An Evening of Agave at Stock & Barrel

A few weeks ago, Stock & Barrel Kitchen Americana in Bishop Arts District hosted its first spirited dinner with Don Julio, aptly named An Evening of Agave. I happily attended, albeit slightly worse for the wear since I had just returned from my first ever Tales of the Cocktail experience a few days prior, but hey … tequila. ‘Nuff said. The dinner was an intimate affair offering only 15 seats, at the bar and involved not only a four-course dinner paired with cocktails highlighting the Don Julio line of tequilas, but also an interactive educational experience led by none other than Senior Don Julio brand ambassador, the ever delightful and engaging Jorge Raptis.

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The dinner experience opened with introductions from Stock & Barrel Chef/owner Jon Stevens and Bar Manager Jeremy Koeninger before they gave Jorge the floor to tell us more about the history behind Don Julio as well as the thoughtful process that turned agave into the tequila that was before us. He spoke about the philosophy behind Don Julio that drives the manner in which they cultivate, harvest, and cook the agave, as well as distill, bottle, and age the tequila, and why production volume should never compromise the level of product quality.

The ambiance of the event was very casual and interactive, so the guests were encouraged to ask questions and have an open dialogue about the food and cocktail courses, as well as the Don Julio tequila itself. There were tasters of different tequilas for each guest, in addition to the cocktail pairings, so needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway), our intimate group of bar guests became very fast friends.

 

Now of course, while the tequila was very smooth and enjoyable, Chef Jon Stevens was not about to let it overshadow the food courses. He made this clear by simply bringing out the first course: Wild Salmon Tartare with avocado cream, grapefruit segments, Yukon potato crisp, and lemon verbena. It was a bright flavor punch to my palate, tempered very well by the subtle fattiness of the salmon. The course was complemented by Jeremy’s cocktail creation dubbed Electric Love, which featured Don Julio Blanco, verbena, and Cocchi Americano, an Italian aperitif wine. The Blanco’s crisp, citrusy flavor paired with the tartare dish and its accouterments beautifully.

Chef Stevens’ second course (my favorite of the meal, without a doubt) was Mediterranean Octopus Carpaccio with tangerine, radish, and honey pimento. The thinly sliced octopus had hints of smoky char that I loved, but by its very nature of being carpaccio, it was an ethereal deliciousness that I kept chasing. The next thing I knew, I had devoured my second course, wishing I could have a second helping, maybe even a third. My friend Paige expressed a similar sentiment, with a wistful face when she found her plate empty as well.

Mediterranean Octopus Carpaccio

The cocktail pairing for the octopus course was an Ancho Bravo, made with Don Julio Reposado, demerara syrup, and Ancho Reyes. The Reposado coupled with the demerara brought a slightly cinnamon-y warmth that lent itself well with the smoky, meaty octopus, and the Ancho Reyes provided a welcome spicy kick. It was pretty boozy, so I took my time to sip and savor it.

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We bounced back pretty well though when the third course arrived: Braised Berkshire Pork Belly with creamy Brussels sprouts and preserved cherries. Chef Stevens had prepared us well by having the first two courses whet our palates, leading us to this wholly satisfying and deliciously unctuous pork belly dish. The creamy Brussels and dark berry tartness of the cherries ensured that the dish would satiate our taste buds without being too heavy.

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The third course paired with The Oleroso Agave, a cocktail with Don Julio Añejo, Oleroso sherry, and Luxardo syrup served up in a coupe glass. It was a spirit-forward concoction that accentuated the savory notes of the pork belly, and the sherry played well with the preserved cherry sauce. I especially enjoyed this pairing as Añejo is typically my favorite tequila expression, with the extra time the tequila spends aging in barrels.  The flavor comes out with honey and caramel notes that I just love.

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Our fourth and final course was the Butterscotch Pot de Creme, served with vanilla cream, sourdough crisp, and sea salt. This dreamy and delectable dish was served with a taster of Don Julio 1942. The butterscotch pot de creme was silky and light, and the sprinkle of sea salt elevated the dessert to another level of deliciousness. The sourdough crisp offered a welcome crunchy texture to the dinner’s velvety finale, and the deeply caramel and chocolate notes of the Don Julio 1942 brought this particular Night of Agave to a definitively beautiful conclusion.

