A few weeks ago, this column welcomed to town the new Aloft Hotel’s ground-level bar, WXYZ. It occurred to me that some of the best nights I’ve had in this city have happened at another downtown hotel, the Omni, not because I was staying there, but because it’s home to two of Fort Worth’s best downtown bars. I could very easily surpass my word count regaling readers with stories of strangers-turned-friends and nights gone wildly off the rails at Whiskey & Rye. This week, I want to show some love to that bar’s more sophisticated sister on the other side of the lobby, Wine Thief (1300 Houston St, 817-350-4108).
Named for a tool used by winemakers to taste the wine as its being developed, Wine Thief came into our lives while my husband and I were mourning the loss of one of the great wine bars this city has ever known, 44 Bootlegger. While Wine Haus (1628 Park Pl Av, 817-887-9101), Kent & Co. Wines (1101 W Magnolia Av, 817-632-6070), and Grand Cru Wine Bar & Boutique (1257 W Magnolia Av, 817-923-1717) are all comfortable, affordable spots for a glass or two after work, we found ourselves looking for something a little ritzier to fill the void in romantic date-night atmosphere left behind by Bootlegger. You’ll find better prices for a glass of wine around town. Wine Thief isn’t trying to wow you with happy hours (there isn’t one) and other gimmicks. It doesn’t need to — being housed inside a high-end hotel has its advantages in that way.
Since the cheapest glass on the menu is likely going to run you $10, buy a bottle, and then sit back and enjoy the great people-watching that is the mark of any respectable hotel bar. Plus, since the bottles are priced at three times the price of a glass, you’re essentially being gifted a free glass by ordering one bottle. That’s wine math.
On your first time in, take a seat at the bar and let Candice Miller, a sommelier who runs the bar most nights, point you in the right direction. On our last visit, on her recommendation, the husband and I tucked into a bottle of Yangarra Shiraz ($30) that is now ranked among our favorites.
Wine Thief’s interior, like many hotel bars, is nondescript, with bar seating for eight to 10 people, a handful of four-tops, and a row of cozy tables along a back wall that are private if you want them to be, as well as the perfect place to low-key creep on the conversations going on around you. There is also a substantial patio that overlooks Houston Street and the outer edges of the Fort Worth Water Gardens.
While the décor might not be memorable — lots of beige tones, dark wood, and austere light fixtures — the place is not without charm. If you look closely behind the bar, you’ll spot a substantial collection of miniature figurines, an old joke between staff members that evolved into a tradition wherein the bar’s devotees donate souvenir figurines from all over the world. The little menagerie lends some personality to the space and makes for a good conversation-starter.
Wine Thief has a food menu of cheese plates and other small bites to help soak up that bottle you ordered, but this bar’s best-kept secret, which I’m about to ruin, is its monthly wine dinner, a steal (pun intended) at $55 per person. Many wine dinners around town will run you over $100 a pop. Each meal features four to five courses — past favorites include tomato bisque and an outstanding rabbit-fried rice — conceptualized and artfully prepared by the chefs of Wine Thief’s neighbor, the ultra-luxe Bob’s Steak and Chop House. Each course is paired with half glasses lovingly selected by wine director John Jannise and his rotating lineup of wine experts. Each dinner is designed to teach you about a specific region or varietal.
These days, date night is sacred, and you might have only one chance a month to nail it. In my experience, you can’t go wrong at the Omni, and, thanks to Wine Thief, you won’t feel like you’ve been robbed by the end of the night either.
1300 Houston St, FW. 817-350-4108.