Victory Plaza has seen many restaurant and bar concepts come and go, but none seemed to succeed. They were convenient, but not worth braving the crowds during events one wasn’t attending to patronize. …….. until a new HERO came to save the day.
The newest concept from Matt Ragan and 8020 Concepts, the people behind HG Sply Co., Gung Ho, and more, give us all something to love. Sports fans have giant televisions to watch their events with fellow fans and proximity to AAC. Foodies have a thoughtful menu with scratch items just like Mom used to make. And the boozehounds have a menu of unexpectedly thoughtful cocktails—some takes on classics and some originals.
Bottom line: it’s a huge place. With a capacity of 1,100 and 610 seats with six bars and up to 20 bartenders working at a time, you’d expect a churn-and-burn, high volume restaurant/bar cutting corners and cutting costs—but that’s not so with HERO. Ragan and his team have ensured that everything is done quickly and efficiently but without lowering quality … at all. Think scratch food, fresh and local ingredients when possible, zero additives, and juices squeezed fresh daily.
The staff in HERO is stacked with all-stars. You’ll see familiar faces from concepts past and others that you thought gave up the stick. One of my favorites you’ll see is our favorite bartender past from Vickery Park, Chris Young, running around making sure everything is done right behind the six bars, but always with a smile.
While the popularity of this new spot has made it a destination and caused a bit of a wait from time to time, there’s plenty of space to go around. They host a full dining room, the aforementioned SIX BARS, a large patio, and even more standing room for watching games on their GINORMOUS SCREEN … and a small 90s-themed arcade.
The dedication to making everything just that much better extends event to the simplest parts of their cocktails. Ragan’s goal was to give is bartenders the ability to make a craft cocktail in under 45 seconds, and he sure as shit did it. He standardized four cocktail bases and put them on draft, cutting prep time and the opportunity for inconsistency, and ultimately price for both HERO and the guest, all while maintaining the integrity of his menu and the ingredients used. They employ one employee whose entire job is to prepare the fruit and juices for their cocktails.
A perfect example of Ragan’s desire for consistency and quality is their house-made tonic. And if you know anything about making tonic, then you know it can be a dangerous game. It’s made with cinchona bark, which can help medicinally, if used responsibly, and it can do damage if not. He wanted to ensure it was done right, so he did it.
Their frozen drinks are even made with the most care and consideration of ingredients. Their Miami Vice, a strawberry daiquiri and piña colada swirl, happens to be a new favorite cocktail in Dallas … because 100º days are real and it’s f**king delicious. What makes it so good? They make their own coconut rum, strawberry cordial, AND coconut cream. The coconut cream in itself is culinary science at its best—they use Ticaloid 210 S, a natural stabilizer made from seaweed, to keep it emulsified. Why this? Why no shortcuts? Because they don’t do that. Ragan needed to find something that would emulsify fat in alcohol (coconut is a “fat”), but also work in cold temperatures and with alcohol, and the T210s is the only element that does all three. See? NO SHORTCUTS.
As with many of Dallas’s restaurants, the menu can be slightly daunting. So, I asked Matt what his “Go-To” items were, and he didn’t disappoint. He gave us his ideal days—both “healthy” and “cheat”. So here we go:
Here’s the bottom line: don’t write this place off. Yes, it’s huge and crowded when there’s a game, but it’s WORTH IT. It’s even more worth the effort of braving Victory Park when there’s not a game or concert. It’s the HERO we wanted, and really, it’s the one we all needed.
This year I was ecstatic to find out that my new friend’s birthday is a week after mine AND that Jimmy Buffett would be in town the same week. So, what does a Parrothead do? Host a huge tiki tailgate before the concert … obviously.
We rented an RV, made some food and some tiki bevvies, and made a day of it. We loaded up the RV with decor and furniture and a hearty group of partygoers and busted our butts to get our little spot of parking lot ready for the party.
Since I don’t have my own RV (yet…), we looked for an RV rental company, and Cruise America was the winner! We got the RV that sleeps five for three nights with 300 free miles for a song! Everyone had a place to use the restroom and cool off from the heat, and we all got to ride there together! (And there’s a super cute sticker of a dog on the window!)
The setup was as it should be: over the top and kitsch as hell. While we were short on fans, we weren’t short on shade!
Our friend Ariel was kind enough to step behind the bar for us and serve up our awesome drinks, and that was CLUTCH. She made us look gooooood!
Every great tailgate needs great booze. So, to stick with the tiki theme, we worked with some of our favorite brands to make tiki-friendly cocktails that we batched out to make them easy to enjoy.
Elyx Copper Cup #1946
1.5oz Absolut Elyx Handcrafted Vodka
.75oz GH Mumm Champagne
1.5oz coconut water
.5oz lemon juice
.5oz honey simple syrup
Combine all ingredients except champagne and shake to combine and chill. Pour over new ice and top with champagne. Garnish with coconut shavings and a pineapple wedge. Makes two cocktails.
