Bar-Bar (Top 5)
Readers’ Choice: (tie) Lola’s Fort Worth, 2000 W Berry St, 817-759-9100 • Nickel City, 212 S Main St, Ste 100, @NickelCityFWTX
Critic’s Choices: Celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year, The Boiled Owl Tavern (909 W Magnolia Av, 817-920-9616) has become the closest thing to Cheers for the local indie-rock set. It’s a place where everyone knows your name, your face, and what band(s) you’re in. Interspersed among all the musos, however, is a diverse amalgam of young folks from all sorts of backgrounds. The great craft beer selection and super-lighthearted atmosphere are draws no matter how you spend your waking/working hours. … As one of the earliest spots to open after the development of the Fairmount Historic District began, The Chat Room Pub (1263 W Magnolia Av, 817-922-8319) quickly morphed from an internet cafe into a comfy dive adopted as the home bar for many Near Southsiders. Over the years, several competing spots have opened along or near Magnolia, and while we patronize all of them still, deep down, we’re always Chat Rats for Life. … Brother bar to the Arlington hipster homebase of Caves Lounge, the rustic, under-the-radar, grown-up dive Ozzie Rabbit Lodge (6463 E Lancaster Av, 817-446-9010) offers a clean, calm environment to enjoy a drink. The one feature it does borrow from Caves is a killer jukebox stuffed with great tuneage. Anything from punk rock to classic country makes for a great soundtrack to drinking with friends. … Sequestered on Camp Bowie, away from many of the social hot spots in town, Showdown II (4907 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-738-4051) is a well-kept secret for dive bar enthusiasts. The country charm is reminiscent of the first bars your dad tried to sneak you into when you were a kid. It’s a classic, no-frills, basic-domestic-drafts, and plenty-of-darts-and-pool kinda dive. Other places need $15 craft cocktails or funnily named, small-batch, juicy-hazy-unfiltered-trippel-IPAs to draw customers, but you won’t find those things here — and you won’t need ’em. Just an ice-cold Yellowbelly, a straight cue, and a well-worn bartop to lean on, thank ya very much. … The second location of the popular Deep Ellum watering hole, Twilite Lounge (212 Lipscomb St, 817-720-5483) opened five years ago by former Ticket producer Danny Balis, longtime business partner Jess Barr, and the guy who would become the face of the place, Jimmy Morton, and has since become another quaint and colorful drinking establishment in which to “pass a good time” on the Near Southside. The bar’s concept is loosely based on a New Orleans-style speakeasy, and the vintage-vibed vertical neon corner sign, crimson damask wallpaper, and comfy booths do a great job at recreating that sensuous, luxuriant Big Easy feel.
Critic’s Choice: Grand Cru Wine Bar, 1257 W Magnolia Av, 817-923-1717
For many of us, wine is intimidating. Which ones are sweet, and which are dry? Which ones go well with pasta, and which ones can be paired with meat or fish? What’s the difference between an $11.99 bottle and one that costs $60? Never fear, walking into Grand Cru. At this Magnolia Avenue mainstay, the employees know their stuff, and they’re friendly and unobtrusive, too, a great combo.
Readers’ Choice: Dusty Smith, The Abbey Pub, 2710 W 7th St, 817-810-9930
Critic’s Choice: Deven Kampenhout, Curfew Bar, 350 W 5th St, 817-725-7534
After 13 years in the biz, Deven Kampenhout considers himself both a mixologist and a bartender, and as a general manager now at Curfew, he’s really digging crafting menus. Creating unique cocktails is a big part of the fun, he says.
Readers’ Choice: The Bearded Lady, 300 S Main St, 817-349-9832
Critic’s Choice: The Radler, 1229 7th Av, 682-250-6926
The venue that formerly housed The Bearded Lady finally found itself a worthy successor with this German-style beer garden. We’ve always been partial to the blend of beer and fruit juice that the place is named after, but there are plenty of other brews available for consumption. Right now, the Radler’s menu is heavy on wheat beers and pilsners, but expect it to change when the weather turns cooler.
