Some people might view my love of swanky bars as pretentious. A well-mixed cocktail and good conversations can be had in any space, but no one can argue that environments don’t shape our mood and perceptions. I prefer to unwind and imbibe in a space that exudes Frank Sinatra-levels of class. When I can find it.
Like a lot of things that are going well in this city, Fort Worth has a new crop of bars that have put careful thought into aesthetics, lighting, noise, cocktail options, and other factors that determine how “swanky” a bar or lounge is. On rare free nights, my good friend and new media artist James Talambas and I don our respective suits and visit new bars to see how they rank on our swank-o-meter. I won’t bore you with the details of that proprietary algorithm, but here are the top-rankings.
The Amber Room: Discordant Swank
Some bars look for uniformity when creating a posh environment. Newcomer The Amber Room (334 Bryan Avenue) takes a different tact by blending vintage furniture, exposed brick, steel beams, fine rugs, and minimal partitioning walls to create something refined yet unfussy. The seating is comfy, and the service is top-notch.
I felt like I was being priced out by The Betsy Price (the cocktail, not our mayor) but the bartender gladly mixed up a fizzy gin drink that I savored. Local personality Tony Green was there and raved about the speakeasy.
The Sinclair: Great Gatsby Swank
The Sinclair Hotel (512 Main Street) is home to at least two bars. Talambas and I didn’t make it to the rooftop bar, but we did spend the better part of a recent evening trying cocktails on the ground floor bar, which is home to Wicked Bar. Located just south of Sundance Square Plaza, the bar was spacious and cozy at the same time. Busting cars and pedestrians outside were a reminder that our once-sleepy downtown is now bustling at night.
The historic hotel was recently refurbished. The decor blends art deco designs with modern refinement. I took the bartender’s frequent use of a blow torch, glass cylinder for smoking drinks, and general bartending wizardry as a sign that this bar has high standards for its cocktail offerings.
Blackland Distillery: Distilled Swank
There’s only one bar on this list that can boast its own craft spirits. Blackland Distillery (2616 Weisenberger Street) has the classiest bar space in Fort Worth. Dark gold and brown trim add uniformity and a level of refinement that’s matched only by the hand-crafted cocktails. It’s the kind of space that even James Bond would be taken aback by. Blackland uses locally-sourced grain from our indigenous Blackland prairie. It’s a novel concept that keeps the product hyperlocal and unique at the same time.
POP UP BAR: Moncrief Swank
Full disclosure: POP UP BAR isn’t a place. It’s a person. Local entrepreneur and mocktail maven Pam Moncrief creates experiences. Her training and years of experience working in Fort Worth’s foremost cocktail bar, The Usual, has given her the acumen to mix anything for any event or occasion. Expect custom garnishes and lots of hugs from Moncrief if you do use her cocktail catering service.
Thompson’s Bookstore: Literary Swank
This bookish bar (900 Houston Street) enhabits two floors of a one-time bookstore. The decor blends 1920-era aesthetics with surreal elements. The dim and cozy space is unlike anything else this city offers.
Whiskey Ranch: Oak-y Swank
The home of TX Whiskey (4250 Mitchell Boulevard) is a sprawling distillery, bar, and outdoor space that’s located just a few miles southeast of downtown. The main bar area is rustic with largely wood-based decor. The overall feel is that of a ranch.
Low Key Tavern: Understated Swank
Low Key Tavern (615 South Jennings Avenue) is located at the former home of Craftcade Pinball Bar, and I have to say, the pinball machines will not be missed. The reenvisioned space now has several horseshoe booths and a large velvety draped ceiling that gives a classy feel without seeming pretentious. That, plus the large cocktail-centric bar, will make this spot a winner with locals for many years to come.
(Before the comment section blows up with lists of bars I overlooked — The Usual, Scat Jazz Lounge, Proper — keep in mind that my goal is to highlight new and newish establishments.)
Talambas had this to say about swanky bars.
“Swank requires attention to detail, an intention of intimacy, and a culture of service. Swank comes from the soul of the place: It comes from a constant thoughtfulness, to know that you feel my experience matters. A place with swank makes a person feel valued from the time you walk in until the moment you leave.”
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On Tap this Week:
Fort Worth Weekly 2020 Cowtown Chili Cook-Off
Fort Worth Weekly is proud to present the 2020 Cowtown Chili Cook-Off with 10 chefs and 5 award-winning wild card contestants competing for your vote on 2/29 at The Moon: Bar & Live Music. Purchase tickets here.