug, $8) and Mai Tai ($10) to house originals like the Southside Royale, a mixture of gin, cucumber syrup, mint, lime and champagne ($9).
The real eye-catchers -- at least for whiskey drinkers -- are the boilermakers, each named for a different Dallas landmark. Keep it trashy with the Grassy Knoll, a shot of corn whiskey paired with a 7-ounce Miller High Life ($6), or get classy with the Red Pegasus, a shot of Redbreast 12-year served with a 7-ounce Tempress milk stout from Lakewood Brewing Co. ($14). The idea is to sip one, then the other, but DiGaetano has seen drinkers indulge a variety of ways. (See full menu below.)
Bar hours are Sunday to Thursday 11 a.m. to "close," a time which varies based on the theater's schedule and traffic; and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
DiGaetano doesn't plan to compete with venues like neighboring Southside Ballroom, but he does have a temporary stage that he anticipates setting up for bands occasionally. The stage will be put together either in the dining room or on the back patio against a 30-foot projection screen.
Perhaps you want to front your own band -- no sweat. Vetted Well has four private karaoke rooms that seat six to 20 people, depending on the size. Consider this the adult playground. Each room is themed with either pinball, Lego, fun house or Space Invaders decor. The latter, the biggest room, even has video gaming systems as new as the PlayStation 3 and as vintage as the Nintendo 64 for patrons to play.
Rooms are available for an hourly fee ($20 per hour for the small, $40 per hour for the large), and offer song-side drink service.