Readers’ Choice: Hunter Lucus, The Boiled Owl Tavern, 909 W Magnolia Av, @TheBoiledOwlTavern
Critic’s Choice: Café Modern, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell St, 817-840-2157
Fans of the Modern’s bar know that, while the food is generally good and the view of the reflecting pool amazing, the libations that flow from the cafe’s bar are equally wonderful. Brunch screams for a Bloody Mary, but you don’t actually need brunch to enjoy the concoction here. The original recipes for the drink (circa the 1920s or ’30s, depending on your source) featured a 50/50 combo of vodka and tomato juice, spiced with a little pepper. Unlike a lot of the tomato juice-and-vodka eye-openers in town, Café Modern’s version is spiced not with a chile-based seasoning or a prepackaged mix but a generous serving of horseradish and a dash of lemon. The spice isn’t enough to cause your nose to run and your eyes to weep, but it’s enough to make you sit up straight. The slightly lime-spicy rim adds a little salt and a little Texican to the beverage.
Brewery (Top 5)
Readers’ Top 5: HopFusion Ale Works, 200 E Broadway Av, 682-841-1721 • Maple Branch Craft Brewery, 2628 Whitmore St, 817-862-7007 • Martin House Brewing Company, 220 S Sylvania Av, Ste 209, 817-222-0177 • Panther Island Brewing, 501 N Main St, 817-882-8121 • Rahr & Sons, 701 Galveston Av, 817- 810-9266
Critic’s Choice: Second Rodeo Brewing, 122 E Exchange Av, 817-240-4959
Fort Worth breweries continue to release amazingly inventive and delicious brews. Whether it’s Martin House literally pushing the limits on what can conceptually be considered a beer — Cheetos, really? — or Rahr & Sons refining their offerings while expanding outside German-style beers, Fort Worthians are awash in local craft suds. Competition for this category grows tighter every year, but for sheer overall experience, we’re giving this year’s award to Second Rodeo Brewing. Boss Dennis Wehrmann is a fifth-generation brewmaster who’s crafted tasty ales and lagers that blend Texas and German influences. The Big Buckle IPA is bold enough for hopheads yet accessible for those who don’t normally stray too far from Currs Laght, while the Oktoberfest is malty, bready, and clean. Beer is just part of the draw at this Mule Alley hotspot. With three live music acts a day and a menu that’s heavy on chicken wings, sammies, and scrumptious nachos, patrons can enjoyably start and end their galivanting at this sprawling beer garden and bar.
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
Looking for a fun date night idea or a fun weekend outing with your friends? Hyena’s Comedy Night Club won’t gouge you on drink prices, and the comedic talent at this Sundance Square hotspot runs deep, from regional stalwarts to nationally renowned jokesters. Show up early and stay late. Before and after the big show, customers have access to two full bars, karaoke lounges, and pool tables.
Comedy Open-Mic Night
Readers’ Choice: Claws Out Comedy, @ClawsOutComedy
Critic’s Choice: Claws Out Comedy’s STFU Wednesdays, Twilite Lounge, 212 Lipscomb St, 817-720-5483
Though they now host a second open-mic night, on Tuesdays at Funky Picnic Brewery, the unapologetically diverse Claws Out Comedy collective started their open-mic nights at Twilite Lounge, so we’ll go with the first location first. You’ll see a lot of newcomers sweating under the spotlight as they work their five-minute slots, but plenty of up-and-comers and seasoned vets also show up to sweat and woodshed their acts. What sets these comedy nights apart is that you feel like you’re watching a show run by pros — which you are!
Craft Cocktail (Top 5)
Readers’ Choice: Thompson’s Bookstore, 900 Houston St, 817-882-8003
Critic’s Choices: Recommending a cocktail is a challenge because everyone’s palate is different. One man’s Mai Tai is another man’s Malört Sour, and bars that take their mixology seriously have expansive menus of balanced, delicious drinks, so picking the best is almost like putting their names in a hat. Nevertheless, some of our favorites are the following.
