For Dallas tipplers, much of the buzz lately revolves around craft beer. But there's good news for oenophiles too. Not only have we seen some exciting new spots open with a specific focus on wine, but we're also seeing all kinds of unexpected attention being paid to wine by traditional restaurants.
At the celebrated Lucia in Bishop Arts, co-owner Jennifer Uygur populates her wine list with uncommon bottles designed to match chef David Uygur's amazing food. At East Dallas Vietnamese restaurant Mot Hai Ba, the wine list is entirely French. Seasons 52, the Darden Restaurants' concept that recently opened its second Dallas-area branch at NorthPark Center, is as well known for its boutique wine list as its healthy food.
It all adds up to an improved environment for wine drinkers, no matter where they sip or dine.
For this list, we focused on establishments that not only focus on wine but help demystify the experience by making it approachable and fun. Whether you are taking a date or your dog, this is our list of the top wine bars in Dallas.
Best Wine Bar for Non-Wine Drinkers: Max’s Wine Dive
Why: Max’s is as serious about its wine list as it is about its upscale comfort food, but that doesn’t translate to stuffy. The atmosphere is lively and loud but laid-back, and Max’s eschews the typical restaurant mark-up on wines, making it easy to find something affordable. If you find a wine you like, take it home with you at a good price.
Insider tip: If you promise to order two glasses, you can pick from any bottle on the list in addition to the by-the-glass selections. Sit in the main dining room, patio or at the wine bar; the restaurant loses its charm in the back room.
Best Wine Bar to Take a Date: Mercy Wine Bar
Why: This is a sexy joint — candlelight, curtains, couches — with soul. (The name was inspired by Roy Orbison’s song “Oh, Pretty Woman.”) Mercy has 100 wines by the glass and another 50 by the bottle from about every country that makes good wine. Given the amount of distributors they purchase from, they cannot keep reprinting the wine menu, so there are always interesting wines not on the list.
Insider tip: Ask for Michael and let him be your guide for wines both on and off the list. There is also a table upstairs called Table 69 (ahem).
Best Wine Bar to Take Your Dog: Ascension
Why: Ascension does coffee, wine and a cafe-style menu, and the Design District location makes it an ideal spot for a post-dinner glass after a meal at Oak or FT33. Choose from 20 wines by the glass or 63 bottles, from boutique wineries as well as more acclaimed labels.
Insider tip: Bring your dog and sit out on the patio. The staff will bring your dog a bowl of water so he can drink while you do.
Best Wine Bar for Adventure Seekers: Cork
Why: Thanks to a computerized dispenser, you can try any of the 48 wines by the glass in 1-ounce pours. Cork is a great place to navigate the world of wines (350 bottles for retail sale), and owner Stephanie Rennells can steer you to a selection that meets your taste and price preferences. If you want to fly solo, there are computer touchscreens with info about the wines.
Insider tip: Avoid the frenetic vibe of McKinney Avenue and ask Rennells for menus from nearby restaurants if you want more than cheese, hummus or chocolate.
Best Neighborhood Wine Bar: Veritas Wine Bar
Why: This is a true neighborhood wine bar with great art provided by the Cameron Gallery. Veritas rotates its 20 wines by the glass and offers 350 labels of wine by the bottle; you can also try one of the 31 beers. Sink into a comfy couch, order a selection of meats and cheeses, and sit and chat with the neighbors.
Insider tip: Mondays are half-priced wines by the glass. Veritas also offers more free wine tastings than any other wine bar we’ve seen in the city, so sign up for its email list.