Of the many varieties of drinking establishments, the sports bar has the lowest bar to clear. A refined hotel lounge must fill its space and glasses with only the finest; a cocktail bar must employ bartenders with encyclopedic minds and a sense of adventure; a craft beer bar must always be on the lookout for a well-balanced and mindful tap list; a dive bar must refuse to clean up regularly or exert anything more than the perceived minimal effort — which is harder than it seems.
But a sports bar can clear the hurdle with TVs. Lots and lots of TVs. The kitchen can churn out food beyond wings and burgers, and there can be liquid choices beyond buckets of Miller Lite and celebratory (or funeral) shots. But none of that is necessary for a sports bar to have good character.
Henderson Tap House wants to raise the standard, it seems. It has TVs, of course, providing the 7,000-square-foot interior with near wall-to-wall coverage. There are no bad sight lines; even sitting with my back to the main bar, I could follow both the Spurs and Mavs games without craning my neck — but then I had a short drinking partner.
But due to touches like exposed brick, glass-paned garage doors and a leather-chaired lounge area, Henderson Tap House aspires to be more than just a place to watch the game. Unlike the grungy, blue-collar vibe common in great sports bars, this place is exceedingly clean, teetering on the edge of sterility found at Buffalo Wild Wings. Fortunately, there are chalkboards touting tap lists and just-right lighting to counter that, which also make it suitable for its Henderson Avenue address.
The menu also feels “elevated,” with options like prime rib and potato nachos, lobster mac and cheese, and filet mignon with walnut butter and truffle Parmesan tots. But do people really go to sports bars for filet mignon? Pizza feels more appropriate, but Henderson Tap House’s version won’t be appearing any best-of lists. There’s also a brunch menu — and a spacious patio to boot — which may be a prerequisite for existing in Dallas these days.
The menu that matters, however, is in the name. There are 24 taps, but too many are devoted to Coors, Miller and Budweiser. There is a nice selection of local options from Rahr & Sons, Deep Ellum Brewing, Revolver and Lakewood, but they’re the breweries’ flagships. The canned list is satisfactory, certainly not anything to turn up your nose at. Overall, it’s a middle-ground compromise that can accommodate patrons who don’t care what they’re drinking as well as those looking for some taste.
Although I didn’t experience it myself, friends have grumbled that the service can be painfully slow; one said he’d never go back after a Sunday brunch took several hours — a sometimes-curse of being popular. Our server was quick, but we also opted for a Wednesday night, when the place was hopping but not packed.
Still, the communal aspect of sports lends itself well here, as whole tables cheered and groaned with the games’ twists and turns. It gave Henderson Tap House the kind of pulse that every sports bar wants. It’s a shame the Spurs won, though.