Category Archives: Downtown

“APERITIVO HOUR” WITH CAMPARI

Written by Andrea McCall

If your Super Bowl weekend was anything like mine, it was full of highs (endless guacamole, Gaga performing at halftime) and lows (Tom Brady winning … again, Beyoncé not performing with Gaga at halftime). So when I was invited to a Campari happy hour at Americano, I knew my week was on the up and up. The restaurant’s already successful happy hour just got happier with the re-introduction of “Aperitivo Hour”,  an event hosted by Campari.

“Aperitivo” in Italian means a low-alcoholic drink consumed prior to a meal, intended to stimulate your appetite … but what I heard in that definition was for me to become as classy and smart as an Italian, I’ve gotta pre-game with my pals before dinner. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

This Italian idea of sharing a drink and some snacks with friends before dinner sounds like a win-win, and low ABV drinks from Campari make it an even better sell. Small bites like fried calamari and fried olives (Susie’s favorite) paired with an Aperol Spritz (Campari, grapefruit bitters, prosecco) or the restaurant’s namesake Americano (Rosso Vermouth, Campari, soda) get you prepped for what will certainly be an excellent dinner.

Stop by the downtown hot spot weekdays from 4-7 to cultivate your new favorite Italian tradition.

Bon Aperitivo!

 

Americano
americanodallas.com
@americano_Dallas
1530 Main St. (Downtown)
214.261.4600

 

Savor to Partner with Angel’s Envy Whiskey for Pairing Dinner

Savor Gastropub will be teaming up with Angel’s Envy Whiskey later this month to offer a five-course pairing dinner.  Lucky for us, it lands on Fat Tuesday, just in time for us to spoil ourselves one last time before the masochism that is Lent.

The pairings were brilliantly and thoughtfully developed by Angel’s Envy and the chefs at Savor with some original plates and some currently offered by Savor.  Angel’s Envy out of Louisville, Kentucky offers several expressions including a bourbon, rye, port finish, rum finish, and cask strength.  These pairings include cocktails featuring their bourbon and rye expressions, each prepared creatively and well-matched to each course.

First Course: Savor Wedge Salad, Truffle Maple Glazed Bacon, Chicken Fried Pickle Red Onion with A Creamy Buttermilk Dressing
Paired Cocktail: “Parkside Angelito”, Angel’s Envy Bourbon, lemon, maple syrup, ginger, rosemary

Second Course: Rabbit And Pork Dumplings, Sesame Soy Broth, Scallions
Paired Cocktail: “Social Currency” (Angel’s Envy Bourbon, China China liqueur, Curacao, cherry shrub, pickled cherry)

Third Course: Crispy Pork Belly Fennel, Green Apple, Miso Caramel
Paired Cocktail: “A Different Kind of Sazerac” (Angel’s Envy Rye, barrel aged Peychauds, absinthe)

Fourth Course: Beef Tenderloin, Cast Iron Seared Beef Tenderloin, Ragout Of Wild Mushrooms, Creamy Grits, Port Wine Jus
Paired Cocktail: “The Path of Envy” (Angel’s Envy Bourbon, Ruby Port, Amaro Nonino, pink peppercorn, thyme)

Dessert: Nutella Torte, Red Beet and Mascarpone Cremeux, Orange, Candied Hazelnut Nougat
Paired Spirit: Angel’s Envy Rye, neat

The dinner will take place on Tuesday, February 28 at 6:30pm.  To reserve a spot, call Savor (214.740.7228) soon as seating is limited.  $80 will get attendees five incredible dishes and five chances to taste the versatility of Angel’s Envy.

Savor Gastropub
savorgastropub.com
2000 Woodall Rodgers
214.740.7228

Complimentary valet for diners.

NOLA Brasserie Valentine’s Day Menu

Need Valentine’s Day plans but are looking for something just a bit different from the usual steak dinner/flowers/sparkling wine? You may want to check out the Valentine’s Day menu at NOLA Brasserie to spice up what looks like is going to be a cold and rainy Valentine’s. Located in downtown Dallas, NOLA Brasserie brings the Cajun and Creole taste and exuberance of New Orleans to Dallas.

