Barrel & Bones Craft Bar and Smokehouse, which you could either look at as a barbecue restaurant with a great whiskey program or a whiskey bar that serves barbecue, opened Thursday in Montgomery Plaza. And, through no fault of its own, some Fort Worth food observers were making bets on when it would close practically from the time it was announced in July.
That’s because Barrel & Bones takes up a portion of a spot that has been home to (deep breath) Mac’s Steak & Seafood, Deluxe Bar & Grill, Monty’s Corner, Bite City Grill and King Crab Tap House.. But wait, there’s more: Star-Telegram contributor Anna Caplan mentioned all of them in her May 2017 review of M Bistro, which has since closed. It was followed by Honey Smoke Pit, which we thought might make it — but didn’t.
Um, we think Barrel & Bones might make it.
For one thing, it’s only taking up half the old space — the other half will be taken up by its sister restaurant, Bourbon Street Oyster Bar & Grill, scheduled to open in October. And while restaurant target dates are notoriously hard to hit, Barrel & Bones managed to make its projected September opening.
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At a media preview last week, a handful of reporters and food bloggers were served samples of what seemed to be everything on the menu and maybe more. Barrel & Bones, which already has a location in the Colony, doesn’t stick to just Texas barbecue: The Texas brisket is there, but so are the Carolina pulled pork and the St. Louis-style pork ribs and even some Alabama-style stuff.
At the media preview, though, the brisket was what came off best, well-seasoned, smoky and tender. American Kobe beef spare ribs, big and thick with meat, were also good.
It was quite a parade of food: poblano corn fritters, Buffalo-fried deviled eggs (pretty good), “towered’ onion rings that look less towered than like someone played ring-toss with them (but still pretty good), smoked fried chicken wings, more barbecue chicken (and sausage, and turkey ...), fried shrimp, Alabama chicken (slathered in Alabama sauce, a barbecue sauce that is ... mayonaisse-based), turkey melt, and the “No Bones About It” sandwich (chopped brisket, sausage and chicken on a challah roll with your choice of sauce) and more.
Somehow after sampling all that, we had room for a Key lime pie that appears to be available only at the Fort Worth location, but the Colony location has a bourbon-soaked banana pudding (“contains alcohol,” the menu says, in case you thought they were kidding about the bourbon) that isn’t on a sample Fort Worth menu.
There was nothing we’d turn down, but the brisket and the ribs were the winners. But that’s not why we think this place might make it.
There’s plenty of barbecue competition not too far away: long-established old-schoolers like Angelo’s and Railhead Smokehouse are a short drive away, and upstarts like Heim Barbecue and Billy’s Oak Acres BBQ aren’t much farther away.
But none of them have Barrel & Bones’ whiskey lineup.
We mentioned it in our story on the announcement of the opening, but it bears repeating: Around 200 whiskeys, coming from places you expect (Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Canada, Scotland, Ireland) and places you might not (Utah, which represents with four; Japan, India, Indiana). That Indian whiskey was pretty good, nice little burn to it before mellowing out.
There are also nearly a dozen cocktails, including a red velvet old fashioned that wasn’t too cloyingly sweet. And a respectable beer list, with locals pretty well-represented, as well as small selection of wines available by the bottle or by the glass (and pretty inexpensive as these things go, with all but one of the glasses under 10 bucks).
We got to sample some drinks at the media preview, but obviously they couldn’t have rolled out the whiskeys like they did the food, or they’d be rolling all of us home. But this is what will keep people coming back (and that Indian whiskey paired well with brisket).
There are other challenges in this spot besides getting people in the door, but it’s the whiskey that will get people in the door. If you can gnaw on a rib while you’re sipping a glass, that’s just a bonus.
But then, we thought things would work there before. Hope this one does. Stay tuned.