Pull up a stool for this set nominees for the 2016 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, where we tip a glass to the city's best bars. These are the places we go for conviviality, a quiet beer, or cocktails with a friend. These are the places we go to mingle and mix it up, whether that means watching the human parade from a solo bar stool or shaking it on top of a table.
The Tastemaker Awards, our annual program honoring the best in local food and drink, culminates in a celebratory event, this time on May 19 at Hall of State. We've already revealed nominees for Rising Star Chef of the Year, Best Sushi Restaurant, Sommelier of the Year, Bartender of the Year, Brewery of the Year, and Pastry Chef of the Year. We've unveiled the list of Best New Restaurants, the category where you decide who wins (be sure to cast your vote), and there are more categories to come.
These are the nine candidates for Bar of the Year:
Perched in one of Deep Ellum's most enviable storefronts at 2714 Elm St. (the space formerly occupied by Kettle Art Gallery), Armoury D.E. is a bar with a twist — a Hungarian twist. Co-owner Peter Novotny shares his Hungarian heritage on the menu with dishes like goulash, but the bar does not get shortchanged. There's a large collection of whiskeys, rare liqueurs, and herbal spirits like Fernet.
Elegantly revamped lounge offering cocktails, bottle service, patio space, and entertainment. Lots of bottles on fire and sparklers in this cocktail bar-restaurant from an entrepreneurial trio whose portfolio has included fashion, nightclubs, and craft-beer bars. Imran Sheikh is a London native who opened Aftershock London in Preston Center in 2013; he is also involved in the lifestyle sites Need and Foremost. His partner Asim Sheikh is a hospitality veteran who was behind Zouk, among other nightspots. And Mark Hearl is co-owner of Common Table next door.
New bar taking over the old TABC space comes from food and beverage veteran — and consummate host — J.R. Reyna, whose goal is to bring people together, whether that's co-workers, old friends, or new friends you haven't met. He offers good bar food, with healthier-than-usual choices, and has done a great job of giving State Thomas a comfortable neighborhood spot.
Capacious, rambling Deep Ellum coffeehouse serves espresso drinks, cafe bites, and cocktails. The drinks menu includes amusing "restorative" themed drinks such as the "corpse reviver" with cognac, calvados, and gin, as well as coffee-themed cocktails, such as the one combining bourbon with cold brew coffee. The chief appeal here is the easy-come, easy-go atmosphere, almost like a cooler version of your campus hangout.
There are happy hours and then there is Happiest Hour, the Harwood District hangout rife with superlatives. It's not just an outdoor patio, it's Dallas' largest outdoor patio, with not just good panoramas but some of the best views of the downtown Dallas landscape. Picnic benches keep it casual; stringed lights make it festive. A menu of snacks and sandwiches such as the croque monsieur and kung pao cauliflower beat the usual bar food by a mile.
High & Tight
H&T is a standout among bars with its unique concept combining barber shop and speakeasy bar, as inspired by speakeasy barbershops in places like Los Angeles and New York, such as the Blind Barber and Speakeasy Barber Salon. Where else can you get a $25 shave or a $15 eyebrow trim whilst sipping on a finely crafted Prohibition-era cocktail, including special drinks to match the season?
Craft cocktail palace at The Joule has big-time credentials thanks to its conceptual team, New York mixologists Chad Solomon and Christy Pope. The drinks are good, no doubt, and shareable (but pricey). What gives it that special cachet, though, is its subterranean location. Down you step into the lair, with two bars, leather booths, marble tables, and cool lighting with glowing bulbs.
Off the Record
Nifty bar from the Club Dada team is a vinyl-lover's paradise, with rock posters on the wall, bins with more than 2,000 albums curated by Good Records, plus live music throughout the week. If you're someone who loves browsing through a record store and wish you had a drink in your hand — and really, who doesn't — OTR has you covered, with cocktails and 20 beers on tap. DJ nights set the stage for dancing.
Henderson Avenue has no shortage of watering holes, but The Eberhard works hard to distinguish itself. Residential-style seating and a 65-foot-long bar entice indoors, while the wraparound porch — accessed via trendy roll-up garage doors, natch — and mezzanine encourage crowd-watching outside. Named for brewing pioneer Eberhard Anheuser, the bar is all about creating something new: a peach twist on a Moscow Mule, a spicier-than-you'd-expect margarita. Prepare for your beer to be bottled, however.