Sitting in the shadow of the Pierce Elevated just west of downtown, The Refinery, at 702 Dallas, is one of the newest bars in town. With the bar still in the midst of construction, a carpenter was laying down the beginnings of a large patio out front while I polished off The Refinery's Texamex burger. After finishing up my burger and wings, I met bartender Chris Barrier on a rainy evening to talk shop.
The Refinery has an admirable lineup of local beers on tap, but I wanted to try something from the touted whiskey selection. The Maker's Mark Old Fashioned Chris whipped up served as an excellent example. My drink in hand, we got down to business.
The Refinery is brand-new. How long have you been here?
Since last week. Before that I was at McElroy's. I'm actually from Boston, so I was at 75 Chestnut in Beacon Hill. It's owned by the guy that owns Cheers, but it was like the real Cheers. You'd come in, I'd know you and I'd begin pouring it for you before you sat down. It was a lot of regulars like that. I knew just about everyone who came in. You go to Cheers, it's just a facade. You go inside, it's just all tourists.
And you ended up in Texas how, exactly?
Well, I was looking to move. I wanted a change of scenery; it's too cold up there with all the snow and ice. And the cost of living; I had three roommates and we shared one bathroom in a place right on the edge of the ghetto. I did okay bartending, but I wanted a house. I went to SXSW in March, and I fell in love with Austin. Then in June, I went to Bonnaroo, and I met a girl from Houston. So I said, "I gotta move to Texas." I bought a truck, filled it with all my stuff and moved down here. We bounced back and forth between here and Austin. Four years later, I'm still here, and we were married last October.
So the bar looks like it has a pretty strong selection of whiskey.
Yeah, we have around 37 right now. A bunch from Texas. I've been studying up on them. There are still a couple I don't know.
What's up with the Slurpee machine back there?
It's a frozen Jack and and Diet Coke machine. We started with Jack and Coke, but the mixture came out too sweet. We switched to Diet Coke, and it came out perfect.
You tended bar in Boston, so surely you have a good bottle-over-the-head bar-fight story, right?
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I do, but it actually happened in Houston. A gang fight broke out at the bar I was at. They were literally throwing bottles at each other. The bar staff was trying to break it up. Some girls wound up getting hit. It was crazy.
You can get a drink from Chris at the brand-new Refinery at 702 Dallas. Their parking lot is small, so look for their other free lot, located behind the old pontoon boat across the street on the south side of Dallas.