Patrón Tiki ‘Rita
2oz Patrón Reposado Tequila
.5oz Patrón Citrónge Orange Liqueur
.25oz Allspice Dram
.5oz lime juice
.25oz vanilla simple syrup
.5oz grapefruit juice
Rim a glass with Himalayan sea salt. Combine ingredients in a shaker tin and shake to chill and combine. Pour over fresh ice in the prepared glass and garnish with fresh grated nutmeg and a slice of lime with cloves.
Plantation Mai Tai
1oz Plantation Xaymaca Special Dry Rum
1oz Plantation Original Dark Rum
.75oz lime juice
Combine ingredients in a shaker tin and shake to chill and combine. Pour over fresh ice and garnish with a pineapple wedge.
1.5oz strawberry-infused Maker’s Mark Whiskey
.5oz Giffard Creme de Fraise du Bois Liqueur
bar spoon of strawberry purée
.5oz lemon juice
.25oz simple syrup
.25oz coconut milk
Combine ingredients in a shaker tin and shake to chill and combine. Pour over fresh ice and garnish with a strawberry.
While cocktail are great, we decided they weren’t enough. So, we got some wine and alcoholic gummies and made a couple high-proof popsicles.
Betty Cocktail, a friend, neighbor, and badass bar lady, makes some of the most delicious gummies that just HAPPEN to have booze in them. We’ll just say we were more than delighted when she showed up with her tray of goodies!
Our friends at Union Wine Company were kind enough to send along some cans of their Riesling Radler which, coincidentally, is costumed in the perfect jungle print, toucan and all! This summer-friendly wine in a can has hints of grapefruit and is only lightly “hopped”.
To cool us off, we thought some frozen cocktails would be the ticket. While the alcoholic popsicles were delicious, they sadly didn’t stand up in the heat. Let’s just say that they turned out to be more slushies than popsicles.
1.75C Malibu Coconut Rum
.5C Torani Creme de Banana Syrup
.5C coconut water
1 small container of banana yogurt
Combine all ingredients, then fill into popsicle sleeves. Allow to freeze for at LEAST 24 hours and keep very cold.
Combine all ingredients, then fill into popsicle sleeves. Allow to freeze for at LEAST 24 hours and keep very cold.
We knew that a six-hour tailgate party with free flowing booze needed a pretty stacked food table, so we went full-tilt tiki and had pulled pork, Hawaiian meatballs, Hawaiian Roll ham sandwiches, and more. We had an ambitious pit-master in the group, and he hit it out of the park with his pulled pork with HOMEMADE BBQ SAUCES. (Yes, sauces … two of them.) Dessert we knew would be a slam dunk, so we got some of the amazing White Chocolate Macadamia Nut & Coconut Chocolate Chip cookies from Pokey O’sand tequila-infused margarita cupcakes from Sprinkles.
ALL IN ALL …
All in all, it was a really fun day and a wonderful way to celebrate a couple birthdays. We’ll be back next year, and we have some serious plans … #tikitrouble
Hello, friends! I have been a blood donor for many years and am proud to be hosting a drive with Carter BloodCare at Texas Live on June 30!
Every two seconds, someone needs blood, and there’s no substitute for it. Each donation could save three lives, so I’d be honored if you’d join me to #giveforlife!!
Anyone who donates during this event will be thanked with:
– a complimentary slider from Lockhart Smokehouse Arlington
– goodies from Balcones Distillery
– an entry into a raffle for a “Day at Balcones with SusieDrinks”
– a “Cheers to Life” mason jar from Carter BloodCare
– a Rangers t-shirt and a BOGO Rangers ticket voucher
I am in a paid partnership with Modelo Negra, but all opinions are my own. Please drink and enjoy responsibly (if you’re 21)!
This past weekend’s Gold Lion Barbershop pop-up featuring Modelo Negra was a new level of pop-up. Beer, beautifully crafted beer cocktails, Mexican chocolates, and some of the best BBQ sliders I’ve eaten in a while were enjoyed. Attendees were also able to get quick trims or braids, play cornhole, and enjoy the DJ’s fantastic music.
There were three fantastic “beertails” brought to us by Jesse Powell, and my favorite was the Modelo Transcending.
.25 oz lemon juice
5 oz ginger/cardamom syrup
top with Modelo Negra
garnish with a mint sprig
Thank you again to Modelo Negra for inviting me to such a fun event!
We’re always looking for a good reason to celebrate … and an excuse to drink at lunch. In the spirit of celebration, it’s a great idea to keep these important days of the year on your calendar. Get ready to party in July!
