Readers’ Choice (tie): The Boiled Owl Tavern, 909 W Magnolia Av, 817-920-9616 • The Chat Room Pub, 1263 W Magnolia Av, 817-922-8319
Critic’s Choice: The Boiled Owl Tavern
What makes a bar-bar a destination? Good bartenders, No. 1. A close second is safety. Third? How about … vibe? In Fort Worth, there’s no vibier watering hole than the Owl, and it’s not only because it’s the epicenter of Creative Fort Worth. (Many a Leon Bridges sighting has happened here.) The dangerously hip employees are genuinely nice. And socially conscious. Two of the hardest-hitting acts in town, Cool Jacket and Unspell, perform 8pm Wed, Sep 29, as part of a fundraiser for Texas Equal Access Fund, a nonprofit devoted to “making reproductive rights a reality.” The show is free, and it’s dollar-off drafts and wells, but donations would be nice.
Readers’ Choice: Sapphire Davenport, The Urban Cowboy Saloon, 2620 E Lancaster Av, 682-707-5660
Critic’s Choice: Jason Pollard, The Usual, 1408 W Magnolia Av, 817-810-0114
The Usual was North Texas’ first craft cocktail bar when it opened in 2009 on the Near Southside. The craft cocktail movement started on the East and West coasts years earlier as part of a rediscovery of the hand-crafted libations Americans and Europeans enjoyed before bars started peddling Crown and Coke and other easy-to-make-but-bland mixed drinks. The Usual’s longtime bartender and now managing partner has kept the discerning watering hole’s standards at the highest levels. The Usual offers more than superlative drinks. The staff are always friendly and attentive. The bartenders see mixing and serving cocktails as a calling and not a gig. Pollard deserves mad credit for the Usual’s continued success.
Readers’ Choice: Flying Saucer Draught Emporium, 111 E 3rd St, 817-336-7470
Critic’s Choice: Buffalo Bros, two area locations
Sure, there are heavier hitters when it comes to beer options. World of Beer offers 500 brews from 40 countries, and the Flying Saucer serves up a dizzying 200 labels on draught. Kudos to those stalwart suds peddlers, but few frosty-centric joints offer the total package that Buffalo Bros does. The TCU and Sundance Square locations carefully navigate the fine line between family-friendly sports bar and pub. Co-owner and chef Jon Bonnell has redefined pub food in the 817. And the beer. Order an ice-cold schooner, frosty pint, or pitcher (macro, micro, and whatever qualifies as in between) and some Buffalo Bros wings, and we dare you to not have a great time.
Readers’ Choice: Chef Point Bar & Restaurant, 5901 Watauga Rd, Watauga, 817-656-0080
Critic’s Choice: The Rim, two area locations
Chef Keith Hicks is back. The former head of Buttons (R.I.P.) has a new seafood venture, The Rim, that serves up one helluva Bloody Mary. More of a meal than a mixed drink, the Rim’s Bloody Mary Breakfast is a looming tower of meat (bacon-wrapped pretzel, single jumbo shrimp, Hicks’ signature chicken wang, sausage link, and obligatory tiny pickle for garnish) stuck into a glass of Bloody Mary. Once you munch your way through that meaty treat, your reward awaits — a tall serving of spicy, vodka-infused tomato juice that just might knock you over if you don’t share it with your compadres.
Readers’ Top 5: Cowtown Brewing, 1301 E Belknap St, 817-489-5800 • HopFusion Ale Works, 200 E Broadway Av, 682-841-1721 • Martin House Brewing Company, 220 S Sylvania Av, Ste 209, 817-222-0177 • Neutral Ground Brewing Company, 2929 Race St, 682-499-6033 • Wild Acre Brewing Co., 1734 E El Paso St, Ste 190, 817-882-9453
Critic’s Choice: Martin House Brewing Company
It’s almost a cliche by now: What will Martin House come up with next? The Riverside brewery has released every conceivable style of beer by this point, and they’ve all been pretty damn tasty. Strong opinions over pickle beer have divided Texans every bit as much as presidential elections, but Martin House brews have also been a reminder that beer is also what unites us as Americans. We’re glad the taproom is once again open. Thanks for churning out fun and quirky beers while we were homebound throughout most of 2020. We still have mixed feelings about the ranch dipping sauce beer y’all released, but being an innovator in today’s craft beer market sometimes means setting aside convention in the interest of having fun.
