Smoking in Dallas.
Motoring through the dusk-lit north Dallas streets, I almost overlooked Javier's amidst the nondescript office buildings flanking it. A heavily vegetated, understated exterior (somewhat uncommon for Texas, mind you) belied the visual attack that was unleashed as I walked through the door.
First, the wildlife. Bear, moose and other trophy game, albeit stuffed, adorn the walls throughout. Plants, too, continuing the heavy-fauna theme initiated outside. Yet despite these slightly over-the-top touches, Javier's manages to convey the continental grandeur of the finer restaurants in Mexico City, Cancun and Puerto Vallarta. Finely carved oak furniture reflects an attention to detail and sense of style that's carried through all 8,500 square feet, from the traditional Aztec and Incan art that adorns the walls to the warm amber light that reaches the ceilings.
After dinner (more on that later), I navigated a maze of dining rooms and bars en route to the Cigar Room, the entry foyer of which is marked by a cabinet humidor built into the wall. The door is flanked by a sizable Alaskan moose and a Kodiak bear, upright and intimidating.
Once inside, beneath the moose-antler chandelier, I examined the extensive drink menu. I could tackle a snifter of Louis XIII Cognac for $95 or a Courvoisier VSOP for $10, a Grand Marnier 150 for $40 or a plain old Grand Marnier for $6.75. There's a 25-year-old Macallan for $30 or, for those in a Texas state of mind, a $40 shot of Seccion Suprema. (That's Tequila. Very, very good Tequila. The kind of Tequila that inspires metaphors about honey and fire!)
Strewn with plush couches, the Cigar Room exudes an elegant mixture of southern courtesy, old-Mexico charm and hunting-lodge warmth. But bring your credit card if you didn't bring your own smokes, because you'll need Ross Perot's presidential campaign budget to sample the well-stocked humidor. Fuente Fuente OpusX cigars, supposedly unavailable west of the Mississippi, run from $45 for a PerfecXion No. 5 (petit corona) to $75 for a PerfecXion No. 2 (torpedo). Less rarefied cigars like the Ashton Cabinet No. 6 and the Avo XO Intermezzo sell for $20 and $25, respectively.
Understand one thing about Javier's: if you're looking for high energy, look elsewhere. When owner Javier Gutierrez (who, incidentally, is the one who shot all the animals on the walls) opened the Cigar Room two years ago, he found that it dramatically changed the establishment's overall atmosphere. Having operated his restaurant for 21 years in a tradition of quiet opulence, he disliked the rowdy traffic coming in the door, so he decided to close his doors a little earlier. Last call's now at 12:30 a.m. on weekends and 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.
"We're not concerned with a beer-drinking, bar-hopping SMU crowd," said Gutierrez, referring to students from nearby Southern Methodist University. "That kind of crowd is OK, but it's not for us. We're more concerned with the longevity, and the quality of the people we get in...not just the quantity."
He seems to have tailored the crowd just to his liking, at least on my visit. The patrons looked to be serious cigar smokers, not a bunch of yuppie-come-latelies who discovered cigars during an "Ally McBeal" episode.
Though the cigar room stands on its own as a destination, the restaurant's also worth a visit. The menu features robust Mexican fare like caldo xochitl (a spicy chicken consomme with serrano peppers, onions and cilantro), escalope cordon azul (veal stuffed with ham and cheese and a demi-glaze with lemon), codorniz a la talla (charbroiled quail marinated in chile ancho and garlic sauce) and cajeta crepes (crepes topped with caramel, almond and vanilla ice cream). This is not your average Corona-and-fajita joint.
After I was sated--after a spicy Mexican dinner and a decadent dessert, after an amazingly smooth yet potent Tequila, after a hearty cigar--I slipped out into the soggy air of the north Texas evening. Still savoring the varied pleasures of the past few hours, I tried not to laugh as the valet asked politely in a velvet Texas drawl, "I'm sorry, there's been a mix-up. Was yours the black Seville, the Mercedes 500 SL or the Acura NSX?"
The mix up was worse than he thought. Mine was the '72 Volkswagen bus. (Hey, I'm a young journalist. Give me a little time.)
The Cigar Room at Javier's
4912 Cole Avenue
Sunday through Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. - midnight
Thursday through Saturday, 5:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m.