On Tuesday, February 14, Chef Ryan will be serving a special prix fixe menu just for you and your loved one. At $69 per person for four courses, guests will experience authentic Cajun and Creole comfort food, southern hospitality and live music by noted jazz musician, Carlos Guedes. Dinner begins at 5 PM, and the last seating will be at 10 PM. Carlos will begin his live set at 6 PM.

Guys, if you “just don’t have time” (lazy…) to get your significant other flowers, the night starts off with a red rose and a champagne toast. But really, for this to work you(!) have to plan the evening … meaning you just have to make one phone call to make a reservation and one call to ask your S.O. out.

The first course is a delicious, pan-seared Crab & Crawfish Cake with Jumbo Fried Shrimp for the table. The cajun seasoning and crystal aioli made it better than many of the crab cakes that I’ve had before.

The second course has three choices between a Strawberry & Walnut Salad or their popular Louisiana Gumbo. If you aren’t looking for the lighter side of things, get the gumbo. It is a dark roux gumbo with chicken, andouille & rice topped off with a crawfish fritter.  

For the third course, you have the difficult choice between Cajun Filet Steak, Chicken Florentine, or Redfish Acadia. Each comes with garlic mashed potatoes. I went with the redfish and Whitney, my lovely wife, went with the chicken. Personally, I would stick to what they are known for: the cajun-inspired dishes. The redfish was topped with their famous crawfish Etouffee that set off the dish with bold flavor. If the garlic mash isn’t your thing, you can add asparagus, crawfish mac & cheese or cream spinach a la carte.

As if all of this isn’t enough to make you feel like you are going to burst, you get a choice between NOLA Bread Pudding or Chocolate Strawberries for the table for dessert. I’m a huge fan of bread pudding, and theirs is studded with pecans and topped with a house-made rum sauce, which made me fall more in love with it … because, romance.



In addition to the sparkling wine toast, their full bar of hand-crafted cocktails, as well as a varied wine list and beer, are available. Whitney and I were able to try a couple for you … for, you know, research.

The Sazerac (Sazerac Rye, Peychaud bitters, Herbsaint rinse)
This traditional New Orleans cocktails is served in a Herbsaint-coated rocks glass and is garnished with a lemon twist.  If you’re going to have a drink to make you feel like you’re in the Big Easy … this one will take you there … and maybe even make you a little easy. 😉

The Original Cosmo: a traditional cosmo with freshly muddled cucumber.

Lavender Lace: Yeah…it is a secret. But the menu says it is a Lavender Champagne cocktail served with a lavender-scented sugar cube. Whitney loved it because it was simple and delicious.

Cucumber Collins (Hendrick’s Gin, fresh cucumber, lemon juice, a hint of sugar)
As far as clear liquors go, gin is my go-to. Ask for them to go light on the lemon as it was a bit too citrus forward for my taste.)

If you have never been to this area of downtown, I would suggest grabbing an Uber or be ready for an $8 valet ticket. Otherwise, you can park in the Westin garage for $5 (with restaurant validation) self-park in the Westin Tower garage for free (4pm Friday through Sundays).

Overall, Chef Ryan put together a pretty great menu that will be a great addition to your Valentine’s Day festivities. Charm your love (or, ya know, your friend) and make a reservation on OpenTable or call 469-872-1820.

NOLA Brasserie
nolabrasserie.com
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1201 Main St. (Downtown)
469-872-1820

Americano’s Aperitivo Hour

Americano is a restaurant and bar in the Joule Hotel Downtown.  Let’s just say that it’s decidedly Italian, but with an incredibly modern vibe and clean aesthetic … but sadly, a severe lack of Vespas and Italian accents.

