I’ve been seeing ghosts. Luckily, they aren’t Dickensian specters like Jacob Marley popping in at 3am to drag me away on a self-introspective tour of the “chains I forged in life.” Sleep trumps atonement in my book any day. What I am seeing are brick-and-mortar tombstones of the Ghosts of Bars and Restaurants Past dotting the shifting landscape of Fort Worth. Some are recent deaths, like the shuttered Rafain Brazilian Steakhouse in the area of the West 7th corridor newly dubbed “Crockett Row.” Granted, the new handle sounds like the location of a particularly bleak Victorian-era orphanage, and definitely not a thriving place to get your party on, so maybe Crockett Row really is a better name for an area of vacant buildings.
Elsewhere around town, many former chain bar and restaurant spaces sit empty, waiting for the breath of leasing life again. One of the spots that lingered in long-term limbo was the defunct Rockfish Seafood Grill in Trinity Commons. That demise was inevitable, as no self-respecting Tanglewood mom or dad from the surrounding neighborhood was going to be inspired to plan happy hour cocktails inside a mediocre fish joint. Finally, the building was smartly repurposed by the Dallas-based Firebird Restaurant Group (Tortaco, El Fenix, Snuffer’s, and Taqueria La Ventana) into a Meso Maya outpost that practically sings “day-drink here.”
Unlike before, when the building was all-indoor seating, Meso Maya has built two killer patios around the existing structure. I visited during a busy Friday lunch and was given the option of sitting inside at the bar, outside on the shady patio, or in an all-weather outdoor seating section with full sun coverage. My guest and I opted for a spot under one of the towering trees. It was legitimately pleasant enough to distract from the often death-defying traffic stunts on South Hulen mere feet away.
It’s no secret to Last Call readers that I want to bring my love of mezcal to the masses, and the bar at Meso Maya had quite a few outstanding cocktails that work in the smoky, sultry spirit as a base. Any person that still earnestly orders a cosmopolitan should automatically be handed the vastly superior El Chaman, a mix of Sombra mezcal joven, peach schnapps, and pomegranate and limejuice served straight up in a martini glass. For traditional tequila-based margarita fans, the Azul y Verde was a complex and sweetly satisfying alternative made with Sombra mezcal joven, tequila blanco, Cointreau, muddled serrano pepper, cilantro, and lime and pineapple juices.
For solo sipping, Alipus, Vago, Wahaka, and El Jolgorio mezcal brands were available by the glass in the $12-$35 price range. Specialty tequila brands by the glass started at $10 and went up to $160 for the Clase Azul Ultra Extra Añejo. On the non-mezcal side, muddled strawberry and serrano peppers mixed with Ambhar tequila blanco and lime juice composed the beautiful and refreshing Serrano Berry concoction. Lastly, this may be the only place you can safely order a resort-worthy piña colada without prompting the bartender to plot your untimely demise.
It was a relief to see that Firebird didn’t adopt Tortaco’s inexplicably gloomy Tapout-t-shirt-guy-having-an-existential-crisis vibe here. Seeing a recently vacant and unwelcoming building have a bustling new lust for life is also gratifying. I’m confident it won’t be the last time I’m found haunting Meso Maya’s patio, communing with the other kind of spirits.
3050 S Hulen St, FW. 682-316-8266.