Has The Mason Bar Gotten Its Groove Back?

Since opening in February, the Mason Bar in Uptown's State & Allen neighborhood has had its share of ups and downs.

Started initially as a joint project between Brandt Wood and chef David Anthony Temple (whose underground dinners have made him something of a local celebrity), the bar opened to warm reviews. The food was, as to be expected, superb, and the cocktails, well, they were good, too. The decor, meanwhile, was sparse, with wood panels and separately spaced tables accented only by a row of stylized concert posters.

But then, something happened: Chef DAT unexpectedly left Mason Bar, stating that he wanted to focus his energies on other projects.

A visit to the bar shortly after his departure for a friend's birthday dinner yielded only disappointment. Dishes were forgotten by the waitstaff, and, when the meals finally did arrive, the food was so bland we almost wished they hadn't.

But the drinks? They were tasty, and, at $8 a pop, they were well-priced in the suddenly competitive local cocktail market.

The ambiance, however, was poor. A jam-packed dinner crowd shuffled out come 10 p.m., and the bar was left at 25 percent capacity for the rest of the night — on a Friday, no less.

After a few months had passed, during which Mason Bar had some time to iron out its kinks, we returned to give it another go. We'd heard some rave reviews from friends, and their feedback certainly wasn't wrong; former sous chef Cable Smith, now the executive chef, has found his stride and the “Gulf-influenced” menu is finally something to write home about.

That's not the only change Mason Bar has adopted, though.

Earlier this summer, a “speakeasy” opened in the Mason Bar's basement. Called Hi/Lo, it's not so much a secret spot as it is a handy smoking patio. But we give them credit for trying. In all seriousness, Hi/Lo is a stylish little joint with its low ceilings, cushy seating and intimate atmosphere.

It's a welcome counterpoint to the spacious upstairs. A single bar stands in the corner, serving more quality libations. The strong drinks, dim lighting and ambiance-appropriate soundtrack make this a perfect date spot — or maybe just a great meeting point for a girls night out.

Really, despite its guise of exclusivity, anyone could have a good time here. While hanging out, we were told that, just the night before, the space had been rented out for an SMU frat party.

So, seriously: Anyone.

While the Mason Bar maybe isn't that perfect watering hole you've been long searching for, it's nice to see that this neighborhood spot is finally getting into the swing of things.

We expect more goodness in the future.

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