Recently Americano launched their “Aperitivo Hour”, the Italian’s take on happy hour, but with a point. Cocktails served as apéritifs are meant to prep your stomach for a meal, and most contain bitter spirits such as Campari along with vermouths and gins.  (The post-meal version–digestifs–help with digestion and can be anything from fortified wines to liqueurs like Fernet Branca and Chartreuse.)  Look for options like the classic Negroni (gin, Campari, and rosso vermouth) and the Lone Star Sbagliato (rosso vermouth, Campari, and Lone Star Lager).

Along with the traditional Italian cocktails, they’ll be serving up some tap wines by the glass and carafe along with draft beers–both Italian and local.  You know … for the less Italian inclined of us.

americano_cocktail_susie-oszustowicz

Along with the cocktails offered, Americano has a menu of small food items available from 2-5pm with options like their fried olives (my personal favorite), arancini, and fried calamari.

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Aperitivo Hour is available daily from 4-7pm, so pop in before dinner and have a cocktail to start off a molto bene evening.  Your stomach will thank you.

AMERICANO
americanodallas.com
Instagram
214.261.4600

Grayson Social, Downtown’s Newest Southern Spot

Grayson Social, one of the latest restaurants to appear in Dallas, is Darlene Marcello and Daniel Tarasevich’s brainchild with a southern accept. Located in the old LTV Towers on Elm Street, the social club offers comfort food in setting equally as comforting, all while maintaining a sense of sophistication.

The sumptuous downstairs area has ample dining space as well as an outdoor patio just beyond the impressive bar. Up the lavishly carpeted stairs flanking the hostess stand is a “members only” area, which provides slouch friendly couches and chairs along with a sense of exclusivity. Throughout the restaurant, marble tables are adorned with elegant, old volumes bookmarked by roses and adding to the atmosphere are wall mounted antlers and framed drawings of flowers.

Courtesy of Grayson Social
Courtesy of Grayson Social

The private upstairs area is for members and high spenders only. (Non-members must spend a minimum of $1,000 to feel like they’re a part of the secret club … womp womp.) Currently, the only way to become a member is by knowing someone who is already a member. It’s literally a “who you know” situation. Some of the benefits include:
– 15% discount on full-priced menu items
– Free WiFi (hello, business lunch)
– Exclusive invitations to special events
– A complimentary bottle of champagne and birthday cake for members’ birthdays
– Monthly previews of food and drink before they’re released to the downstairs peasants (don’t worry, we’re down there, too)

Each membership is valid for one year and will be automatically renewed as long as restaurant privileges are used throughout the year. It seems as if the hardest part about being a member is simply becoming one – after that it’s all bourbon and biscuits. 

Courtesy of Grayson Social
Courtesy of Grayson Social

I stopped by Grayson Social for their Bourbon & Biscuits event last night, which was a formal presentation of the restaurant and its offerings. A seemingly millennial crowd filled the posh space, (all of whom seemed like they just came from the office) and mingled with featured bourbon cocktails in-hand. As the event name suggests, bourbon cocktails and their “killer” biscuits were free flowing all evening long. 

The bourbon drink menu consisted of several creative concoctions such as the Bacon Bourbon Manhattan, the Vanilla Old Fashioned, and the Campfire Cocktail. The bourbon of the evening was Yellow Rose Distilled Outlaw Bourbon Whiskey, which is hand made from 100% corn and pot distilled right here in Texas. Many of the drinks included unique ingredients or elements such as house-cured beef jerky, rose essential oils, bacon-infused bourbon, and house made marshmallow syrup. (Can you say “yum”?)

The Campfire Cocktail was a mix of bourbon, whiskey, house made marshmallow syrup, and topped with a toasted marshmallow (my inner child jumped for joy). I fully expected this cocktail to be overbearingly sweet but was pleasantly surprised. The Beef & Bourbon (bourbon (duh), maple syrup, myrrh, cypress, honey, and a side of house-cured beef jerky) was also delicious. I may or may not have chosen these drinks because they came with an edible component … sometimes you need a little bite.

