The Dancing Marlin Story

St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin

Where the Sun is Always Shining

Located in the historic Deep Ellum section of Dallas, just a stone’s throw from downtown hotels and conference centers, this is the kind of place where, as the song goes, “everybody knows your name.”

It’s where locals gather to watch the Dallas Mavericks play for NBA crowns, the Dallas Stars fight for Stanley Cups and Dallas Cowboys battle for NFL championships on big screens high definition sets around the bar. Or congregate in their burnt orange and crimson and cream on the way to the annual Texas-Oklahoma game. St. Pete’s welcomes a bustling lunch crowd that includes doctors and hospital personnel from a nearby medical center, business people, bankers, attorneys and a wide assortment of downtown characters that are as colorful as they are plentiful. When the sun goes down, the tone is decidedly relaxed with refreshing cocktails, tasty treats and lively conversation, always casual, inside or on the patio, and completely comfortable.

St. Pete’s features a full bar that includes more than 50 brands of bottled beers, plus another 15 on tap and a complete selection of premium wines. Founder, owner and well-known Deep Ellum fixture for nearly two decades, Pete Zotos is your host. A native Texan, conversational, warm, friendly and always eager to please, Pete’s menu is his own. Critics refer to it as “new American” cuisine. Pete calls it “honest,” and that fits. “The main reason for my menu and the large portions we serve at St. Pete’s is that I wanted to serve what I call ‘big, honest food,’” he said. “I learned that from my Dad and my Uncle Pete: ‘Let ‘em know they’ll always get taken care of when they come in’.  That made good sense to me.”

Thick juicy burgers with mounds of golden seasoned fries; crisp green salads; a variety of delicious pastas and specialty pizzas; fresh shrimp, catfish, oysters on the half shell and other seafood delights. Plus the St. Pete’s famous marinated and grilled “Dancing” Tuna Steak, which locals know is in a class by itself.

“The hardwood floors and the 42-foot classic wooden bar are organic, honest,” said Pete. “James Squires, an advertising man in Dallas, constructed the display case by hand (he also makes fine furniture locally).  The blown glass pieces were made in the Hickory Street Annex just for us.”

For years Pete’s has been a hangout for local film crews, actors, producers, writers and others in Dallas’ renowned creative community. “We have filmed more commercials and features, and snapped photographs and fashion spots inside these walls than you can shake a stick at,” he added. Pete has appeared in several himself and was once the closer on an Emmy-Award winning “Spirit of Texas” promotional announcement for WFAA-TV, Channel 8, Dallas’ ABC affiliate.

Here’s Pete in the Spirit of Texas promo:

 

“It’s the ground, it’s the water, it’s the state-of-mind-Texas.”  ~ Pete Zotos

 

St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin

Where Almost Everybody Knows Your Name

“My goal in life has always been to have a place where people could come and feel at home, like they’re spending time at a favorite Uncle’s place or a comfortable family-spot,” said Pete. “I came to Dallas back in1980 as a freshman at SMU,” he remembered. “It was culture shock. But I had a built-in job at my cousin Pete Lucas’ bar called the NFL (Nick Farley’s Lounge). It was a classic Irish pub located under Lucas B&B (that’s “Better and Better”).  “My cousin’s dad (his name was Pete, too) taught me a lot about the business.  My own dad had a restaurant/bar in San Angelo, my hometown, so the business definitely runs in my blood.”

One of the first things you will notice at St. Pete’s is all the stuff.

Memorabilia, keepsakes…interesting, colorful kitsch lining the walls throughout the restaurant…to say that each and every framed picture, logo, team pennant, vintage beer signs, illustration or what have you has special meaning and a “big fish” anecdote to go along with it would be an understatement. “Most of what’s on the wall have a story,” said Pete. “Some were gifts, others bought, and a choice few more were actually earned.  But they all have a story that relates to SPDM.” There is that dog-eared Elvis Costello “Armed Forces” album cover and a classic black and white photo of Charlie Waters, Walt Garrison and company, long ago, looking a bit worse for wear at Dallas Cowboys summer training camp. “The busted airplane propeller came from an aircraft piloted by Richard Chase of Dick’s Last Resort fame, which is an infamous Dallas restaurant near the West End,” said Pete. “A good number of the older beer signs in the side room came from my Dad’s restaurant in West Texas and hung in my room as a kid.”