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Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback from guests after the Don Julio dinner, Stock & Barrel hopes to keep the spirited dinner series going every other month, with each one featuring a unique spirit.  For more information, check out stockandbarreldallas.com or follow Chef Stevens (@stockbarreltx) and Jeremy Koeninger (@jeremykoeninger) on Instagram for any event announcements and updates.

STOCK & BARREL
stockandbarreldallas.com
316 W. Davis St. (Dallas)
(214)888-0150

Some of my Favorites …

Dallas is a great city.  With more restaurants per capita than any other city in the US, it’d be impossible for me to put together a full list of my favorite spots to eat and drink (because I eat and drink a LOT), but I’ve pulled together SOME of my favorite restaurants and a couple other spots I enjoy for visitors to our fair city.  I’ll add to it in the future … but it’s a good place to start!

EAT & DRINK

TRINITY HALL
An Irish pub fashioned after a pub in Dublin, Trinity Hall offers a wide selection of whiskeys, food for any special diet needs, live music, and too many events to begin to list.  Go for a refreshing Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer Moscow Mule on a warm evening on their patio … it doesn’t get too much better than that.   (If you want to try Crabbie’s for yourself, check it out at a tasting or event next week during Crabbie’s Week! They’re doing fun activations all over Dallas.)
5321 E Mockingbird Ln #250 (Mockingbird Station), trinityhall.tv

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E BAR TEX MEX
If you were a fan of Primo’s back in the day (like eight years ago), then this is your spot; the owners and chefs from Primo’s moved here when the new owners took over.  It’s by far my favorite Tex-Mex in Dallas–though I’m not sure if it’s the food or the nostalgia.
1901 North Haskell Ave Suite #120, ebartexmex.com

PARLIAMENT
This craft cocktail spot is one of my favorite places in all of Dallas.  The bartenders know what they’re doing, so trust them and don’t be a dick.  Visit on a week night to get the full effect or during happy hour (which is surely one of the best values in Dallas) or while it’s raining.  (They offer their hh prices anytime it rains!)
2418 Allen St (Uptown), parliamentdallas.com

POKEY O’S COOKIES AND ICE CREAM
Guys … you’ve got delicious cookies and Blue Bell Ice Cream and they make them into a sandwich.  It doesn’t get much better than that.
3034 Mockingbird Lane, pokeyos.com
(Full disclosure … my parents own this place.  But try it out and tell me it’s not delicious enough to be on this list.)

SHOP

SOCIETY BY JACKSON VAUGHN
This little candle and knick-knack shop is impossible to leave empty-handed.  They have clever Dallas-centric cards
403 N Bishop Ave (Bishop Arts District), shopatsociety.com

Courtesy of Society
Courtesy of Society

WEST ELM
This minimalist home goods and furniture store may be a chain, but they always have the coolest haute barware and even some unique goodies like bitters and syrups to try out.  Don’t miss their section featuring goods from local makers or the wine candles.
5307 E Mockingbird Ln #100 (Mockingbird Station), westelm.com

GYPSY WAGON
Ladies can get a little hippy dippy here with a fun selection of clothing, jewelry, and accessories and fun home items.
2928 N Henderson Ave (Henderson Ave), the-gypsy-wagon.com

BULLZERK
The goods and duds from this local shop are fresh and delightfully subversive.  Because, really, “Dallas: it’s what everyone in Dallas is talking about.”
1909 Greenville Ave (Lowest Greenville), bullzerk.com

GET OUT

With all the drinking I do in dark bars, sometimes I need to spend time in the sunlight.

