Restaurants

Positively 3rd Street: New downtown hangout is more than a sports bar

Calamari Tampico (calamari tossed with grilled onions and peppers with Creole dipping sauce) at 3rd Street Bar & Grill in downtown Fort Worth
Calamari Tampico (calamari tossed with grilled onions and peppers with Creole dipping sauce) at 3rd Street Bar & Grill in downtown Fort Worth Special to the Star-Telegram

Third Street Bar & Grill took a bow in January in the space previously occupied by Frankie’s, which closed up shop in December 2016 after being one of the most ballyhooed sports bars to open in downtown Fort Worth in recent memory.

Third Street is the totally remodeled brainchild of veteran restaurateur Al Abbood, who enjoyed considerable success with two Flower Mound eateries — Sonoma Grill and Z Grill. The new restaurant draws influence from both of Abbood’s former properties, with an abundance of sports-bar worthy televisions paired with a menu that carries ambitious and deftly executed dishes (along with a planned-for focus on hand-carved cuts of beef, where a 12-ounce steak, plus two sides, will top out at $21) all served by a polished and solicitous service team.

The vibe: “Our style is a casual-chic restaurant-entertainment venue, rather than just another sports bar,” Abbood says.

If you value statistics, then consider that 3rd Street Bar & Grill weighs in at 8,400 square feet — with a total occupancy of 343 — making it, unofficially, downtown’s largest combination eatery-entertainment venue.

Abbood is adamant that 3rd Street, despite its 55 televisions — with three measuring 140 inches across and one gargantuan 18-by-12-foot model — is not a mere sports bar. For starters, several of the screens will be tuned into such non-sports offerings as the Food Network, 24-hour news, or cartoons for the kids.

And 3rd Street presents live entertainment four nights a week, which I sampled one recent Saturday night.

With the lights dimmed to dance-club dark, and every television turned off, the Night Shift band kicked off an evening of Top 40 hits ranging from Bruno Mars and Beyoncé to Prince and Michael Jackson, much to the delight of dance-happy customers ranging in age from backward-cap-sporting 20-somethings to blazer-wearing patrons in their 30s to 50s.

The music: On Friday and Saturday nights, 3rd Street presents a lineup of some of the area’s most accomplished “show” and tribute bands (The Dick Beldings, Incognito, Texas Flood and Red Leather), with Wednesday and Thursday nights devoted to smaller, acoustic acts. At all other times, its in-house soundtrack is a classic rock fan’s dream playlist with seemingly non-stop Foreigner, Elton John, Little Feat, Heart and more.

The food: Under the direction of executive chef Kevin Fuller (late of Texas Republic and Billy Bob’s), the kitchen is serious about owner Abbood’s vision that 3rd Street be a “casual-chic restaurant” with an unflinching emphasis on the food. So I decided to put 3rd Street’s mission to the test by ordering tricky-to-execute seafood, while steering clear of predictable nachos and wings.

The calamari Tampico ($10) was a copious mound of freshly cut fish (not frozen rings), whose tempura-battered exterior was deftly fried. The crunchy calamari was given a lip-smacking zing thanks to slivers of jalapeño, and its accompanying dipping sauce was the love child of a remoulade and a Creole aioli.

I found 3rd Street’s red snapper ($17) to be a fine take on New Orleans-style blackening, with the skin remaining potato chip-crisp even while blanketed in a silken beurre blanc sauce studded with chunks of crawfish. And I can’t imagine any other local restaurant with 55 televisions spending so much quality time on the snapper’s side of cilantro-lime infused rice.

The meal’s finisher, a chocolate cheesecake ($7), boasted a mousselike interior and a cloudy roof of whipped cream, offset by the wavy lines of a bright raspberry coulis.

The prices: Reasonable with starters ranging from $7 to $12; pizzas $7-$17; sandwiches at $10; entrees $12-$21. Desserts all come in at $7. Price specials include half-off the $10 3rd Street burger on Mondays, and half-off pizzas on Tuesdays.

The verdict: It’s still early, but given owner Abbood’s steely determination to make 3rd Street stand out, it’s difficult to bet against his hybrid restaurant-entertainment venue not establishing a tight grip on part of Fort Worth’s hypercompetitive downtown market.

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