I can’t say I’ve ever been a big fan of cigars, but it’s not because there is something inherently bothersome about them to me. I’ve never minded the smell, and the care and consideration with which cigar aficionados smoke them is sort of admirable in the way I admire the patience and attention to detail serious hobbyists put into building model trains. I guess I don’t enjoy stogies because I can’t wrap my head around the concept of smoking sans inhalation.
A couple years ago, after cruising around town during an afternoon themed around “why the hell not?” I found myself hunched over the bar at Big Dave’s Cigar Emporium and Sports Lounge (6501 Camp Bowie Blvd., 817-731-6433), drinking a beer and wondering if, in fact, I was the kind of person who could ever enjoy cigars. I asked the bartender what could be gained from puffing one, and he said it was combination of sensory experiences — the taste, the smell, the environment — and the physical motion made by your mouth that creates an overall feeling of relaxation. I guess that made sense. Besides Big Dave’s, I’d also been to Pop’s Safari (2929 Morton St., 817-334-0559), and both places have plenty of comfortable seating to facilitate a lengthy, contemplative chillout session. But because it was an aimless afternoon, I didn’t want to stay for more than one drink, and I got the impression that smoking a cigar the way you’re supposed to was probably more like a three-beer session.
But even if cigars aren’t really my bag, I usually dig bars that make them their focal point. On a whim one recent afternoon, I dropped by Silverleaf Cigar Lounge (428 Commerce St., 817-887-9535), drawn by its selection of 30-plus whiskies and bourbons. As Pop’s décor reflects its name (think: Hemingway in Africa), Silverleaf is elegant and refined in design. In a way, you feel as if you’re walking into a thoroughly modern hotel bar. To the left of the glass antechamber, wood-and-marble cocktail tables and leather-upholstered stools lead the way to a gorgeous long bar; to the right, a cushy lounge area of high-backed leather chairs in front of exposed-stone walls — in 20 years, this kind of ambience is what “retro leisure” will look like, in the way that the Bradys’ house is quintessentially the early ’70s.
Being a downtown cigar lounge that also boasts a fairly lengthy wine list (with half-price glasses on Tuesdays, it turns out), as well as similarly exhaustive rosters of clear and brown liquors and four beers on tap, you’d expect to find clientele of a certain businesslike quality. Indeed, while I sat there, this real estate developer brokered some multi-million dollar deal over the phone, and farther down the bar, the conversations all had to do with property investments. I listened out of curiosity, trying to get a feel for what a life spent jockeying millions of dollars in suburban housing developments must be like. As near as I could tell, that kind of life is polite and friendly and as much centered on networking as it is making large amounts of money. He asked me what I did and if I had a card. I’m not sure that a pothead freelance writer who makes drinks for a living has much to offer in the way of investment opportunities, but I guess the guy figured he wouldn’t know unless he asked.
Regardless of my inability to get in on any “slam-dunk” deals, I never once felt out of place, though I did put on jeans and a collared shirt before I went — I’m probably wrong on this, but cutoffs and flip-flops just didn’t seem appropriate. As for my drink, the woman behind the bar made me a stellar variation on a Manhattan called a 6th Borough, mixed with Campari and served with a single, serious cube of ice. I let the ice melt a little, thereby mellowing the mélange of bourbon, vermouth, and lemon peel, and by the time I got to the bottom, I was feeling nicely tranquilized. I might not yet appreciate the stress-beating properties of a fine cigar, but I can very easily get behind a good drink. –– Steve Steward
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