CEDAR RIDGE PRESERVE
This is about as good as “hiking” in Dallas gets without making a day of it.  Enjoy plenty of trails and some decent views, just make sure to take plenty of water.
7171 Mountain Creek Pkwy (Cedar Hill), audubondallas.org/cedar-ridge-preserve

KLYDE WARREN PARK
The park perched on top of a highway offers daily, free activities, and plenty of green space.  Check out the food trucks that are different every day and Savor for a cocktail.
2012 Woodall Rodgers Freeway, Suite 403 (Downtown), klydewarrenpark.org

DALLAS ARBORETUM
I love outdoor activities, and outdoor events that you can take your own goodies to are even better.  That’s why the concerts at the Arboretum are a can’t-miss for me.  Take a picnic (complete with booze) and enjoy the themed music, or simply visit to enjoy the grounds.
8525 Garland Road (Lakewood), dallasarboretum.org

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***I am a paid endorser for Halewood International Limited and received compensation, including free product, for support of Halewood International Limited and its products.***

Crabbie’s Gives You Nothing To be Crabby About

So here’s the deal: I love the spice of ginger beer in my cocktails, but I’m so over Moscow Mules.  So what’s a girl to do?  I went on a mission to find other ways to work the magic juice into cocktails without going full-tilt basic.  Also, if you know me well, you know that I enjoy a stout drink.

Luckily, Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer is a thing.  Crabbie’s is a boozy version (4.8%) of the basic favorite out of Edinburgh, Scotland and is available in original, orange, and Scottish raspberry.  They’ve been making this boozy, gingery goodness since 1801, so they must know what they’re doing.  Crabbie’s steeps natural fermented ginger for up to 6 weeks before blending it with 4 secret ingredients, giving it a deep, spicy flavor.  Check it out in bars around Dallas or whip (slash shake) one of these up at home to celebrate Crabbie’s Week August 21-27.


THE GINGER SOUR
2oz Grand Marnier
1oz lemon juice
One egg white
Crabbie’s Ginger Beer
Dash of orange bitters

Shake together Grand Marnier, lemon juice, and egg white for ten seconds.  Add ice to the shaker and shake vigorously for another thirty seconds.  Pour Crabbie’s into a collins glass to fill halfway, then strain the shaken mixture over it.  (Egg white may rise above the rim of the glass depending on your shaking abilities … but don’t be sad if it doesn’t.)  Add a dash of orange bitters on the top of the egg white head and garnish with an orange peel.

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GETTIN’ FIGGY WITH IT
1.5oz bourbon
1oz fig butter
Crabbie’s Scottish Raspberry Ginger Beer

Add bourbon and fig butter to a shaker and shake vigorously to combine.  Pour over ice, then top with Crabbie’s Scottish Raspberry Ginger Beer.  Garnish with a half a fig.

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Look out for Crabbie’s around Dallas … and make sure to celebrate Crabbie’s Week next week!

CRABBIE’S ALCOHOLIC GINGER BEER
crabbiesgingerbeer.com
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***I am a paid endorser for Halewood International Limited and received compensation, including free product, for support of Halewood International Limited and its products.***

Cedar Grove

New Cedar Springs hotspot, Cedar Grove, opened in the former DISH space back in June after transforming the space into a whimsical fabricated forest … that just happens to have a restaurant in it.  With food by Executive Chef Taylor Kearney and drinks by Beverage Director mixologist Trevor Landry, this bizarrely decorated restaurant was still a “wow”.

The drinks, we were warned, are all on the sweeter side as that is “what the clientele prefers”.  While I enjoy my cocktails spirit forward (if not drinking straight liquor on ice), so I had to prepare my palate accordingly.  Trevor let us try quite a few of their options and I didn’t have a single thing I didn’t enjoy, though I was glad to have someone to share with since my sweet tooth had been more than sated by the second drink.  (The entire drink menu was also very inexpensive with most drinks ringing in around $6.  They also offer punches for sharing!)

The drinks on the whole were playful (flavor or garnish … or both) and their unique offering (you know, the drink that everyone is going to Instagram?) is adult snow cones.  The Crushed Caipirinha Snowcone was sweet and enjoyable, but I preferred the Lemondrop Snowcone because … Sour Patch Kids.

If you’re not into sweet drinks, your brunch options on-menu are limited.  (I’d suggest ordering off-menu or asking for a dinner cocktail menu.  The Shrubbery (Old Forester, peach shrub, lemon, house made grenadine, Angostura Bitters) is quite refreshing yet spirit forward and very flavorful.

