The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Farm to Fire

Photo by Elyse Marriott

Asador (Photo by Elyse Marriott)

For two years, I’ve sat here-twenty-four hours, seven days a week. 

I stare at the bar, which resembles an old, rustic library: in the place of books, over 100 bottles of tequila sit on glass shelves illuminated by LED lights in bookcase-like columns that stretch from the countertop to the ceiling.  There’s even a wooden ladder that slides across the bar, allowing the bartender to access the top shelf of each bookcase-bottle cabinet.

A Unique Look

To my left, a mix of stonewall and stainless steel surrounds an open kitchen.  I watch an assembly line of cooks pass each plate to the next station until the dish is complete and ready to be served.  The remainder of the restaurant has a Western, yet contemporary, vibe with hardwood floors, dim lighting, local photography, and chairs made with weathered leather and cowhide.

One restaurant guest, Margaret Byers, says that “the restaurant has a welcoming and inviting ambiance: it has a hip side but also a reserved feeling that is perfect for a dinner experience.”  She explains that the atmosphere of the restaurant is what brings her here to dine at the Renaissance Hotel.

And while the atmosphere of the Asador restaurant has stayed consistent throughout these past two years, no two days have been the same. 

A Place for Everyone

Every day, I see different people.  I watch customers come and go-ones I’ll never know and others who come to visit me 250 days a year.  Some are locals, older men who do business at the nearby Dallas Market Center, while other visitors are guests of the hotel, young professionals in their 20s and 30s here on business.  And with each person, a new conversation is heard-something new to be learned.  I listen to the consistent buzz of restaurant guests conversing with each other as well as the restaurant staff.

“That was the best meal I’ve ever had, thank you,” I overhear one guest say to the executive chef Brad Phillips, who stands behind the open kitchen.  Chef Brad smiles with gratitude and pride.  After the guest has walked away, he explains how “the open kitchen concept is incredible.  When people are leaving the restaurant, they will come up to me, thank me, and literally just talk to me while I’m cleaning up their meal.  It’s very personable for guests, which is really cool.”

And with each visitor, there’s a new dining experience.  The restaurant focuses on fresh, local, seasonal items-produce and meats from neighboring farms are delivered daily-therefore, the menu changes on a day-to-day basis.  So each nigh the restaurant manager, John McAuliffe, and Chef Brad brief the kitchen staff on new menu items.  I listen and watch as Chef Brad explains tonight’s soup, which was voted one of the top five best items at the Savor Dallas food festival.  “We’ve got parsnip and cumin in this soup,” says Chef Brad.  “It’s not cumin powder; it’s cumin seed, totally different.  Seriously, it’s like the difference between ground cinnamon and cinnamon you would shave yourself.”

Smells of the Southwest

Every night, I experience new smells that are seldom alike: cumin, parsnip, lemongrass, and toasted hazel nuts are a few of the smells and flavors that surround me this evening.  One smell, however, has been consistent throughout the years: mesquite smoke.  Almost 250 pounds of mesquite wood is burned every day since all of the restaurant’s meats are smoked on the property.  “It’s different for a hotel atmosphere,” Chef Brad says.  “I don’t know how many hotel restaurants have a smoker in their parking lot out back.”  I’ve always thought that was neat, and the mesquite aroma that fills the room-burnt wood with roasted tones, sweet barbeque, musty jerky, and the smells of the southwest-resonates with the scent of Old Spice on a grandfather’s flannel.

And similar to the way a flavor or smell can change your mood, each person who visits me at the bar makes leaves me with a different feeling: Whether it’s the texture of their clothes or the pressure of one leg crossed over another, a unique imprint is left on my leather. 

As a barstool in the Asador, I’ve seen, heard, tasted, smelled and felt every aspect of the restaurant.  And each one of my senses helps me recall all the distinct stories and experiences I’ve witnessed or been apart of-like the rare nights when the man on my lap orders the $150 shot of tequila from the bar.  I never understood why it’s so expensive, but according to McAuliffe, “The tequila has been aged for 10 years and is supposed to be the nicest tequila you can get.”  Only one whole bottle has been sold over the course of my two years at the bar. 

Consistent Inconsistencies

Overall, my time here has been pleasant.  My leather cushion has matured and been seasoned by guests-those who greet me with kindness and those who frequent the bar often, remember me and return to my spot at the bar.  And those who work at the Asador always have a smile on their face, whether it’s the result of their passion for culinary endeavors or because of the open kitchen-“In normal restaurants, things can get heated in the back or you could be running around, but with an open kitchen, you have to remain composed and under control,” McAuliffe says-I’m not always sure.

But as I said before, each day is different in the life of a barstool and in the restaurant industry.  “That’s the fun part,” McAuliffe says. “Every day is a whole new story.  There’s no way it could be like yesterday.”

More to Discover