The mezcal-fueled From Dusk Till Dawn (also with espresso, ginger, ancho chile-mole, and bitters) at Thompson’s Bookstore is as wild and smoky as its namesake midnight movie. … If your vibe is more Christopher Cross than Robert Rodriguez, however, sip on a Sand & Sea from The Usual (1408 W Magnolia Av, 817-810-0114) — the drink’s silky orgeat sweetness is balanced with lemon juice and floral notes from the Dimmi and gin. And speaking of gin, the mix-and-match gin and tonic menu at Blackland Distillery (2626 Weisenberger St, 682-268-5333) is a fun way to find out what your favorite aromatic is. Then there’s the Hi Hat at Sugarman’s (Hotel Revel, 1165 8th Av, Ste 137, 817-886-4141) — the melange of dark rum, sloe gin, apricot brandy, and lime juice is a funky jam session that lives up to the legendary blues bar it’s named after. Finally, should you go to Proper (409 W Magnolia Av, 817-984-1133) and get pleasantly lost in their regularly rotating menu of themed drinks and classic concoctions, break your decision paralysis with the traditional absinthe service.
Readers’ Choice: Studio 80, 500 Taylor St, 817-332-4833
Critic’s Choice: Curfew Bar, 350 W 5th St, 817-725-7534
Curfew is the epicenter of Fort Worth’s dance music scene, throwing dance parties at least four nights a week, starting every Monday night with Meet Me Underground, the weekly deep house banger. From disco and throwback hip-hop to Top 40 hits, Curfew’s rotating cast of DJs will make sure your night is pumped full of high-energy fun.
Readers’ Choice: Blackland Distilling, 2616 Weisenberger St, 682-268-5333
Critic’s Choice: Blackland Distillery
Fort Worthian Markus Kypreos established a high standard when he founded his Foundry District-based distillery in 2018. He invested heavily in it and paired his spirits operation with one of the swankiest tasting rooms in the region. Every batch of bourbon, whiskey, and gin is fermented using locally sourced grain through a partnership with Fort Worth-based TexMalt. Local grains matter because North Texas is home to rich Blackland Prairie soil that imbues every sip of Kypreos’ fine liquor with the land’s terroir. Local bars and cocktail lounges are catching on and stocking Blackland spirits for a growing base of fans who are snatching up the distillery’s bottles as fast as Kypreos and distiller Ezra Cox can produce them.
Readers’ Choice: MUTTS Canine Cantina, 5317 Clearfork Main St, 817-377-0151
Critic’s Choice: Caves Lounge, 900 W Division St, 817-460-5510
All doggos are welcome at Caves while on a leash and accompanied by their owners at all times on the back patio. Speaking of said patio, it’s decorated with fun art pieces and has comfy seating. Caves is great anytime, but if you’ve never been, because it’s a 20-minute drive from downtown, bringing along Fido might be a great way to get in with the hip regulars.
Readers’ Choice: Drag-With-Me! The Show, @DragWithMe.TheShow
Critic’s Choice: 1851 Club, 931 W Division St, 817-642-5554
Friday and Saturday nights are hoppin’ at 1851 Club, Arlington’s only gay retreat. Grab a Ms. Sherry (vodka, orange juice, lemonade) or an 1851 (Tennessee Apple, ginger ale, cranberry juice) and mosey up to the front of the main stage. Owner Dalton Haynes is always on hand to greet guests before, during, and after the lively shows. Haynes bought the venue in early 2021 and has invested in revamping the interior and upgrading the sound and lighting systems. The results deliver an ideal space for drag queen stalwarts like Kolby Jack Davenport and Rochelle Roulette to literally bend over backward for your entertainment (and spare dollar bills).