Along with scrumptiously sweet drinks, the food was surprisingly delicious.  The brunch selections we tried made for a great start to the day, especially the Chicken & Waffle Sliders.  Tiffany and I shared one and it was plenty since it’s quite rich thanks to the runny, fried egg.  I’d suggest ordering a few items to share since all of their options are quite good … why choose?  (No one should have to deal with a Sophie’s Choice-type decision at brunch.)

 

 

CEDAR GROVE
cedargrove-dallas.com
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4123 Cedar Springs Road (Dallas)
214.522.3474

Del Frisco’s Grille Kicks Off New Happy Hour Menu

By Wednesday, after a long few days at work, I was ready for an adult beverage. (I had just started a new job and getting the lay of the land in a new place is always stressful.) Fortunately for me, Del Frisco’s Grille is celebrating summer by introducing a new happy hour–Monday to Friday, 4-6:30pm. So I headed over to the Dallas location on McKinney Avenue to check it out.

You guys … they have a Sip and Share menu with $6 cocktails, wine, craft beer ($5) and food. The menu includes some of their top signature drinks like the VIP and Tennessee Peach and new and old favorites in the food department.

First thing’s first: food. One of the classics and my favorite is their classic Cheesesteak Eggrolls. These things are amazing.  Other items include Deviled Eggs, Pulled Pork Nachos, French Onion and Parmesan Spinach Dips, flatbreads, and the best corndogs you’ll ever have, the Wagyu Corndogs.

Now let’s get to the real reason I was there. First, if you have never had one of Del Frisco’s signature cocktails, head over ASAP. I am a whiskey drinker, so, my personal favorite is the Tennessee Peach (Jack Daniel’s, Fresh Peaches, Local Honey, Fresh Lime Juice, and Peach Bitters). This whiskey cocktail is perfect for summer; it’s refreshing and light, but it’s definitely on the sweet side.

I also tried the Grille Margarita. I asked the difference between the Grille Margarita and its Hand Crafted Cocktail counterparts; I was told it’s the Margarita 160 (skinny margarita: Sauza Silver Tequila, Triple Sec, Agave Nectar, Fresh Lime Juice) without the “skinny.” It was not too sweet, and just an excellent, classic margarita.

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In addition to these, they also include their Red and White Sangrias on the Sip & Share.
Red: Malbec, Stoli Razberi, Cointreau, Sweet & Sour, White Peach Purée, Fresh Lime Juice.
White: Pinot Grigio, White Peach Purée, Peach Schnapps, Strawberry-Peach Popsicle.

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If you’re in the mood for the classics, they included premium spirits on the happy hour menu, including Tito’s Vodka, Bulleit Bourbon, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Bacardi Rum and Milagro Silver Tequila.

Needless to say, the summer happy hour Sip & Share at Del Frisco’s Grille will be one of my new go-to happy hours. The best part? The new HH is available at all locations! Head on over and take advantage of this $6 Sip & Share (with $5 craft beer) happy hour menu while it lasts!

Del Frisco’s Grille
delfriscosgrille.com
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SĒR at the Hotel Anatole

During a recent staycation at the Hilton Anatole, I was delighted to try their steakhouse, SĒR Steak + Spirits, on the 27th floor.  This is one button I enjoyed pushing entirely too much.  But I pushed it … and I pushed it good.  My girl Tiffany joined me for dinner and we were absolutely blown away by each and every one of the courses presented by Executive Chef Kevin Spencer and every drink by Colin Silva.

The drinks kept us on our toes (and put us on our asses) thanks to the unique flavor profiles and the unexpected extras.  This is one of the places I’d suggest handing the reigns to the bar team; they’ll make you something intriguing and unique.  The scotch cocktail we were treated to (below) was delightfully smoky thanks to the peatiness of the spirit, but was still surprisingly light.  The preparation for the cocktails was involved and completely worth the short wait.

 

SĒR’s kitchen offers reimagined versions of some basic options and quite a few all-new dishes.  The perfect example is their Steak Tar Tar that closely resembles a deviled egg but brings so much more to the table.  Be ready for a rich mouthful here.

