Like every other category of dining out, bar food has stepped up its game. Bars have come a long way from wings and nachos, with bigger menus, better ingredients and a more ambitious attitude.
Part of the credit goes to Dallas pubs like Old Monk and Capitol Pub, whose better-than-bar-food grub helped raise the standard. At the same time, dining has become more casual. Many people are just as likely to start with a drink and move on to nosh, as opposed to hitting a restaurant.
And the line between restaurant and bar has blurred. Is Victor Tangos a bar or restaurant? Depending on your mission, it could be either or both.
Some have food that seems "too good" for a bar. Those are the places we're singling out here: bars with food so good, we almost don't want to call them just bars.
Deep Ellum may be swelling with new restaurants, but Anvil Pub gets lots of love for its food, and not just because it does half-price night on Tuesday. This is a bar with serious aspirations, featuring nightly specials such as shrimp tacos, as well as a vegan version of nachos. It dabbles in the humorous trend of extreme Bloody Marys piled with garnishes so preposterously generous — like a club sandwich — that it's enough for a meal.
Common Table could rest on its laurels as one of the city's best destinations for beer, but this Uptown gastropub takes its food as seriously as its brews. The menu has shareable dishes such as flatbreads and hummus, but it also features meat-and-potato entrées. Monday night beer dinners are a steal: four courses paired with top beers for $29 a person, showcasing something new every week, such as duck confit sweet potato hash, beef and barley pot pie, or blackened chicken grits.
Libertine was on Greenville Avenue before Greenville Avenue became cool, and it has a low-key demeanor that makes it easy to underestimate. The kitchen has seen chefs come and go, but they're always talented and open to trying new things, such as the house favorite portobello fries — thick strips of portobello mushroom in a crunchy batter. Every Sunday and Monday night there's a "roast pairing" featuring short ribs and mashed potatoes paired with award-winning Sir William's Brown Ale or Darkhorse Cabernet Sauvignon.
With its plastic sheeting wall and slapdash atmosphere, there's something challenging about Lounge 31, the impromptu bar upstairs from Bistro 31 in Highland Park Village. That's part of its appeal; it's a bit like a treehouse in this tony center. Well, that and the food, which is primarily Japanese and seafood. Its impeccable sushi brings to mind the now-closed Lombardi Mare, owner Alberto Lombardi's seafood restaurant back in the day.
Nickel and Rye
Owned by the same folks who own Woodfire Kirby's on Greenville and Kirby's Steakhouse in Southlake, Nickel and Rye could be mistaken for any other Uptown bar, with its patio spilling over McKinney Avenue. But the food is a pleasant surprise, from flatbreads and nicely charred quesadillas to irresistible items such as chicken and waffles or coconut-crusted shrimp. The drinks are good too.
So & So's
Taking over the storied Primo's spot, all So & So's really had to do was stock the bar and put out some chips and salsa. But instead owners Brandon Hays and Phil Schanbaum took a serious approach to the food, hiring chefs with experience and throwing out high-end surprises like pork shank with risotto; red snapper with English peas; or veggie pizza with artichoke, arugula and goat cheese. For a whimsical twist on a bar staple, there's Buffalo chicken skins with hot sauce, celery and blue cheese.
This Uptown haunt may be known for the mixology of Brian McCullough, but it does not shirk in the eats. New chef Cody Sharp, who previously worked at highly rated restaurants such as Casa Rubio and Stephan Pyles, has injected gourmet polish with dishes such as pork shank with cherry sauce, Wagyu steak, charcuterie, artful salads and sandwiches with house-made fries.
Ten Bells Tavern
Bishop Arts has sit-down restaurants, from Lucia to Stock & Barrel to Hattie's. Ten Bells is for when you want to stay in your flip-flops and settle in to a picnic table outside. Don't look for healthy here; it's more about burgers with BBQ sauce, fish and chips, house-made wings, and a crumb-topped mac and cheese. The odd signature is the Butty sandwich: two slices of grilled brioche enclosing French fries, Swiss, mozzarella and white cheddar cheese, with a side of curry dipping sauce.
One of the success stories at Mockingbird Station, Trinity Hall welcomes everyone from rugby fans to pub lovers to beer nuts. Its list of brews is broad, but it offers above-average food too — from pub classics like mussels to homey entrées such as pot roast with mashes potatoes. A new category includes a top-notch selection of vegan dishes such as Buffalo "chick'n" and chips with vegan queso.
As a spin-off of Lakewood bar Cock and Bull, it's no surprise that the Whistling Pig has good food. Owners Shawn Tang and Robert Cornwell have always been committed to good food, and they have a serious chef in Asher Stevens, who has become known for his deli-style sandwiches such as pastrami, Cuban and Reuben. At dinner, blue-plate specials such as jerk chicken or meatloaf with mashed potatoes quickly sell out.