The catchphrase “but first, coffee” has etched a permanent spot in our lingo with countless repetitive memes and various declarative configurations — to the point of oversaturation and monotony. As cliched as it might be, this is how chef and entrepreneur Carter Froman chose to start, near a moribund industrial complex hidden on Stanley Avenue near the 8th Avenue/Berry Street junction which eventually took shape as his more extensive concept, Smokestack 1948.
Carter’s Coffee, a drive-thru food trailer featuring a short but stout selection of liquid pick-me-ups and breakfast sandwiches, opened months prior to Smokestack’s December debut. Before his return home to his Fort Worth roots, Froman meandered south to Austin and west to Denver, learning and weaving his way into chef positions at high-profile restaurants. Froman’s caffeinated return came across as a friendly salutation to the neighborhood before bringing a much-needed venue that begat a cocktail lounge, craft beer taproom (located in an actual former icehouse), live music space with plenty of yard for dogs and kids, and ample outdoor seating in a graveled beer garden under strands of party bulbs.
Simulating a business model that has driven youth to the West 7th corridor, Froman envisions a similar yet more family-oriented response to Smokestack 1948 while also providing a go-to place for the TCU crowd during game days and other televised sporting events for your everyday sports fan.
“We’re hoping for a big turnout when spring arrives,” Froman said. “I’m betting on the ‘If you build it, they will come’ idea.”
When forging a menu that would appeal to all, what pairs better with cocktails and draft beers than pizza? 817 Pizza is the permanent on-site food trailer that provides Detroit-style pie. Think: Chicago deep dish but with focaccia. Originally helmed by chef and culinary instructor Edward Gutierrez, who has since departed, both chefs created a slew of panned pizzas with fresh Texas ingredients and in-house smoked meats.
Housing the modern and laidback cocktail lounge that was originally constructed in 1948 as an office are salvaged bricks from, you guessed it, a smokestack once belonging to a factory in Arlington Heights that met its fate by fire prior to 1948 — Froman has been unable to pinpoint the exact year of the factory’s construction. Overseeing the bar is Sur Easley, previously from Piattello Italian Kitchen, now in the role as bar manager, while Amber Davidson from the recently shuttered Bird Cafe leads as head bartender.
The cocktails ride a proverbial wave of creativity and style. Either a nod to Talking Heads or a statement reflecting one’s arrival to Smokestack 1948, This Must be the Place gives way to warmer temps from the chilled months. On one hand, the allspice and almond share semblance with winter cocktails that advise bundling up, and on the other, the gin, lime, and tiki bitters dress in floral patterned shirts and wave aloha — perfecting a balance of wayward complexity.
A wise idiom often used for preparation is two equals one and one equals nothing. A mental tug-o-war when preparing this menu conceived two margaritas with the variance being a pepper, both definitive on their own. In each, an ancho chile or poblano engages the bite of tequila and garnish of lime. The Poblano Verde, a drink with a shade of green, was smoother without pardoning the kick than the red-tinted Ancho Rojo, but why settle on one when you can have both.
The spirited Toucan Play this Game arrives in a champagne glass, and, as another idiom goes, good things come in small packages. The ingredients could whisk you down to the rum-washed Florida Keys as pineapple rum couples with fresh pineapple before Campari and cava, a Spanish wine, join the party that can best be described as something vivacious and potent as a night mingling on Duval Street.
Either enjoying a craft beer inside the old icehouse with opened garage doors as live music wafts through the air or sipping a cocktail while sitting on a winged-back chair in the lounge, Smokestack 1948 captures a convivial atmosphere in the least likely place. And as one last idiom applies, what goes up, must come down. All thanks to a doomed bricked pipe.