Remember when bars were just bars? These days, the industry’s lean toward higher-end offerings makes that seem like a quaint idea. Long gone is the time when two tap trees with three run-of-the-mill macrobrews and an import like Heineken would suffice. To compete in the market these days, it seems a bar has to have a hundred taps of boutique beers and every flavor made by Three Olives Vodka, one of which might be plain ol’ vodka and none of which taste like olives.
When you get to bar-and-grill (oops, excuse us, gastropub) territory, the same thing is happening: People want real, tasty, fresh food with their suds — not just the beer-sponging fried stuff. When even the noisiest, bikini-est sports bars starts offering “chef-driven” cuisine like banh mi sandwiches and sliders, you can expect that new eateries will step up their food commensurately. That’s what The Bearded Lady, Magnolia’s newest gastropub, is out to do: Along with a dizzying array of craft beers and an atmosphere that’s comfortable and intimate without being dark, the Lady’s menu is something to behold.
Or it will be, anyway. Back in April, when the place was still under construction, co-owner Eric Clayton hinted at a menu of pub grub that included interesting munchies like avocados stuffed with kalamata olives and beer-steamed mussels. Unfortunately, when the bar opened in July, the kitchen didn’t. Seems the menu needed more tweaking.
On Friday, however, the Lady finally began offering a limited list of appetizers and entrées. You might think of it as going to a sideshow to see a bearded lady who turns out to be sporting only a mustache — but it may grow into something lush and worthy of a repeat visit. Take, for example, the fried green tomatoes: Crispy enough on the outside to provide a nice crunch, the tomato inside was still juicy and deliciously acidic. They make a good team with a lighter-bodied IPA or a witbier — a hoppy or clove-flavored brew won’t obscure your tongue’s memory of what you just ate.
For a more substantial bite, the tamarind-glazed pork “wings” are a good bet. Served in a circle of eight lean, tender, bone-in shanks, this dish was filling and tasty. While not exactly spicy-hot, the tamarind lent a delicate tang to the juicy, flavorful pork. They’re best if eaten with a knife andfork, since every fourth bite or so carried a tiny bit of bone. A minor complaint for sure, but most people need to slow down anyway, and the flavor merits it.
The pork wings are pretty awesome, but if you’re there to eat a big meal, go with the Bearded L.U.S.T Burger. A half-pound, hand-made patty stuffed with sliced poblano peppers and feta cheese, the L.U.S.T. comes topped with avocado, caramelized onions, and curry sauce, with lettuce, tomatoes, and sweet pickles on the side — at least according to the menu. Actually, the burger arrived sans avocado, but that sort of creamy, mild flavor would’ve gotten lost anyway amid the riot of other tastes. Poblano was the most dominant flavor, leaving the feta and curry comfortably in the wings. Inside the medium-cooked patty, the peppers and white cheese blended perfectly, complemented by the slinky, buttery onions. The L.U.S.T. comes with fries, fried okra, or bacon mac ’n’ cheese, but you really ought to go with the mac. It relies on tiny, salty chunks to add a bare hint of smoky goodness to the school-lunch staple.
True, the Lady’s menu is a mere shadow of what it will be, but its current fare hints at plenty of promising grub to come.
The Bearded Lady
1229 7th Ave., FW. 817-938-2713. 4pm-2am Sun-Sat. VISA, MC accepted.
Tamarind-glazed pork wings … $10
Fried green tomatoes ………….. $ 8
Bearded L.U.S.T. burger ……… $11