Ah, March — the end of winter, the arrival of spring, the festivities surrounding St. Patrick’s Day and March Madness.
Say, who wants a drink?
Not that DFW residents really need a holiday (or any other excuse) to enjoy adult beverages.
Just take a gander at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission reports for 2015 for Tarrant County and Dallas County, and take note of the millions of dollars spent on beer and liquor at establishments around town.
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But while all that booze and good times is fun, you’ll need something to soak up the tubs of Bud Light, the gin and tonics, and all those St. Patrick’s green beer specials.
So, given that folks in search of fun may be spending an inordinate amount of time in bars over the course of the coming month, we thought it might be helpful to compile a list of must-try bar food — you know, something vaguely healthy-ish (OK, not really) to help you offset all those liquid calories.
Here is a handful of mouthwatering signature snacks from some of DFW’s most beloved and most promising watering holes.
Save us a seat at the bar, will ya?
The Bearded Lady’s mini beer brat corny dogs
The place: The Bearded Lady’s overall vibe is quite cozy, with tables scattered throughout the rooms inside, and a beautiful patio overlooking Magnolia.
The food: The focus is (rightly) on the eclectic beer selection, but the food is no slouch. The menu isn’t terribly expansive — the total of the bar’s culinary offerings, split among appetizers, soups and salads, and sandwiches and burgers, fits on a single piece of paper — but each item we’ve tried is a cut above. (We are also big fans of the Bearded Lady’s brunch menu.)
But for a freakishly good alternative to the usual pub grub, we recommend the mini beer brat corny dogs ($9), served with your choice of side as well as ketchup and grainy mustard. The corny dogs’ coating provides a satisfying crunch, and the beer brats inside retain a pleasant juiciness. They’re like a little circus in your mouth.
Flying Saucer’s turkey burger
The place: One of downtown Fort Worth’s nightlife institutions, Flying Saucer has long been a go-to spot for those seeking suds to sip and plates to share. (As was the previous tenant at this spot in downtown Fort Worth, the dearly missed 8.0.) After relocating in 2012, Flying Saucer picked up where it (briefly) left off, moving its massive wall of taps and all those gold plates a few blocks over, and enjoying a significant patio upgrade that includes a sizable outdoor stage.
The food: This beer-centric bar doesn’t mess around with its menu — the many choices range from shepherd’s pie to kale salad, and the burgers and sandwiches number more than a dozen.
While there are plenty of mouthwatering burgers to complement your draft beer of choice, try pretending to eat remotely healthy with the surprisingly satisfying turkey burger ($9.29), topped with jalapeño-pesto mayonnaise, red onion, lettuce and tomato on a whole-wheat bun. It goes down smooth with just about any craft brew.
J. Gilligan’s Irish nachos
The place: Call it the Arlington equivalent of Cheers — when you step inside J. Gilligan’s Bar & Grill, it really does feel like everybody knows your name. This Irish-themed pub has been a destination for decades, and has made itself part of the fabric of life in Arlington. (On Dallas Cowboys game days, J. Gilligan’s runs a shuttle service between the bar and AT&T Stadium.) The cozy space, crammed full of framed photos and neon signs, all but screams “new favorite watering hole.”
The food: Sure, there are a lot of things you could eat at J. Gilligan’s but c’mon: The bar’s “world-famous” Irish nachos ($6.99 for a half-order, $7.99 for a full), singled out by the Travel Channel and Food Network, are the star of this menu.
These aren’t the traditional chips-and-cheese setup you’ll find in any Tex-Mex joint worth its salsa. Instead, J. Gilligan’s Irish nachos are skin-on french fries, piled high with melted cheddar cheese, bacon, chives, onions, tomatoes and jalapeños. Dainty finger food this ain’t, but paired with a frosty cold beer, it is mighty delicious. And downright legendary.
World of Beer’s German pretzel
The place: A recent addition to West Seventh Street — World of Beer opened the doors to its Fort Worth location just over a year ago — with 500 bottles on site and a wall of 50 taps, they don’t take that “World” thing lightly.
The Fort Worth location also boasts a thousand-square-foot patio, the perfect place to sample one (or four) of its many barley-and-hops-infused offerings. There are also World of Beer locations in Arlington and Plano, though the Dallas one closed last year.
The food: Given how much choice might be involved with your drink selection, keep it simple with World of Beer’s German pretzel ($8). It is as straightforward as its name: a big Bavarian pretzel, crusty on the outside and pillow-soft on the inside, studded with salt and served with stone-ground mustard (for 2 bucks more, you can add a side of beer cheese). Sipping a fine craft brew and tearing off hunks of warm, soft pretzel? Heavenly.
Barcadia’s Trucker Plate
The place: Name another bar where you can drink booze and play enough vintage arcade games to make you feel like a kid again. (Go ahead, we’ll wait.) Drinking at Barcadia is like sipping beer inside an insanely cool garage that just happens to have a patio attached.
Arcade games like Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga line the walls, and the taps have a distinctly local bent. There’s a palpable sense of irreverent fun from the moment you step inside. The original Barcadia, with much the same feel, is along Dallas’ Henderson Avenue bar strip.
The food: If you’re looking for an industrial-strength booze sponge, you probably won’t find a better value in all of North Texas than Barcadia’s colorfully named Trucker Plate ($15).
The vaguely school-cafeteria-evoking tray contains (deep breath) three cheeses, slices of whiskey hard salami, slices of pepperoni, a healthy dollop of house-made garlic-red pepper hummus, three fried deviled eggs, several hunks of grill-toasted pita, a handful of crackers, a skewer of olives and tomatoes, and some fruit.
