The Dakota East Side Ice House
Kent Oliver, a former riverboat captain, ditches the fleet for brick-and-mortar bar.
$1 off everything Monday through Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m.
It’s hard to tell. From the folks who stopped during our visit, it seems the neighborhood is still warming up to the new digs, formerly a convenience store and originally a Chinese grocery. But there are a number of regulars who enjoy the casual vibe.
A single yellow rope and some signage cordons off the corner of Dakota and South Hackberry Street. It creates the mandatory “barrier” as required by TABC to delineate an area where alcohol is allowed.
Once you limbo your way below said rope, the Dakota East Side Ice House is still a bit of a mystery. This windowless building is the latest bar off Hackberry, with just two months in business under its belt.
The picture sharpens inside. For one, the space is larger than expected. Reclaimed bowling lanes make up counters, and former wooden organ parts serve as wine displays. The Dakota is dim and decorated with old photos and Cowboy memorabilia. It’s what you’d expect to find at your favorite dive, but the sheen Oliver and staff have added to the space make it welcoming without the grit.
A beer cooler is lined with both craft and big-beer labels because Oliver knows his customers and isn’t trying to cram IPAs down their throats. Instead, Bud Light shares a shelf with Ranger Creek’s Love Struck Hefe, and an impressive wine list with reasonably priced bottles is displayed in the same case.
The menu has legs. After a particularly rough week in news, the most welcoming sight at the Dakota is its Pork Queso ($7), a cream cheese-based dip with pork sausage, jalapeño and tomato served with tortilla chips. Think of the best dip you’ve had at a Super Bowl party and the Pork Queso comes close – without having to make small talk at a snack table. On the slider front, the barbecue pair that was delivered was perhaps the only miss of the evening — the brisket and buns were cold but hinted at potential if warmed up or given a rough chop instead of its strip presentation. It paired well with a bold sangria, so I’ll live.
Sandwiches and flatbreads make up the rest of the menu, and the Italian with melty mozzarella and fresh basil was a winner.
A patio will be in the works in the coming weeks, but for now the HVAC works tremendously well, making the Dakota a literal and figurative chill spot for the summer.
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