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
Sometimes we aren’t feeling a PBR pounder and smokes. Sometimes we want a sophisticated Old Fashioned and two succulent, melt-in-your-mouth center-cut filet mignon sliders (with blue cheese and onion jam) or some black truffle tartare (hand-chopped filet with Grana Padano and toasted baguettes). Sometimes after work we just wanna chill at Eddie V’s. The Cultural District staple is pretty tricky, because as soon as happy hour is about to end (6:30pm from 4pm Sun-Thu), the jazz musos pile in and begin warming up. Uh, barkeep. I’ll have another.
Readers’ Choice: The Lobby Bar, Hotel Dryce, 3621 Byers Av, 817-330-9886
Critic’s Choice: Sugarman’s, Hotel Revel, 1165 8th Av, 817-928-3688
Let’s face it. Hotels gonna hotel, and no matter where you put them, they’re going to emit a certain level of swank. Now, you would think the refined classiness of Hotel Revel’s speakeasy would be at odds with its gritty, hip Near Southside environs, but thanks to the bartenders and the regulars — and the perfectly whipped-up, shaken, and/or stirred cocktails — Sugarman’s fits quite nicely.
Readers’ Choice: The Boiled Owl Tavern, 909 W Magnolia Av, @TheBoiledOwlTavern
Readers’ Choice: Ol’ South Pancake House, 509 S University Dr, 817-336-0311
Critic’s Choice: Nickel City, 212 S Main St, Ste 100, @NickelCityFWTX
If you haven’t had a Nickel City slider, you’re in luck, because these magically delicious mini-burgers are available every night until 1:30am, along with other bar-snack favorites like Coney Dogs, fried cheese curds, pizza logs, tots, wings, and even a fried bologna sandwich. The South Main bar-bar’s food truck is a reliable dispensary of the perfect grub to pad a night of drinking, and Nickel City’s late-night last call will save you from waiting in that interminable 2am drive-thru queue.
Readers’ Choice: (tie) Liberty Lounge, 515 S Jennings Av, @Liberty.Lounge.FW • Urban Cowboy Saloon, 2620 E Lancaster Av, 682-707-5663
Critic’s Choice: Liberty Lounge
Jenna Hill-Higgs opened Liberty Lounge in 2020 with the aim of offering the Near Southside community a watering hole where locals could rest, unwind, and feel comfortable and safe. With a U.S. Supreme Court hellbent on turning back the clock on progress and state leaders openly attacking and undeservedly vilifying members of the LGBTQ+ community, these are dark days. Hill-Higgs, a.k.a. #BigLoveJenna, openly supports progressive causes by hosting events and fundraisers that aim to peacefully subvert bigotry in all its form. The bar owner is that rare soul who is empathetic with everyone’s journey. She also knows how to sling some of the stiffest drinks in town.
Margarita (Top 5)
Readers’ Choice: Mesquite Pit, Granbury, Mineral Wells, Weatherford, MesquitePit.com, 817-596-7046
Critic’s Choices: Any self-respecting person from around these parts will argue all day long about this or that place being the best Mexican restaurant in the city, but everyone will agree that sipping a margarita on the lovely patio at Joe T. Garcia’s (2201 N Commerce St, 817-626-4356) is peak Fort Worth and a must-do for visitors. With its large central fountain and plethora of well-cared for plants (even in summer), the patio has to be a good 15 degrees cooler than anywhere else in town. And the margarita menu hits all the highlights, from house to top shelf. So get sippin’. … Picture this: Sitting on the rooftop patio, gazing down at Sundance Square, glancing up at all the other tall skyscrapers, sipping on a Billionaire Margarita made with tippity-top-shelf tequila and Grand Marnier to justify its $50 price tag. Reata (310 Houston St, 817-336-1009) delivers on luxury moments like this. Feeling less spendy? The Margarita Fresca may be less memorable but is still pretty dang tasty. Reata uses lime and simple syrup, not mixes, in all of their margaritas for that fresh, tangy flavor. … Skeptical that an izakaya can have one of the best margaritas in town? Well, Shinjuku Station (711 W Magnolia Av, 817-923-2695) won’t let you down. Sure, their version won’t impress purists, but set aside those notions and order the Shinjuku-rita. The citrus-forward sipper is a mix of tequila with freshly squeezed orange juice, yuzu, and agave nectar instead of orange liqueur, lime, and