Of course there’s the Texas size photo at the end of the bar everyone seems to be curious about. That’s Pete’s great Uncle, Theodore Zotos…one heck of a guy.

Maybe you have something to donate?

Chic-Chic celebrity stargazing was made for Hotel ZaZa and the Ritz Charlton.  That’s not our scene.  But don’t be shocked when you run into Dallas sports heroes such as 16-year NHL veteran and Stanley Cup winning defenseman with the hometown Dallas Stars, Derian Hatcher.  If you don’t speak German, no worries: neither does Texas’ favorite 7-foot NBA Champion Dirk Nowitski much anymore. In fact, that Mavericks jersey on the wall was given to Pete on his 40th birthday, and later autographed by Dirk. And since this is Deep Ellum, baby…man’s best friends are always welcome on the St. Pete’s patio–all day and then some.

 

Spend the dog days of summer with your pooch on the patio, or maybe a three-dog night during winter months. How’s that for the perfect pet Happy Hour?

If you have never heard of a “dancing marlin,” raise your hand?  Pete swears that once you’ve seen a fish leap four to five feet out of the water and “dance,” you never forget.

He certainly hasn’t.

Look around the rustic brick walls; he’s got big gamers…sailfish, sharks and more, and the brand of Texas bass you find in local lakes. And don’t forget the big game including Cape buffalo and a Kudu from Africa.  “There’s a story for every fish in SPDM,” said Pete. He’s fished all over, and has the trophies to prove it. It costs $13 an inch to create a replica fish, and all  fish hanging on the wall are replicas of fish that were caught by Captain Pete, friends and family.  He is a fiercely competitive sports fisherman, and traveled the world in search of the perfect catch.  Pete’s team captured the prestigious Caicos Classic Cup with the most marlins…six blues, and the biggest yellow fin to boot. “During the Caicos Cup Tournament, I won the biggest tuna award and received the coveted plate, which adorns the walls,” he laughed. The boys went on to win $130,000 in the 25th annual Bertram-Hatteras Shootout in the Bahamas. “One of the marlins behind the bar won the 19th Shootout,” said Pete. “The prize was a half million dollars.” Not bad.

And then there’s the one about the lady who gave Pete one of the big finned friends featured on the wall.  He overheard her up at the bar telling a friend about a huge fish all crated up and stashed in her garage. “I’ll come pick it up,” Pete offered.  She didn’t believe him; that is until he showed up and took the 200 lbs. billfish off her hands. That’s him on the wall now.

Fast Company Swizzle Sticks

Maybe that’s where the plastic blue marlin in your drink came from…a tip of the hat to Pete’s signature swizzle stick, once saluted in an issue of Fast Company. In fact, the company that makes the stir sticks employs the disabled, and is based outside of Big D in Duncanville, Texas.

Ask Mary, the greatest waitress on earth, she can tell you. Or Rex, the bartender, formerly a member of the Fort Worth based band Flickerstick, best remembered as winning VH1’s “Bands on the Run” competition a few years ago. He works days…stop by and meet him.

“As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster, I mean…have my own ‘place,’” Pete laughed. “Now I do. And best of all, three of my kids work here from time to time.”

“Do you know why I named this place St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin? Well, my name is Pete, so most people think that’s the reason, but I named it for St. Peter, the Patron Saint of Fisherman. Peter is a name derived from the Greek word for rock, and I am Greek. Have you ever noticed the rocks out front?”

“We’re blessed, that’s for sure. In fact, now that I think about it, a local Greek Orthodox priest actually blessed SPDM, so we truly are just that—blessed.”

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