A Quest for Christmassy Drinks Leads to Dada

Night Watch is a regular column about bars and clubs by nightlife columnist Tara Nieuwesteeg.

Downtown Delray was awash with Christmas lights. They were crawling up tree trunks and stretching across storefront windows; they dangled from awnings and snaked around wreaths at every art gallery, pet salon, clothing boutique, and chocolate café on Atlantic Avenue, Delray's main drag.

Just the sight evoked something warm and fuzzy deep within the cynical recesses of my soul. It felt like my heart (which is three sizes too small) was growing! I quickly needed to repress syrupy feelings with a special holiday gift to myself: booze.\

So I popped into Dada (52 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach 561-330-3232, Dadadelray.com)

We passed through the light-splattered outdoor drinking area, moseyed under an archway lit with red and white Christmas lights, passed into the restaurant, and thumped across the worn-in wooden floor. DaDa feels like part art gallery, part hipster hangout, and part 20th century French café. We opted to sit in a red-walled room with spotted curtains, a mirror with a twisting iron frame, French Bordeaux-style lampshades, and several psychedelic paintings. One featured a bright-colored mustachioed man; others depicted contorted naked women. Electronic ambient music subtly filled the room, lending a soundtrack to the surreal setting.

DaDa peddles an impressive array of fruity mojitos (mango, raspberry, blackberry, and pineapple, just to name a few), not to mention classy wines and to-die-for entrées. I considered ordering the zen mojito, made with Tazo tea (because who doesn't need a little bit of zen during the holiday shopping rush?) but figured I'd seek some expert guidance first.

The bar was positioned by a stone fireplace and adjacent to a room with giant sculpted ants crawling on the wall. I moseyed up and attempted to chat up the ponytailed, pretty bartender, Aggie. She informed me that the bar was actually a renovated house from the 1920s --hence its small rooms and cozy feel.

"We get a good mix of age-groups, feature tons of mojitos, and have a cool vibe," Aggie said proudly. She suggested I come back to check out the magician who has a standing gig every Wednesday. "He has a comedy routine and is quite popular."

Next I shuffled over to a pair of young men, one sipping a Jack and Coke, the other enjoying a Newcastle. Turned out that Jody, the shorter, darker of the two, was from Boston and here to visit Adam, who was tall and thin. Jody noted how he "almost froze to death leaving Boston because I didn't bring a coat. Didn't want to have to carry it around sunny South Florida." Shortly afterward he was srprised that the temperature seemed to get really hot -- unexpectedly hot -- as he made his way down the Florida highway. "That was because my rental car has heated seats and I didn't realize they were on."

Just then, a very sexy brunet walked in, and Adam jumped up.
"I guess this is the 'friend' we were waiting on," Jody said under his breath.
My cue to scamper back to my table.

My friend Beard was busy drawing a lopsided Christmas tree on the table. I assume this was perfectly acceptable, because a cup of sidewalk chalk was provided on the tabletop. We then came very close to intellectual repartee when he tried to get me to guess his favorite Dadaist, but I instead made a mad dash to the next drinking establishment on the list.

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