Readers’ Choice: Four Day Weekend, 312 Houston St, Ste 7404, 817-226-4329
Critic’s Choice: Hyena’s Comedy Nightclub, 425 Commerce St, 817-877-5233
We just don’t talk about Hyena’s enough. In our defense, shows that are already sold out can’t go in Night & Day. (ND features seven things to do the week our paper comes out and getting turned away at the door is simply a drag. A what not to do, if you will.) But we digress. Our point is this: What is our point? Oh, yes. Hyena’s brings in strictly the best in comedic entertainment. In short, the next time Pauly Shore tickets go on sale, you best act fast. Follow the club at Facebook.com/HyenasFW for future on-sale dates.
Comedy Open-Mic Night
Readers’ Choice: Laugh Your MASS Off, MASS, 1002 S Main St, 682-707-7774
Critic’s Choice: Claws Out Comedy, various locations, ClawsOutComedy.com/OpenMics
With regular shows, open-mic nights, a podcast, and a mission of humanizing the experiences of folks with mental health conditions, Claws Out Comedy has quickly grown into a multifaceted operation. And it all started from the warped and hilarious mind of local comedian Monna. The Claws Out Comedy team now includes Ruth Banks, Mark Mayr, and Katherine Clause. Tipsy Tuesdays at Funky Picnic Brewery & Cafe and Ladies’ Comedy Night at Twilite Lounge (which features a burlesque drag show after) can help you start your week the right way — by pounding some shots and laughing your ass off.
Readers’ Choice: Thompson’s Bookstore, 900 Houston St, 817-882-8003
Critic’s Choice: Que Bueno, La Onda, 2905 Race St, 817-607-8605
Yes, there should be an accent mark in the “Que.” We had this cocktail back in the spring, and while it’s not currently available at the Latin seafood place, we can’t forget how the vanilla bitters and Mexican chocolate gave so much snap to the rye whiskey base. Without being cloyingly sweet, this cocktail is good enough to make a whiskey drinker out of someone who avoids the spirit.
Readers’ Choice: Studio Eighty, 500 Taylor St, 817-332-4833
Critic’s Choice: Your Mom’s House, 3005 Bledsoe St, 817-832-3244
As massive and energetic as Texas Republic is, the smaller Your Mom’s House is just as buzzing and buzzy and arguably better organized. From the silver piano as a DJ booth to the transparent, glowing floors and #selfie-worthy pink Cadillac, Your Mom’s House is your destination for seeing and being seen. Please tip your servers and treat them well. These gals and guys hustle more than any single person on the dance floor.
Readers’ Choice: Blackland Distillery, 2616 Weisenberger St, 682-268-5333
Critic’s Choice: SuTi Craft Distillery, 528 W Kennedale Pkwy, 817-330-3976
The distilling industry, at least domestically, is largely preoccupied with replicating existing recipes or marginally tweaking popular spirits through infusions and aging techniques. Rarely does an entirely new liquor hit the U.S. market. About a year ago, Suy Dinh and Tien Ngo, both natives of Vietnam, released a spirit that had never been produced in the United States — Ruou De. The rice-based liquor is about 40% alcohol and has a profile not dissimilar to sake but with the slight fragrance of jasmine rice. Dinh and Tien used a recipe and distilling technique that date back several generations. The newish operation offers two options: Old Man and Lion 45. Old Man is a little feisty and not unlike moonshine while Lion 45 would be considered smoother by American-palate standards. The single distillation and one-month aging process is intended to preserve the natural flavors and esters of long-grain rice — just like it was made several decades ago in pre-war Vietnam.