Too lazy to add them yourself? That’s ok … you can subscribe to my silly holidays calendar here: http://bit.ly/2yUjPjK
January 1: Bloody Mary Day
January 11: Hot Toddy Day
January 17: Hot Buttered Rum Day
January 25: Irish Coffee Day
January 31: Brandy Alexander Day
February 18: Drink Wine Day
February 22: Margarita Day
February 27: Kahlua Day
March 3: Mulled Wine Day
April 7: Beer Day
April 9: International Gin & Tonic Day
April 17: World Malbec Day
April 19: Amaretto Day
May 7: Cosmopolitan Day
May 13: World Cocktail Day
May 16: Mimosa Day
March 18: World Whisky Day
May 25: Wine Day
May 30: Mint Julep Day
June 1-7: Negroni Week
June 4: Cognac Day
June 5: Moonshine Day
June 11: Gin Day
June 14: Bourbon Day
June 19: Martini Day
June 30: Mai Tai Day
July 10: Piña Colada Day
July 11: Mojito Day
July 14: Grand Marnier Day
July 19: Daiquiri Day
July 24: Tequila Day
July 25: Wine & Cheese Day
July 27: Scotch Day
August 2, 2008: International Beer Day (changes annually)
August 16: Rum Day
August 25: Whiskey Sour Day
August 28: Red Wine Day
September 15: Creme de Menthe Day
September 20: Rum Punch Day
September 28: Drink a Beer Day
September 30: Mulled Cider Day
October 4: Vodka Day
October 16: Liqueur Day
October 19: Gin & Tonic Day
October 21: Mezcal Day
November 7: World Gin Day
November 8: Harvey Wallbanger Day November 12: Happy Hour Day
November 20: Beaujolais Day
December 5: Repeal Day
December 10: Lager Day
December 13: Screwdriver Day
December 20: Sangria Day
December 24: Egg Nog Day
December 31: Champagne Day
Miami is a lot. I hadn’t visited the 305 in almost ten years, and I’ll admit that I didn’t have the best impression of the city … but when your favorite people in the world that lives in London adds some vacation to a work trip to hang with you, you comply … gladly. So once dates were set, trip planning began. While the city itself is a lot, hotel rooms (and AirBnBs and VRBOs and even hostels) are equally as … a lot. The hotel search was daunting to say the least.
But then I was delighted to discover the newest Kimpton in Florida, the Kimpton Angler’s Hotel smack dab in the heart of Miami Beach just a couple blocks from beach access. (As my readers know, because I make no mystery of it, Kimpton is my favorite hotel brand.) It seemed to have everything that we wanted from our accommodations—location, a casual bar that had quality cocktails, a pool, a view, and spacious rooms. Even more, like all Kimptons, they offer a complimentary wine happy hour every night, and this hotel even offered daily on-site wellness activities from yoga to boot camp.
We made our reservation and drove up on the day with a ridiculously full car to check in. The valets were as helpful as I’ve experienced anywhere and the hotel staff were eager to show us a perfect stay. Even the lobby was welcoming with unique art pieces and the signature Kimpton scent that I just adore.
Our room was gorgeous and spacious, which was a welcome respite from the fast-paced city around it. The bathrooms were just as roomy and clean with a powerful shower with cobalt blue tiles that we both died for.
We looked for the amenities that we’ve come to expect from Kimptons—a yoga mat, robes, and more. Since this is a beach hotel, they also provided a beach bag and towels! And, as one always needs when traveling to a beach destination of any kind, our balcony provided a little peek at the water.
To get a better view, we ventured up to the rooftop pool, which was complete with plenty of towels, chairs, sunscreen, and space for days. Grab a glass of wine at the complimentary happy hour and then hop up to the pool to watch the stunning sunset.
While Miami has plenty of amazing bars and restaurants (you know we went to a ton of them … for research purposes!), but we didn’t even need to leave our hotel to find the perfect happy hour spot. Minnow, their lobby bar, has perfect bites and cocktails to get your night started or wound down on the perfect note. If they don’t have a cocktail on the menu that tickles your fancy, just ask the friendly bar staff for a suggestion.
I was happy to see that they would be expanding and opening a restaurant, Seawell, shortly after our visit in “early 2019”. They promise an “American seafood restaurant will feature locally sourced ingredients and regional classics including a selection of ‘raw bar’ items and platters.” With outdoor seating and Minnow next door, it seems like it’ll be a nice addition to the hotel’s offerings for a date night or business meetings.
The Kimpton Angler’s really helped change my mind about Miami, and I hope I have another good reason to visit so I can enjoy their hospitality again.
March 22 is World Water Day. Water is an incredibly precious resource, and there are billions around the world that don’t have access to a clean, reliable source for it. Not for profit Water for People works to supply water to those people.
2.1 billion people around the world don’t have access to safe water and 4.5 billion lack access to adequate sanitation. Women and children spend more than four hours walking for water each day, and more than 840,000 people die each year from water-related diseases.
So, to lessen the number of people in need, Absolut Elyx teamed up with Water For People to supply water and water sources to them. They’ve upped the game each year for the last four, and this year’s a doozy. For every bottle of Elyx or copper pineapple sold, Absolut Elyx will supply one week of safe drinking water (~140 liters) to someone in need. They’ll also donate a week of water for every Instagram post bearing the hashtag #RaiseItForward March 22 to April 22. Even more: This year, if they reach our goal of 10,000 posts, they’ll increase the donation to one month of safe water for every post.
I’m delighted to be working with Absolut Elyx to spread the word about this great cause. So they allowed me to sweeten the deal by giving anyone who uses the hashtag #RaiseItForwardTX the chance to win a copper swan ($399 value) or one of three copper coupes ($39.50 value each).