Reservoir’s Captain’s Tenders
The place: Opened in late 2012, Reservoir Bar, Patio & Kitchen, a gastropub/sports bar/nightclub mash-up tucked in an eclectic strip of shops on Foch Street, has proven extremely popular with fun-seekers of all (legal) ages. Televisions are scattered as far as the eye can see, and the comfortable booths are just as good a place to spend happy hour as the patio that lines the periphery.
The food: Captain’s Tenders ($8) are several chicken tenderloins crusted with Cap’n Crunch breakfast cereal, and boasting just a hint of sweetness, which can be undercut with one of the two sauces available: Three White Chicks mustard sauce or a sweet chili ranch. We went with the latter on a recent visit, and while it was runny, the sweet heat was a nice touch.
Buffalo Bros.’ chicken wings
The place: Buffalo Bros. has that lived-in sports bar feel. The cozy TCU hangout opened less than 10 years ago, in the winter of 2007, the creation of homesick New York chef Ed McOwen and his former boss, Fort Worth’s Jon Bonnell.
Together they infused Buffalo Bros. with an accessible, chef-driven menu and a casual atmosphere that allows college kids, Bills fans and young families to come together peacefully to worship at the altar of sports (34 TVs) and chicken wings.
The food: There are so many Buffalo delicacies on the menu here — beef on weck, Sahlen’s hot dogs and a great meatball-Parmesan grinder — that it can seem downright pedestrian to order wings. That is, until you taste them, and your lips start to tingle and your tastebuds jump for joy from all that voluptuous, vinegary hot sauce coating the plump, juicy chicken. This is the real deal — Buffalo chicken wings, the best you’ll find in Fort Worth.
Take our word for it: Order the 10 wings, traditional hot, and fries ($11.75), then wash ’em down with an ice cold draft or two, and toast to the fact that you don’t have to drive to Buffalo in winter to get your hands on these babies.
Buffalo Bros. Pizza, Wings & Subs, 3015 S. University Drive, Fort Worth, 817-386-9601; buffalobrostexas.com.
T&P Tavern’s panini sandwiches
The place: The history here is as filling as the food. Set inside the ’30s-era art deco Texas & Pacific Railway building, T&P was once called the Towers Diner and included a newsstand. The railroad station, diner and newsstand saw some famous travelers, such as Elvis Presley, stride its floors, as well as many WWII veterans who were either setting off for or coming home from distant lands.
Sadly, the newsstand is long gone, but the current incarnation of the eatery from Joanne and Nathan Weber sprang to life in 2010 with its contemporary take on bar food, a sprawling patio, high ceilings, muted televisions and a well-maintained vintage chrome-and-tile interior. The crowd and feel is casual (ordering is done at the bar), making this a cool post-work hang.
The food: While T&P offers the expected round of pizzas, nachos, and chips and queso, paninis stand out from the usual barroom fare.
The chicken panini (grilled and sliced chicken breast, tomato, provolone cheese, and basil-pesto mayo, toasted on focaccia bread, $9) is impressive. The bread was fresh and there was just the right amount of cheese and mayo, enough to add texture and flavor without overwhelming the slices of chicken.
Even better, you can order it with a side of spicy, chunky tomato soup that makes a perfect accompaniment to a sandwich like this.
Pouring Glory’s brisket nachos
The place: In a stretch of the near south side that’s just beginning to transition from industrial to interesting, this recently opened beer emporium fits right in while standing apart. The exposed-brick walls and cement floors nod to the area’s roots. But the wide selection of beers — more than 50 on tap — and the gastropub menu from owners Kevin Ehrenfried and Scott Glover are contemporary riffs on the tried-and-true.
The food: Pouring Glory serves some intriguing burgers but in terms of bar snacking, the brisket nachos ($10.99) are what you want. Now, when you say “nachos,” most people conjure up visions of plain corn chips dumped on a plate as the base, but Pouring Glory has something else in mind.
There are circular slices of potato instead, going for that Irish nachos angle. But it’s Ireland by way of Texas, as the spuds are topped with green onions, jalapeños, tender brisket cubes, barbecue sauce and sour cream. Even though the order is huge, you can be guaranteed that the brisket nachos will disappear quickly. You may even have to order a second round.
Keller Tavern’s Chili Cheesy Mess
The place: Once easily noticeable on the strip of U.S. 377 known as Old Town Keller, Keller Tavern is now in the shadow of Texas Bleu Steakhouse, with which it shares ownership. It’s a pleasant hangout with a nice patio for alfresco eating (or, mostly, drinking) and live-music watching. It’s also deceptively simple-looking: Within its houselike structure is an impressive liquor list, emphasis on the Scotch. Beer — local craft brews and otherwise — is also available.
The food: We went for the Tavern Chili Cheesy Mess — think Frito pie, but with the addition of waffle fries, bacon, pico de gallo and a side of ranch ($7.95; add chicken or Philly steak for $2.95).
As advertised, it was cheesy and messy, and although we like our chili a little more spicy, there was a pleasant comfort-food crunch from the Fritos and the bacon. The queso had a nice tang to it, too, and the waffle fries gave the dish … heft. A bar-food must. Add a couple of beers, and, naptime, here we come.
Photos by: Richard W. Rodriguez, Ross Hailey, Food Network, Robert Philpot, Joyce Marshall, Rodger Mallison, Khampha Bouaphanh