Readers’ Choice: 1851 Club, 931 W Division St, 817-642-5554
Critic’s Choice: My Oh My!, various locations, MyOhMyTheShow.com, 817-946-2295
Locals no longer have to hoof it over to Dallas to see amazing drag shows. Liberty Lounge, Twilite Lounge, The Urban Cowboy Saloon, and other nightspots frequently host the uproariously entertaining dance and lip-syncing extravaganzas.
For the past several years, Robert Burke has been carefully growing and nurturing one of the best shows in town. My Oh My! has all the qualities of a great drag show that locals have come to expect: charismatic and athletic dancers, masterful lip-syncing, hilarious MCs, fun atmosphere, and the occasional raunchy joke, though the shows are largely PG-rated. Burke presents gender-bending entertainment that can be enjoyed by bachelorette parties, grandmas, and even teenagers. Just remember, drag shows are always more fun when you tip generously.
Readers’ Choice: Bucks Cabaret, 2345 Meacham Blvd, 817-740-0026
Critic’s Choice: The Roxy Showgirls, 1300 NE Loop 820, 817-626-7699
For starters, you can’t miss the place as bright lights call you to the Roxy from the freeway. The dancers are numerous, and while the DJ spins mostly hip-hop and R&B, the club staffs women of varying ethnicities and styles. While the cover is $20 per person, it’s BYOB, so you can save your bills for the ladies. As the club opens at 4pm — no day shift is probably a plus — many fans make this their after-work happy hour spot. On Friday and Saturday, it’s open until 5am, so add it to your late-night list as well. For a break in the action, head to Tumbleweeds Sports Bar at the same intersection.
Readers’ Choice: The Abbey Pub, 2710 W 7th St, 817-810-9930
Critic’s Choice: Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, 3100 W 7th St, 817-336-8000
We’re not talking a place to cut loose and do 10 shots in an hour because you’re so happy the workweek is done. We mean a nice, lovely atmosphere tended to by lovely people for taking advantage of some stellar food and drink options at a major discount. For only $9, the mini-filet sandwiches (center-cut filet mignon, blue cheese, onion jam) and the Eddie’s Rockefeller (broiled oysters with spinach-and-artichoke fondue, panko crumbs) for only 7 bucks are so good and so worth the small price tag you’re essentially losing money by not ordering them. While you’re there, wash it all down with the Spicy Margarita (Chavo Malo Tequila, Patrón Citrónge, fresh lime, jalapeño). It’s only 8 bucks. Happy hour at Eddie V’s is 4pm-6:30pm Sun-Thu. Added bonus: Live smooth jazz. Don’t roll your eyes. This is some skillfully done stuff.
Readers’ Choice: Hotel Drover, 200 Mule Alley, 817-755-5557
Critic’s Choice: The Sinclair, 512 Main St, 682-231-8214
Fort Worth’s hotels are bringin’ the swank. Newcomer Hotel Dryce is showing Cowtown that local art can be as much of a draw as any room amenity. The boutique hotel’s bar is headed by mixologist extraordinaire Pam Moncrief. Aloft Fort Worth Downtown blends live music on the weekends with a colorful, contemporary bar for a festive vibe. One downtown hotel is a standout, though.
The Sinclair is pure Art Deco splendor with an equally visually captivating ground-level bar and restaurant, Wicked Butcher. The intimate and dim environs are best enjoyed after sunset when the Edison light bulbs envelop the urban chic space in just enough golden light for patrons to become lost in lovely, boozy libations and intimate conversations.
