Bartender Michael Wallace has worked for the owners of popular Lower Greenville watering hole the Dubliner since six months after the bar first opened back in 1994; after working in an Irish bar for two decades, everyone now knows him as Mick. The group also owns Capitol Pub and The Gin Mill and while Mick has done some shifting around over the years, these days he can most often be found working weekday evening and Saturday afternoon shifts at the Dubliner. Eater tracked him down to talk about his life behind the bar, the unsung heroes of the bar industry, and the surprising drink that everyone should order at his bar.
Have you always lived in Dallas? How'd you get here?
My dad worked for the government, so we had to move around a bunch, but mostly I lived between here and St. Louis. Once I got out of high school and finished part of college, I moved back to St. Louis. I lived in Chicago for a minute, and then I realized I needed to finish school and I hated Chicago winters, so I moved down to Texas 22 years ago, finished college, came to Dallas and then started working with the people I work with now, more or less.
Where did you graduate from? What was your degree in?
Stephen F. Austin State University. English.
Is bartending what you had in mind?
Ha, no! I was going to do what you were going to do. Journalism or something like that. Write or whatever, but... I don't know. Did a couple internships here and there and figured out it wasn't for me.
I was in a couple of bands, and I used to go out and tour with bands and stuff like that. Was a roadie, basically, and got to go out in the world a little bit. And then bartending was something cool and easy to get into, and it never stopped, you know?
Can you tell me about your first foray into bartending?
Well, I was in this place and this guy was like, "They need a bar back." That's how you do it. You become a door guy, and then you become a bar back if you're interested in that and then you've got to suck it up and be a bar back for two years even though that only takes about six hours to learn. You move on from that, and then you get some shifts, and then you get some regulars, and then you've got shifts and you've got to work them.
What exactly is a bar back?
Bar backs are the unsung heroes of the entire thing. They're the ones that keep it together, because bartenders are a bunch of prima donnas.
It's just somebody that restocks your beer and ice, and you run out of something and they're always there. Basically, they're the heroes of the entire thing. They're the ones that keep it together. Because otherwise, mostly bartenders are a bunch of fucking prima donnas, you know what I mean? Like, everything has to be handed to them. So they're the unsung heroes of the entire thing.
What's your favorite place you've travelled?
Berlin. It's the only place to be.
They like their beer there too, don't they?
In Berlin, they like it all. Why do you think Iggy Pop and Lou Reed lived there for so long? It's a cool town. The first time I went there was almost exactly one year after they tore down the Berlin Wall. I was on tour with this band. That's when I fell in love with it — everyone was so fucking electric, anything went.
You've been working with the owners of The Dubliner almost since it opened. How has it changed over the years?
Well it's grown exponentially, obviously. They went from just this tiny bar to other, bigger places. In this town it's just a neighborhood thing — it used to be like everybody would drink on Lower Greenville, but then Uptown came along.
I've been through three generations of customers at The Dubliner. It's like a weird time-lapse photo.
I've been through three generations of customers at The Dubliner. I've seen their kids have kids since I started. It's kind of a wild thing to look at. Mostly now it's just that they're neighborhooding everything, like, "Oh, I only drink in Uptown," which is fine to me because it keeps all this certain crowd over here. Like, SMU crowd only drinks in this certain area. Henderson, now, is super weird. There's all these trends and stupid shots.
It's a weird, organic progression of things that people go through. It's wild to be in one place. It's like a weird time-lapse photo.
What's your favorite beer?
I don't know, what's your favorite color? It doesn't matter. What's your favorite band? It doesn't matter. I like all kinds of beer.
What's your favorite drink overall?
I drink something different at every different bar that I go to. I'm not sure why that is. I think, just because the first time you go into a place you just order something in a hurry because you don't want to bum out whoever's working there if it's busy. If I go to Louie's, I always order a Maker's and Seven, but I would never drink that anywhere else. Ever. But when I go there, it's like, "Eh, Maker's and Seven." And also they kind of know, so it's there if they see you. And I enjoy it all the way to the bottom. But I wouldn't order one of those right now. No fucking way.
What would you order at the Dubliner?
This may sound weird to say, but a caipirinha. They make a pretty mean one over here. And it's the simplest drink ever, but they make them really tasty.
A caipirinha is like the antithesis of everything The Dubliner is, but we make a pretty good one.
Basically, you get a bunch of limes and some sugar and you muddle it really well, and then you pour cachaça on it, which is a Brazilian sugarcane liquor, shake it up real good, pour it over ice. It's like the antithesis of everything The Dubliner is, but we make a pretty good one.
We had it for the World Cup because it was in Brazil, and we all just decided, "All right. I'm going to make you one, and it's going to be the best one ever." We just kept raising the bar every time, so now it's awesome.
Speaking of the World Cup, has there been a particular time when it was good — or bad — to work in a bar?
When Korea and Japan were in the World Cup. It was the worst. Those games were on at 4:30 in the morning and you had to open up and you couldn't serve anybody, it was the stupidest shit ever. It's a time zone thing I guess.
At The Dubliner, that time comes around once a year — St. Patrick's Day. Shut down the block. Fifty to seventy thousand people come there throughout the day. It's ridiculous.
People are always like, "Hey, I'm Irish!" I'm like, that's cool. Your credit card here says "Valdez," but sure.
So what do you like about bartending?
I've performed marriage ceremonies for people from the bar before. It's a crazy, awesome, tight-knit community.
You always know what's happening. I work in a pretty locals-only kind of pub. I've performed marriage ceremonies for people from the bar before. I've been on vacation with people who come into the bar. It's a crazy, awesome, tight-knit community.
I don't know if I really like anything about it, because it's a job and inherently to me that's just something that you have to do, you know? But it's flexible. You get to see a lot of crazy shit. You get to meet a lot of really cool people. Well, you meet way more fucking terrible people, but it's cool.
Just for doing it so long in this town... I can go into a lot of places I frequent and I always know somebody. Sometimes you get into a free show. Sometimes you get a couple of drinks slid your way. I can't complain.
Personally, for me, it's a means to my own ends. I can, once every couple of years, take off and go to some crazy country for a couple of weeks and it's no hassle, or take a weekend and go someplace else to hang out and see what's going on there, then you come back and you're just right back in it. It's just this weird freedom that I love.