Steak Tar Tar
Steak Tar Tar

The Caesar Salad was such a stand-out that I ended up visiting a second time in just one weekend to have it again.  It’s perhaps the coolest salad … ever.  This thing is a slab of leafy greens with “deconstructed croutons”, flowers, and even Pop Rock-like crystals that keep your mouth more than entertained.  The best part of this salad was the dressing.  Through some sciencey process, Chef Kevin creates egg yolk-like pods of dressing so you control your dressing to lettuce ratio.  I like being in control.

Caesar Salad
Caesar Salad

The entrees were just as enticing.  The seafood was fresh (the fish was light and flaky) and the steak was as tender as it could be.  The Texas Caviar accompanying the steak we were served gave it a delightful, spicy snap.

Dessert was just as unique as the preceding dishes.  One dessert (not yet on the menu) boasted grapes prepared three different ways accompanying ice cream and a buttery crumble.  The Millionaire Pie was also a delight with the perfect balance between the tartness of the raspberry sorbet and the creaminess of the vanilla ice cream.

SĒR Steak + Spirits
sersteak.com
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2201 North Stemmons Freeway (Design District)
(214)761-7479

 

Blaze Pizza

Last week Blaze Pizza opened in Fort Worth and The Colony. Each restaurant is set up like a Subway … you can order off a menu or build your own and pick everything from the crust to the toppings. All of their pizzas are built on made-from-scratch dough using artisanal ingredients. Once you’ve decided on the toppings, each pizza is fast fire’d in 180 seconds.

Oh, and for those of you who need gluten free: they’ve got it!

Build Your Own Pizza from crust to toppings!
Build Your Own Pizza from crust to toppings!

Here is a tip: if you want more toppings, just ask; they won’t upcharge or tell you to stop. I have to say I wasn’t super satisfied with the amount of sauce or toppings on my pizza, but after talking to management, they let me in on that little secret.

Ok, Ok, Ok- I’ve talked about the pizza, but what about the drinks?? Each location serves beer from somewhat local breweries–the Fort Worth location had (512) Pecan Porter and Dallas Blonde. (I don’t know about you, but I think this is a total plus for a fast food pizza joint.)

Not only does Blaze have great food and drinks, they’re also super committed to giving back to the community. They offer local charities and groups the chance to do fundraising nights; once they approve an organization, they print the flyers and donate 20% of net sales from that designated day straight to that group. Pretty awesome, right?

BLAZE PIZZA
www.blazepizza.com
@BlazePizza | Facebook | Twitter

5925 Convair Drive (Fort Worth)
5050 SH 121 (The Colony)

Sunday-Thursday (10:30am-10pm), Friday-Saturday (10:30am-11pm)

***Blaze Pizza invited our team in to try out their (delicious) goods.***

National Daiquiri Day

Tuesday is a glorious day, my friends … a glorious day indeed. July 19th is National Daiquiri Day. Personally, I think it may as well be called Tiffany Tran Day given how much I love this cocktail. I’m very fortunate that my experience with the daiquiri on the whole has been delightful, but not without encountering a few landmines along the way. (And I mean truly odd and off-putting interpretations.) However, none were consumed in vain since I can now provide you with a list of some of the best places in D/FW to enjoy my favorite cocktail.

By no means is this compilation comprehensive since I’m still discovering new bars and hidden gems every week, but for the casual drinker who just needs a nudge in the right direction, here are several of my recommendations. Oh, and if you hit up every spot tomorrow to celebrate, I applaud you. God speed, and Happy National Daiquiri Day!

Midnight Rambler (Downtown)

My friends often ask me where they should go for a daiquiri, and without hesitation, my first answer is always, “Midnight Rambler. Ask for Zach Smigiel.” I credit Zach for converting me from a staunch whiskey neat drinker to the daiquiri devotee I am today. His version sticks to the classic recipe, but the magic is in the ice and the shake. Zach makes the cocktail using a large format cube which produces a much tighter foam bubble structure and thus, a creamier texture.

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Black Swan (Deep Ellum)

The first time I went to this watering hole, I walked right past the door because there’s no sign over the unassuming façade. What I discovered once I stepped inside is that bar owner Gabe Sanchez makes freakin’ awesome daiquiris. Wait until Wednesday if you want to order from him though since he’s off on Tuesdays. (Womp womp.) They’re also closed on Mondays.

