A weekend escape to Dallas’ timeless Adolphus Hotel is a welcome revival of the lost art of service, wrapped in a blanket of history. And some good ‘ole Texas tall-tales too!
By Laurette M. Veres
This lone star landmark, built by beer baron, Adolphus Busch in 1912, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Although recently renovated, the “new” Adolphus still remains a grand example of the Beaux Arts architectural style, a predominate style in America from 1880-1920. Hallmarks of this ornamental design abound, from the grand staircase to the flat roof, arched windows, and limestone sculptures both inside and outside the building. Carefully curated artwork throughout the hotel melds old and new.
Stories of the past are also abundant around the Adolphus. My favorite is that of Renard, the sneaky fox known for his trickery. Legend tells during Prohibition, “those in the know” knew to look for an illuminated fox on the building. If Renard was lit up, come on in and get lit. The Adolphus’ own coffee shop, in anticipation of the repeal of prohibition, changed to a bar overnight, striving to be the first bar in Big D, post prohibition. Upon word the ban was not repealed, they flipped back to a coffee shop, serving piping hot Joe by morning.
For two days, I lost myself at the Adolphus, making new discoveries at every turn. I met my group in the drawing room, a seating area with original dark wood walls and a welcoming mixture of contemporary furnishings, comfy blue couches, and Italian fireplaces, flanking the two seating spaces.
Directly across from the drawing room, the Social Lobby and City Hall Bar invite guests and locals to use the communal table as a workspace. Although beer was the business here at the Adolphus, wine receives a nod from Bacchus via the antique Bacchus mirror – original to the property. Another original, the King of Beers Chandelier, still presides above the escalators, its soaring eagles surely whispering secrets of days gone by.
From the escalators, head down to reception and note the new mosaic tile that blends so perfectly with the décor it compels you to ask, “Is that original?”. It isn’t; the entire hotel was previously carpeted. Yet another ode to the past, weathered, brass room keys hang as a work of art on display behind the registration desk. This level, which used to open to the porte-cochere and carport, now houses Commerce Goods, Otto’s coffee shop and a barbershop.
Commerce Goods + Supply is a modern take on your local provisioning store. Texas artisans and independent designers’ pieces are highly curated by Christine Visneau, director of retail and sourcing for hospitality branding house, Makeready. Many items are exclusive to the store. One of the most treasured partnerships is with Stetson. The brand was known to design hats for Adolphus Busch himself and continues this tradition with exclusive designs for this store. “The Renard” is a hat style created just for the property and is made locally at their Garland factory. “The store is meant to be an introduction to the city,” says Christine.
Otto’s Coffee & Fine Foods is a casual Viennese coffee shop. Pop in for a quick salad, European-style baguette sandwich or a delicious apple strudel.
Chef Jeramie Robison heads up the culinary team at this property, bringing a bit of his Louisiana flair to each menu. With stints at the Mansion on Turtle Creek, Uchi, (“I thought I knew fish,” he says) and La Colombe d’or, Chef Jeramie gives Dallas a new reason to head downtown. City Hall Bistro is open all day, featuring a communal dining table and a Southern European vibe. For something unique, start with a brandy and rosé drink called “Renard Spiked the Punch.” Appetizers like Hot Crab and Pimento and Farro Risotto make sharing here fun.
The highlight of my stay was a visit to the The French Room, one of the most revered names in Texas fine dining. Before dinner, our bartender Angela lit up our group with their signature drink. Bringing a little France to Dallas, the “Why Not Sazerac” is an elaborate cocktail created tableside, complete with a small fire to add a smoky taste to the glass. “It’s basically our twist on the Old Fashioned but with Cognac and Absinthe,” she says. We find it complex, yet easy to drink. It’s certainly fun to watch as the smoke hits the glass. On your way to dinner, turn your gaze toward the grand staircase and imagine the esteemed diners of the past, in whose footsteps you follow. Pause a moment to take in the perfectly curated art collection showcasing Texas artists and Texas related pieces and don’t miss the grand piano, an 1893 Steinway, once owned by the Guggenheims.
The French Room’s seven-course tasting menu was the pinnacle in white-glove service. After a thoughtful and meticulous two-year restoration of the dining room, memorable frescos on the ceiling are now gone, returning to candle-white Venetian walls. Other design elements include the original marble floor, gilded Louis XVI style chairs, ornate sconces and two Italian Murano Glass chandeliers. In the kitchen, executive chef, Michael Ehlert, is a purist. Each dish is more beautiful and savory than the last. Stand outs include chilled crab and lobster, consommé chasseur, Hudson Valley foie gras, wild king salmon, veal with sautéed mushrooms, and the wagyu. Oh! The wagyu!
POOL WITH A VIEW
The summer of 2016 ushered in the first pool (ever) on property. This became the preferred meeting place for my group. Open 6:00 am to midnight, the six spacious cabanas allow for ample shade when necessary. We enjoyed the watermelon salad, flatbreads and guacamole. We also enjoyed the proximity to the spa.
Modern and inviting, the Spa Adolphus is a downtown oasis. Set to a tone of greys and beige, the indoor/outdoor relaxation area offers a stunning view of downtown. Our group enjoyed taking over the waiting area and devouring the chocolate snacks.
Special events have a special place here too. Love reigns supreme considering the number of weddings hosted here in the past century. The Grand Ballroom holds up to 400 guests and the Century Ballroom can hold 250. Gala anyone? Each ballroom has a separate entrance, secluding multiple events. Perfect for a “do- gooder” supporting two charities in the same evening! Hop on the original elevators to the 19th floor and the iconic Century Room. This elegant venue, with a view as big as Dallas, has been called “The French Room in the Sky,” and hosts a capacity of 136 guests.
Sure! There’s more fun to be had in Dallas, and just steps away from the hotel. The Neiman Marcus flagship store, and Dallas Arts District are nearby. We just never left.