Readers’ Choice: Sarah’s Place, 5223 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-731-7337
Critic’s Choice: Oscar’s Bar & Grill, 1581 SW Wilshire Blvd, Ste 101, Burleson, 817-447-7232
Christian Baird is no stranger to great music and gourmet food. As the owner of the Green Room in Dallas and a musician himself, he was excited to re-open Oscar’s Bar & Grill earlier this year. When his original local band Lowside isn’t on the bill, Baird hosts tribute bands, a great new entertainment option for Burleson. With a full gourmet food menu that includes unique items like pork wings, Oscar’s is a one-stop shop for dinner, drinks, and a show. On Sundays, you can actually be the show by signing up to sing karaoke. Karen Bell Poole has an ongoing karaoke residency weekly starting at 6pm.
Readers’ Choice: The Urban Cowboy Saloon, 2620 E Lancaster Av, 682-707-5663
Critic’s Choice: Liberty Lounge, 515 S Jennings Av, 682-730-0915
How can bars and restaurants provide a safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community? There’s no easy answer to that question, but building a community that accepts and affirms folks no matter their sexual orientation, gender, or non-gender is a great place to start. Liberty Lounge, the newish bar on the Near Southside, is headed by Jenna Hill-Higgs, a longtime public-school teacher who was raised by two lesbian mothers. #BigLoveJenna and her staff are just as concerned about how your day went as your drink order. Hill-Higgs is a deep listener and chronic hugger. Expect nothing but good vibes and a welcoming and loving environment from Liberty Lounge.
Readers’ Choice: Muy Frio Margaritas, 3613 W Vickery Blvd, Ste 109, 817-238-3386
Critic’s Choice: Yucatan Tequila Bar and Grill, 909 W Magnolia Av, Ste 10, 682-213-5858
Light, refreshing, not too acidic, not too sugary, this is an ideal mainstream margarita if drinking isn’t your side job and just another something to do that’s fun. What we’re probably trying to say is that while it’s certainly not the fanciest margarita in town, it sure does hit the spot. And when you think about it, isn’t your palate the best judge?
Readers’ Choice: The Usual, 1408 W Magnolia Av, 817-810-0114
Critic’s Choice: Silver Star Spirits, 1734 E El Paso, Ste 130, 817-841-2837
Start with carefully collected rainwater, a corn-based mash, six distillations, and more rainwater to cut to 90 proof, and you have the basic recipe for Silver Star Spirit’s vodka. The clear, smooth, and velvety liquid is devoid of any off-putting flavors and makes for the perfect base for a classic martini, dirty or otherwise. You can enjoy a handcrafted ’tini at the distillery’s bar, which boasts an adjacent kid- and dog-friendly whiskey garden. Weekend tours, often led by the distillery’s president, Bob Camillone, are a great way to learn about the distilling process and some of the extra steps that go into making Silver Star Spirits a local favorite.
Readers’ Choice: Daniel “DJ” Alvarez, The Post at River East, 2925 Race St, 817-945-8890
Critic’s choice: Brittany Webber, Mash’d, 2948 Crockett St, 817-882-6723
Across the street from Crockett Hall there’s this place that also sports a big, airy indoor space that works if you’re being conscious of the pandemic. Mash’d’s assistant manager will make you a traditional cocktail like a Ranch Water or a Manhattan, but order some of the place’s more adventurous creations, and you’ll find a Rowdy Rhonda with a riot of fruit flavors or a chocolate- and marshmallow-flavored Double Dealer that’s like a boozy coffee after dinner.
Music Open-Mic Night
Readers’ Choice: Lola’s Trailer Park, 2735 W 5th St, 817-759-9100
Critic’s Choice: Blues Jam with Playtown at Lola’s Trailer Park, 2735 W 5th St, 817-759-9100
Led by Playtown, Lola’s jam may not be the kind of open-mic you’re thinking of (i.e., sad white guys with acoustic guitars), but it is egalitarian. Shelve your ego, bring your axe or sticks, sign up, and Danny Ross and the boys, most of them regulars from the dearly departed Keys Lounge, will welcome you heartily every Thursday from 7pm to 10pm. Special guests include Blake Parish, from Royal Sons, and Big Mike Richardson. No cover, and the Delicias De Guerrero Food Truck is on-site slinging juicy, mouthwatering tacos y mas.