Parliament (Uptown)

Known to many as my home bar, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that this cocktail den is on the list. The best part about ordering a daiquiri here is you can have confidence in ordering it from any of the guys behind the bar; each one will make you an excellent one. The fun of it is trying out each bartender’s version and deciding which one is your favorite. I’ve played this game before and it’s a really good time because 1) it proves how versatile the daiquiri is, and 2) you get to drink a lot of them. Start with one by Drew Garison or Colin Phillips and go from there … just not on Sundays (they’re closed).

Photo credit: Kara Edwards

The Standard Pour (Uptown/State & Allen)

A sub-two-minute stroll from Parliament, this spacious cocktail spot proves to be high quality even though they are high volume. They excel at classic daiquiris as well as funkier versions to keep your palate excited. If you want a tried-and-true version, you can’t go wrong by asking for Sean Taylor, and if you want something funky, go to Tristan Price. Neither of these guys will steer you wrong.

Citizen (Uptown)

Ah … the Jekyll & Hyde of Uptown. It’s a beautiful space that’s open Wednesday to Saturday, and by no means a hidden gem. The spot blows up every night around 10pm going from a chill cocktail spot to an unce unce club illuminated by red lights and crowded with bandage dresses and bottle service enthusiasts. My tip: Go between 5-10pm, grab a seat at the bar, and order a daiquiri from Jermey Elliott. He’ll make you top notch drinks and honestly, he’s just fun to hang with. Then hit up the photo booth … it’s good times.

Atwater Alley (Highland Park)

If it’s Thursday-Saturday night after 8pm, head straight up to the dark wood-paneled speakeasy down the alley by Henry’s Majestic (also an excellent bar) and let Ricky Cleva, Angela Montesclaros, and Ryan Frederick mix up their classic daiquiris for you. The atmosphere is dark and sexy with cozy and quiet booths, but if you can snag a seat at the six-seat bar upstairs, I highly suggest you do so. (BONUS: check out the unique daiquiri Alex Fletcher just developed, the Cubano Daiquiri. Pictured in header)

Photo credit: Tiffany Tran
Photo credit: Tiffany Tran

Vicini (Frisco)

I can’t forget my suburbanites’ drinking needs. This restaurant and bar is one of the only places in town that you’ll catch Dallas barman extraordinaire Brian McCullough behind the stick. He prides himself on his daiquiri-making abilities, and it’s not without merit. The kicker: the Vicini daiquiri is just $5 on the happy hour menu (every day, 11am-7pm).

The Theodore (NorthPark Center)

Some have an issue with this bar being in a mall, but trust me, once you try a daiquiri made by Kyle Hilla’s team here, you’ll find that being at the mall isn’t all that bad. (I mean … shopping after two cocktails is kind of the best thing … ever.) It helps that The Theodore itself was built to be an oasis from the typical mall hustle and bustle anyway, and the bar is manned by creative and able cocktail makers who make you feel welcome as soon as you arrive, one of whom is Hugo Osorio. Just a heads up: his garnish game is strong. Tell him I said so and see what he comes up with for your daiquiri.

Picture courtesy of The Theodore
Picture courtesy of The Theodore

Stock & Barrel (Bishop Arts District)

I’ll be the first to admit that I have yet to really tap into the food and cocktail scene down in the Bishop Arts District, and a part of the “problem” is that once I find a place I like, I quickly become a repeat customer (thus delaying my discovery of other places in the area). S&B is one such bar that I enjoy frequenting. Bar manager Jeremy Koeninger makes one hell of a daiquiri, and the food menu is excellent, too. Order the crispy okra as a bar snack to share with friends … and it goes really well with daiquiris, as most things do.

Proper on Magnolia (Fort Worth)

This cocktail den on West Magnolia is one of the standouts in Fort Worth.  They offer classic cocktails (including a traditional daiquiri), but also have seasonal and weekly specials.  Grab a seat on their patio and order food from one of their neighbors, Fixture or Spice.

Picture courtesy of Proper
Picture courtesy of Proper

susie knows all things boozy in dallas …