Chef Jonathan Melendez prepares appetizers at a prep island inside the bar at Paul Martin's American Grill on Friday, July 17, 2015 in Dallas.

Chef Jonathan Melendez prepares appetizers at a prep island inside the bar at Paul Martin's American Grill on Friday, July 17, 2015 in Dallas.

Ashley Landis/Staff Photographer

Maybe it's time to resuscitate the term fern bar.

Mr. Dallas, as a Razorback tyke in short pants and sailor cap, trekked to Memphis and found the Bombay Bicycle Club there terrifically cosmopolitan: brick walls, track lighting, frosty martinis and ... wait for it ... potato skins. This was when liquor by the drink was a relatively recent development in the Natural State, so expectations were soft.

Paul Martin's American Grill

Paul Martin's American Grill carries some fern bar DNA. It's a California import new to a patch of Oak Lawn Avenue where thirsty Park Cities power players and Uptown office grinds already have comfortable habitats in Eddie V's and Al Biernat's. But Paul Martin's appears to be a game contender, with from-scratch cooking, abetted by a nightly happy hour that stretches past the common cutoff of 6:30 or 7 to 8, with some bites and booze for $5 and commendable choices at $9.

Cocktails are more in the legacy dining mode, on the sweet side. But the happy hour martini makes as good a case for vodka as can be: Tito's, a touch of less dry dry vermouth and three fat olives speared. It was like time-traveling back to the Bombay Bicycle Club.

One design touch that isn't seen much around here is the food prep island inside the capacious rectangular bar - gets some of that chopping, dicing and plating done lickety-split.

Paul Martin's American Grill, 3848 Oak Lawn Ave. at Blackburn, Dallas. 214-521-0116. paulmartinsamericangrill.com.

What's Happening on GuideLive