sugar. The result? A bright, distinctive drink that pairs exceptionally well with the small plate menu. … Do the margaritas at Taco Heads (1812 Montgomery St, 817-662-4064; 2349 N Main St, 817-420-6299) live up to their “Best in Texas” claim? Impossible to know for sure, but they are definitely among the best in Fort Worth. Go for one on the rocks if you want, but the taco joint has nailed down the perfect creamy, slushy texture for frozen versions. Both locations have cute patios, and make sure to check out the $5 margarita Monday special to chase away any back-to-work blues. … The key to a good margarita? Good ingredients and good ambience to soak up along with the tequila. Sweet little Tinie’s (113 S Main St, 682-255-5425) has high marks on both. For the house margarita, available both frozen and on the rocks, the bartenders use a housemade citrus syrup for a little extra pizazz. It’s a great margarita — fresh, bright, and potent. But why not try one of the many variations, like the Ay Papi, featuring orange and mole bitters? If you’re really feeling yourself, Tinie’s has an extensive list of specialty hard-to-find tequilas and mezcal.
Readers’ Choice: Lucille’s Stateside Bistro, 4700 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-738-4761
Critic’s Choice: T&P Tavern, 221 W Lancaster Av, Ste 1000, 817-885-8878
Choose from a plethora of train-themed ’tinis here. For purists, enjoy the Station Master, your preferred level of dusky and a couple of olives. For fans of Sex and the City, the T&P version of the Cosmo is the Train Whistle, with citrus liqueur, lime, and cranberry. The Conductor is also Cosmo-like with gin, simple syrup, rosewater, and cranberry. We’re not sure what to make of the sweet, frothy Lunar White (with vanilla vodka, coconut rum, amaretto, and cream) or the whiskey-and-cola-based Engine Engine No. 7, which the menu calls a “man-tini.” But what’s better than drinking a martini in Fort Worth’s only 1930s-era rail station pub? Answer: drinking one on Mondays when they’re only $5 apiece all day.
Readers’ Choice: Victoria Foster and Zak Reynolds, Refinery 714, Kimpton Harper Hotel, 714 Main St, 817- 332-7200
Critic’s Choice: Julian Weddington, Fixe Southern House, 5282 Marathon Av, 682-707-3965
Even after almost five years, the bar at Clearfork’s Fixe is still one of the best-kept secrets in town, but for those in the know, chances are you’ve seen Julian working his magic. The head bartender/mixologist has been serving up cocktails both classic and inventive since the place opened. More than that, you may have had a conversation with him about anything from rare whiskeys to movies and music to motorcycles. Julian is a master of his craft whether he’s serving you a spectacular classic martini, a modern take on a whiskey sour, or something he invented on the spot for you indecisive and/or adventurous drinkers.
Patios (Top Five)
Readers’ Choice: Joe T. Garcia’s, 2201 N Commerce St, 817-626-4356
Critic’s Choices: At Atico (2315 N Main St, SpringHill Suites by Marriott, 682-255-5112), the tapas are good and the views even better — the restaurant is nestled atop the tall, dark, and handsome SpringHill Suites in the Stockyards. … Situated high on the Frost Tower downtown, Branch & Bird (640 Taylor St, 682-785-8888) offers a splendid view of Sundance Square and environs while serving up quality cocktails and often live music. … Lot 12 (2512 W Berry St, 817-353-2344) isn’t downtown, but the sunset over the TCU area sure looks amazing from both the covered and uncovered patio areas. This space is always busy during TCU away games (and sometimes during the home tilts, too). … Press Café (4801 Edwards Ranch Rd, 817-570-6002) has an official patio to the side of the restaurant, but there’s a large space with fire pits and relatively comfortable seating where you can have a drink while you’re waiting for your table (especially if you were unwise and did not make reservations). … For the next 18 months or so at least, you’ll be able to enjoy the three glorious rooftop patios at Reata Restaurant (310 Houston St, 817-336-1009). Disputes with property managers in Sundance Square have sent the ownership looking elsewhere for space. It’s impossible to think of Fort Worth without this landmark rooftop patio.
