Back when I obtained high-school semi-maturity (e.g. license, breasts, existential malaise), the streets of Stone Oak were laid, but houses were few — a sci-fi suburban staging ground out of
DeLillo or Ballard. We drove out to Stone Oak in rowdy groups or furtive couples, sought out unpopulated cul-de-sacs to blast the Violent Femmes, make out in pickups, and misbehave.
Nowadays, where once were cedar thickets and armadilloes stand dry cleaners and dental spas, walled compounds right out of a Spielberg suburbia, an outlandish Mormon building with an enormous gold Moroni on top, and a middle school named after Barbara Bush. It’s newly alien territory.
That was all a huge aside, in case you haven’t guessed. I do know Cielito Lindo, the restaurant on Stone Oak Parkway whose proprietors have opened Cielito, an ultra-lounge next door. Accompanied by Current staffer Bryan Rindfuss, DJ/artist John Mata, and student/designer/Midwestern transplant Andrea Kirschner, I set out to see just who does the drinking way out there on a Saturday night.
Running a little late, I texted Mata: How does it look?
He answered: A bunch of people watching soccer.
I pulled up close to 11, was waved in by a friendly bouncer, and found Cielito to be a big, airy, two-story room, with a capacious downstairs bar, a dance floor, and a staircase leading to a loft/VIP area. The still-sparse crowd starred burly dudes in Ed Hardy gear, and (fewer) girls dressed to the cleavage-baring, heavily accessorized nines. A younger crowd than I expected; I was secretly hoping to watch Chilango parents, sans kiddos, let their hair down. But this crowd seemed mid-to-late 20s, and not quite in party sway. The lighting was dim, reddish, clubby, with lasery bits swirling in the (unoccupied) dance floor.
I asked the downstairs bartender (harried, but friendly enough) whether Cielito featured any signature cocktails. No, I was told. How’s your margarita? I asked. It’s, you know, normal, he indicated. It cost $4, and came indisputably from a heavily Triple-Sec infused mix. The salt granules lining the glass were of the large and dandruffy variety, which I don’t like, personally, and it was served IN A PLASTIC TUMBLER.
I found my compatriots occupying a low, long, leather sofa upstairs, looking bemused. Bryan concurred with me about the underwhelming pre-made marg mix, but Andrea’s tequila sunrise and John’s Grey Goose and soda were what they asked for. John speculated about the plastic glassware; maybe Cielito is frequently peppered with drink-throwin’ barfights? The place exuded a heavily dudeified air; a sonic wash of overproduced nu-metal (think Ultimate Fighting Championship soundtrack, John mused) indicated possible aggro-boy antics. Also, several staff members and patrons were decorating the upstairs with giant novelty playing cards and hurriedly stocking the bar because a private birthday party was about to commence.
The layout of the place was actually pretty comfy. We liked the leather couch, the stone-feature architecture and lighting; we longed for a loungier soundtrack and real glassware. With a DJ fiddling with party hip-hop tracks at painful volume levels, however, not so much.
As we exited through the downstairs dancing area, we noted numerous flatscreens tuned to sports. “Girls could dance with their girlfriends while the guys … watch TV?” Andrea mused. We all shrugged. A crowd of eager-eyed, club-geared party guests waited outside the entrance. In the parking lot, a giant bus emblazoned “CHAOS PARTY BUS” disgorged more revelers.
I’ll bet it was a good party forming, if you dig sequinned minidresses, dancing to overloud Pitbull, and sipping margarita mix from a plastic glass while your gelled-up boyfriend watches sports. I do not doubt that this could be fun. But like the sprawl of the new era itself, I find it mysterious and dumbfounding.