I’ll admit I hadn’t been to a place like The Wild Turkey in a long time. It definitely isn’t a snazzy Uptown lounge or a pricy Greenville joint or a restaurant in Oak Cliff where elderflower cocktails go for $12 a pop. My friend and I walked past the pool tables and settled in near the end of the very long wooden bar, near a gruff-looking guy who was vaping. The bartender was preoccupied, laughing with a patron a few feet away.
“It smells somehow familiar in here,” my friend said. I drew a deep breath. All I could smell was booze and fajitas.
As we waited, I pawed through the menu, an exhaustive selection of sandwiches, pastas, and tacos. The drink menu was a little booklet with full-color photos of well-known cocktails: margaritas, martinis, Bloody Marys. Something under the Tuesday specials piqued my curiosity.
“What’s a Sexy Alligator?” I asked the bartender, Linda, once she sauntered over.
“Midori, Razzmatazz liqueur, and Jäger, layered.” I blinked. Not ready for that. “Well, what do you usually drink?” Linda asked. She was cute and bespectacled, with a friendly smile. I told her about my special friendship with vodka.
“Okay, Deep Eddy and Coke,” she said.
Next thing I knew, that’s what I had in my hand. It was a very stiff pour. To hide the fact that my eyes were watering—just a little, okay?—I took a look around. ESPN lit up screens in every direction. There were football players’ cement hand imprints on the walls and, overhead, a canopy of Cowboys banners. The building itself is mostly wood and quite old. According to Linda, The Wild Turkey has been around more than 30 years.
“You pour a strong drink,” I said, dutifully draining my glass.
“We make them how they should be,” Linda said. “We’re not about fancy cocktails. You tell me what you like, and I’ll make it.” She said she has worked at The Wild Turkey for about three years.
I really liked Linda. I wasn’t the only one. Our chat was soon disrupted by a big, bearded guy.
“Hi, Rey,” Linda said.
“I needed to say goodbye to the prettiest girl,” he said.
“You’re drunk.” She circled around the bar to give him a hug.
“If you ever need anything—”
“I know,” she interrupted. “I’ll just give you a call.”
Seeing everyone so at home made me feel like a regular who’d been coming in for years. As I sat at the old wooden bar, I witnessed an interesting collection of patrons: families coming in for dinner; a beautiful lady who liked my friend’s hair; a young couple eagerly anticipating the next karaoke night. “Except sometimes we get too drunk,” the woman lamented.
As much as we all love fancy-schmancy cocktails and posh bars with upcycled furniture, The Wild Turkey is the kind of place where they pour drinks the way you’d pour them yourself. It’s t-shirts and flip-flops. It’s casual conversation and a bartender who laughs at your jokes but isn’t afraid to call you out.
There’s no place like home. But a bar that feels like home might be even better.