The countdown is on for our annual Tastemaker Awards, in which we celebrate the top talent in the Dallas restaurant industry. We'll be toasting them over the next few weeks with stories, covering every facet of food and drink. Those will serve as a build-up to our grand tasting event on May 14, from 7-10 pm, at the Empire Room in the Design District.
We began our series with an overview sharing the details of our event. Next, we took a look at the nominees for Bartender of the Year. Now we're exploring the places to find them: Dallas' best bars. We arrived at 10 spots for our list of finalists. From those 10, a winner will be announced at our party (for which you can buy tickets here), featuring signature snacks from top restaurants and a cocktail face-off hosted by Herradura between our Bartender of the Year nominees.
Here are the candidates for Dallas Bar of the Year:
True Prohibition-era cocktails are served at this charming bar in the former Ahab Bowen space. The vintage theme is sustained with 19th century photographs, marble-top tables and mirrored bar. Time is valued here; it's an opportunity to savor the space and the attitude as much as the drinks.
Cold Beer Company
Space that was formerly Vern's Place has been renovated into a likable dive bar, with cement floors, a glass-paned garage door and a couple of TVs. Of course there is beer: 24 taps feature a rotating cast of local breweries like Peticolas, Lakewood and Community, as well as out-of-state big hitters like Founders and Ballast Point
No conversation about craft beer in Dallas can occur without a nod to Common Table, which was one of the first in the wave of bars to make it a thing. Even as other bars open, Common Table remains a major player, with its broad and significant selection of brews. The food's always good too.
Henderson Avenue Country Club
One of Dallas' trendiest areas gets a dose of barbecue and honky-tonk music, from a team whose portfolio includes the McFadden's chain and the former Mason Bar in Uptown, as well as nearby Henderson Tap House.
Jack Mac's Swill & Grill
Veteran operators Jack and Amy McDonald have created a perfect neighborhood bar with their Far North Dallas pub. They cover every facet, from the cozy atmosphere and doting service to the better-than-bar-food menu of pizzas, sandwiches and desserts, with everything made in-house, to the noteworthy selection of craft beer.
The beer's the thing here. Well, the location too. Lakewood Growler embodies the idea that every neighborhood should have its own place where the locals can come with their own bottle and get it filled with cool brews. It doesn't get more handy than the intersection of Mockingbird and Abrams, but the selection is good enough to warrant a visit, even if you don't live in the 'hood.
Conceived by New Yorkers Chad Solomon and Christy Pope, this subterranean spot beneath The Joule hotel feels like a rock-and-roll salon but with a personal touch. DJs spin vinyl from the '70s and '80s while the bar serves great drinks such as the Hell Hound, with blanco tequila, chipotle mezcal, cilantro, pineapple and lime.
New White Rock spot fulfills the dream so many beer nerds currently nurture: a bar with many taps, some of which are beer brewed onsite. Although the space could use some acoustical tile, On Rotation's own brews such as its coffee milk stout are inventive. Being able to order pizza to-go from Cane Rosso next-door is a delicious plus.
That this bar is home to Eddie "Lucky" Campbell, a Tastemaker finalist for best bartender, is probably all you need to know. Because you also know the atmosphere will be transformative (and it is — check out the shimmering ice block on display), the service attentive, the level of seriousness intense and the cocktails simply transcendent.
So & So's
Ultimate Uptown hangout takes the longtime buzz accumulated by the former tenant, Primo's, and magnifies that times a hundred. A young and pretty clientele crossed with an ideally situated patio and mixologized cocktails makes magic. That there is also a serious stab at good pub food — better than Primo's pallid Tex-Mex — is the cherry on the sundae.
Buy tickets now to the Tastemaker Awards on May 14.