Readers’ Choice: Mesquite Pit, Granbury, Mineral Wells, Weatherford, MesquitePit.com, 817-596-7046
Critic’s Choice: Jane, 1151 E Southlake Blvd, Southlake, 817-424-JANE
The creative cocktails are good enough to upstage the food at this upscale bistro. The drink menu rotates with the seasons, but regardless of the time of year, you can find well-judged blends of flavors in Jane’s margaritas, martinis, mules, and nonalcoholic drinks. If you’re not in a playful mood and just want a straight chardonnay or malbec, the wine selection can accommodate you, too. That’s worth raising a glass to.
Readers’ Choice: The Shot Cellar, 931 Foch St, 817-386-3561
Critic’s Choice: The Shot Cellar
With more than 300 shots to choose from, you can’t go wrong at The Shot Cellar. West 7th revelers know that the best place to pregame, mid-game, or top off a fun night out is here. Try the, um, Lactating Cowboy (Jack Daniels, milk) or a classic Lemon Drop (vodka, sugar, lemon juice). Whatever your liquor of choice, the bartenders at this popular bar can fix you up with a 2-ounce libation that goes down easy. #DrinkResponsibly
Readers’ Choice: Buffalo Bros, 3015 S University Dr, 817-386-9601
Critic’s Choice: Flips, 6613 Fossil Bluff Dr, 817-847-4424
This venerable cavern near Alliance is the best for dining on top-quality pub fare and imbibing reasonably priced suds and cocktails while taking in pretty much every sport on the planet at the same time — there are more TVs here than at every Best Buy in town put together. The staff is friendly and professional, so if you’re looking for fit young servers in thongs and tight tops, go elsewhere. Disclaimer: The facts that Flips transforms into a Steelers-watching spot on Sundays and our Pittsburgher editor lives nearby have nothing to do with this selection. #HereWeGo
Critic’s Choice: Tarantula Tiki Lounge, 117 S Main St, 817-920-9616
And we mean this in the nicest way possible. As booze enthusiasts, if we’re paying in the $12-14 range for a craft cocktail (which seems to be the average in this town), we’re going to want our money’s worth, and not only does Tarantula check that box, the dark, colorfully lit, groovy, Polynesian-themed retreat keeps flavor Priority No. 1. In every drink. Whether it’s an old standard like a Mai Tai, Painkiller, Zombie, or daquiri or an original devised by Tarantula’s mixologists, like the Black Flamingo (coffee, rum, banana, Macadamia, pineapple, lemon, bitters) and the Pink Pearl Diver (Guyanese rum, vanilla, vodka, wild cherry guava, lemon, house-made cinnamon syrup), the alcohol never overpowers your taste buds. We all need to be able to appreciate the art of blending so many ingredients and making them taste divine. Cheers, Tarantula.
Readers’ Choice: The Holly, 305 W Daggett Av, Ste 101, 817-420-6446
Critic’s Choice: Thirty Eight & Vine, 212 Carroll St, Ste 130, 682-703-1887
Dessert wines are so hard to find even in the places that supposedly specialize in wine, so cheers to this elegant Foundry District hangout for offering Tokaji, moscato (the good stuff, not the supermarket swill that passes for dessert wine), and Japanese umeshu. If your tastes don’t run sweet, you can still find exotic numbers like Spanish txakolina and Greek assyrtiko, rosés that can redeem that wine’s good name, and even some local craft beer. Tarrant County has no shortage of wine bars, but this place is unique enough to stand out.
To read about more winners, go to the Best Of Sounds Of The City, Getting & Spending, People & Places, Arts & Culture, Night & Day, and Good Grub, section articles on FWWeekly.com. To see the Best Of 2022 special edition in a flipbook, page-by-page format, click here.