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Tarantula Tiki Lounge brought Fort Worth a resplendent Polynesian-themed bar with cocktails that eschewed the cheap, sweet stuff in favor of fresh-squeezed juices and primo rum options. Photo by Crystal Wise.

Even when times are good and free of government-mandated shutdowns, bar and restaurant owners work on thin profit margins. Few would say the hospitality industry offers easy money, but running a bar or restaurant affords the opportunity to be around people and to build community, and some folks care about those sorts of things.

The garbage year that has been 2020 forced small business owners across Tarrant County to lay off or furlough workers and reset business growth plans. Moving forward, many of these establishments will have to find ways to pay back rent and other debt that accrued over the past nine months. While some restaurants — Bird Cafè, Hoffbrau Steak and Grill House, Z’s Cafe & Catering — shuttered for good due to COVID-19-related reasons, many bars, coffeehouses, and restaurants opened their doors during the most economically challenging year experienced in generations.

Ascension Coffee

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This WestBend restaurant has a warm coffeehouse feel and deep beer, food, and wine offerings. The java options include everything from café au lait to doki doki, a cold brew made using a centuries-old Japanese slow drip technique. Brunch items (including a sensory-overloading Eggs Benedict) are offered all day, and the craft sammies and salads are made with the finest ingredients.

Berry Street Ice House

Berry Street Ice House occupies an amazing space. From the indoor stage, bar, and dining area to the large outdoor patio and even larger event space in the rear, the TCU-area newcomer is a great spot to watch a game over a beer and burger or dine out with a group of friends. The Frog Burger (made with double-stacked beef patties grilled in duck fat and topped with white cheddar) and smoked and fried bologna sandwich (with homemade Cheese Whiz, of course) are just a few of the quirkier offerings. Berry Street Ice House also has lots and lots of great craft beer options on tap.

CURFEW

After a scuttled opening in March, CURFEW recently reopened in downtown Fort Worth. There’s a strong dance club vibe here and plenty of partitioned tables to sling shots with friends. The bar offers several original drinks, including the Black Orchid, a delicious mix of Añejo tequila, cinnamon agave, squid ink, and pink Himalayan salt. There’s a lot to like about this new spot, so don’t let the mechanical fortune teller, Zoltar, spook you away from entering. He’s a dummy.

Provender Hall

Chef Marcus Paslay is a natural addition to Mule Alley, the massive development that came online this year in the Stockyards. Paslay, already famed as the restaurateur behind Clay Pigeon in the Foundry District and Piattello in the Waterside development, focuses on traditional Texas dishes with his newest venture, Provender Hall. Whether you spring for the smoked trout dip, deviled eggs, iceberg wedge salad, shrimp and grits, or other regional favorites, you can expect a culinary experience that comes from quality ingredients prepared using traditional techniques.

Tinie’s Mexican Cuisine

With Fort Worth’s plethora of Tex-Mex restaurants, it’s easy to forget that even the best queso-drenched enchiladas, rice, and beans don’t reflect a truly authentic Mexican dining experience. Enter: Tinie’s Mexican Cuisine, the Near Southside restaurant inspired by owner Sarah Castillo’s childhood experiences dining with family. The light, nuanced dishes are largely served, not surprisingly, family style. The empanadas are sublime morsels of savory goodness. The bar has a tequila- and mezcal-forward cocktail menu, and the upstairs patio has to be seen to be truly appreciated.

Tarantula Tiki Lounge

Tarantula Tiki Lounge opened in a beating of a year. Co-owner Autumn Brackeen navigated the openings and reopenings with the safety of her employees and visitors high on her mind. Mid-year, Brackeen and her team brought the Near Southside community a resplendent Polynesian-themed bar with cocktails that eschewed the cheap, sweet stuff in favor of fresh-squeezed juices and primo rum options. Tiki lounges have never been anchored in reality, and you no longer have to wait for this boozy escape.

Tulips

Tulips is a music venue where food, drinks, and coffee are not mere afterthoughts. Fort Worth native Jason Suder has crafted something special in the space formerly occupied by now-shuttered The Collective Brewing Project. *pours sour ale out in respect* The cozy space offers craft coffee, made-to-order panini, craft cocktails, and well over a dozen craft beers. The real magic starts at night, though, when local faves like Big Mike Richardson and flute virtuoso Juan Ospina enrapture audiences seated on church pews. It’s a unique spot, to say the least.

Wild Acre Camp Bowie

What happens when an amazing brewery opens up a brewpub and hires a local celebrity chef to head a scratch-made menu? Well, at least in one case, you end up with Wild Acre Camp Bowie. The Ridglea Hills brewpub offers unique brews not found at Wild Acre Brewing Company. The elevated sandwiches — including my favorite, the Billy Jenkins (Akaushi Wagyu shank, fried egg, gorgonzola) — are worth the visit, even without a beer.

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