Readers’ Choice: Tulips FTW, 112 St. Louis Av, 817-367-9798
Critic’s Choice: Tulips FTW
With the energetic hues and murals on its walls, the room’s crisp sound, and a calendar that showcases a good mix of locals and the mid-level touring acts that festivals are made of, Tulips is a fun place to be. The beer selection is good, there are some tasty signature drinks (try the Hibiscus Ilegal Ranch Water), and the spacious patio is a trip to just sit in and enjoy the atmosphere. Nice bathrooms, too!
Readers’ Choice: Shaw’s Patio Bar & Grill, 1051 W Magnolia Av, 817-926-2116
Critic’s Choice (tie): Ático at Springhill Suites, 2315 N Main St, 682-255-5112 • Branch & Bird at the Frost Tower, 640 Taylor St, 12th Floor, 682-785-8888
What can we say, we like riding high. Located atop the new-ish hotel in the Stockyards, Ático offers an intimate yet open-feeling atmosphere while at Branch & Bird, the entirety of the Fort Worth skyline is at your fingertips. The food at both places is also outstanding.
Readers’ Choice: The Bearded Lady, 300 S Main St, 817-349-9832
Critic’s Choice: Tinie’s Mexican Cuisine, 113 S Main St, 682-255-5425
Tequila’s not the easiest spirit to make a cocktail out of, but this establishment famous for its zesty, elegant food also boasts a creative bar that can serve up a banana-flavored Tónico de Plántano, a Desnuda with chartreuse and Aperol, or a chocolate-tinged Juan Valdez. Or you can just grab a superlative margarita, if the tried-and-true works for you.
Readers’ Choice: The Shot Cellar, 931 Foch St, 817-386-3561
Critic’s Choice: The Shot Cellar
The Shot Cellar’s menu literally has 300 shots on it. One of them is called a Reptar Depth Bomb. Another is called Alexis Texas. Pick your pun and reference, this place probably has a shot named for it. The menu is like if the 1-800-BARTEND song went on for 30 or 40 additional verses, and if there’s something you’ve heard of that isn’t listed, the bartenders can probably figure it out for you. And if such a swirling maelstrom of choices overwhelms your single-minded, whiskey-served-neat brain, there’s a spin of the ever-popular Shot Wheel to guide you.
Readers’ Choice: Buffalo Bros, 3015 S University Dr, 817-386-9601
Critic’s Choice: Boston’s Pizza Restaurant & Sports Bar, 6501 N Fwy, 817-420-9988
Basically, everywhere you look, there’s a TV tuned to sports — 17, in fact. And that’s just inside. There are a few more on the sweet enclosed patio. We hear you thinking: Isn’t every bar a sports bar, essentially? Oh, how wrong you’d be. At Boston’s, the atmosphere also counts, and what we appreciate about this North Fort Worth establishment is its devotion to the Fort. Instead of Cowboys, Rangers, and Stars stuff, there’s a collage of famous Fort Worth architecture, including TCU. There’s also a couple F-Dub brews on draft. Bigger bonus? The food is top-notch. You gotta try the pizza burger, a cheeseburger wrapped in a pepperoni pizza and stuffed with bacon, mozzarella, and pizza sauce. Magnifico. Looking for ladies in skimpy clothing, and that’s it? Go elsewhere.
Readers’ Choice: Magnolia Wine Bar, 1101 W Magnolia Av, 817-632-6070
Critic’s Choice: Rancho Loma Vineyards, 411 S Main St, Ste 104, 817-349-9030
Admittedly, we’d like this hangout better if it were open more days of the week. Even so, this tasting room features live music and outdoor seating as well as samples of their award-winning pours. While it’s still warm outside, you might want to taste their cinsault rosé.
Read about our winners by going to the Best Of Getting & Spending, People & Places, Arts & Culture, Good Grub, and On The Town section articles on FWWeekly.com. To see the Best Of 2021 special edition in a flipbook, page-by-page format, click here.