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The appropriately named Killer Biscuits were unreal with flavors ranging from Margherita and pecan bacon to pimento cheese and pineapple coconut. Fear not, they also serve a classic buttermilk biscuit for all those set in their traditional ways that are served with house made jams like raspberry ancho chile, blueberry ginger, and strawberry lime. Also available for our noshing pleasure was a buffet line of fried chicken, a salami and prosciutto bar, and several ice creams.

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Getting to Grayson Social is pretty straightforward. Valet is available if you enter on the Pacific Side, and there is a public parking garage right next door. From what I tasted at this short event, I would highly recommend visiting Grayson Social for brunch, lunch, or dinner so long as you try the biscuits, the fried chicken, and the bourbon. 

Grayson Social
graysonsocial.com 
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1555 Elm Street (Downtown)
(972) 232-1728

Grill & Vine

First: If you haven’t set foot in the newly open Westin Downtown Dallas yet, you should; it’s gorgeous. Secondly: Whenever you do set foot in the Westin Downtown Dallas, you should definitely pay a visit to Grill & Vine; it’s delicious.

The Westin Downtown Dallas Grill & Vine recently invited the SDD team in to check out the newly open restaurant and bar. I was immediately taken with the sleek, upscale-contemporary decor (If it feels vaguely familiar, here’s a spoiler alert: the Westin’s design team is also credited with the design of The Joule). Most of all, the view of the skyline is killer as seen through sweeping, floor to ceiling picture windows surrounding the dining room. The view alone makes this spot a great choice for a pre-dinner cocktail.

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Speaking of cocktails … Grill & Vine offers a creative collection of a dozen of ’em. I sampled the Elderflower Fitzgerald (Dripping Springs gin, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, lemon, and angostura bitters-$11)–I found it to be delightfully light and refreshing, and begging for spring to hurry up and get here. Other intriguing cocktail offerings include the Smoke and Honey (Silver Star Texas Honey, Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, cucumber, lemon, habanero shrub-$12), the Chamomile Mule (Chamomile-infused Absolut, lime, honey, ginger beer, $10), and the Provencal Lemonade (Dripping Springs vodka, Carpano Bianco, basil, lemon, and lavender bitters-$11). 

Grill & Vine’s wine list features in the upwards of 50 well-rounded offerings, nearly all of which are available by the glass. A short but sweet list of local craft beer rotators are available, in addition to the expected line-up of domestics and imports. And, may the gluten-intolerant of you rejoice as they offer several gluten-free beers .

After enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail (or two three … ) at the bar, we moved to a table. With Executive Chef Bill Lundstrom at the helm, Grill & Vine’s culinary program is heavily focused on regional flavors utilizing local ingredients, and a seasonally rotating menu. I was lucky enough to stay for dinner, and everything I sampled was fantastic. The Smoked Beef Brisket Tacos (pickled onions, smashed avocado, brazos valley queso-$15) were a favorite, and the House Mac & Cheese, made with Brazos cheddar and smoked gouda, is not to be missed. Oh, and save room for dessert–the Banana Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with creme anglaise and orange caramel was basically to die for.


Grill and Vine
(972) 555-6689
1201 Main St., Dallas, TX 75202
Reservations | Menu

Happy Hour: Offered daily until 7pm
$2 off wine by the glass, $5 local drafts, and a selection of craft cocktails available for $6

Westin Dallas Downtown
westindallasdowntown.com
(972) 584-6650
1201 Main St., Dallas, TX 75202

A Night with Ballast Point Brewing & Distilling Co.

A bit ago I attended a happy hour with Ballast Point Brewing and Distilling at Bird Cafe. To be honest, I didn’t know much about Ballast Point before going to the happy hour, and I learned that Ballast Point began as a small group of home brewers in San Diego, California. Most of the beers are named after fishing terms. The labels have illustrations of fish to pay homage to the brewery’s origin’s. After they made a name for themselves through their beer, Ballast Point began distilling. The company now has seven spirits they call their own.

Ballast Point happy hour beer menu
Ballast Point happy hour beer menu

I began the night tasting some of Ballast Point’s beer on tap. For those of you who like hoppy beers, go for the Grunion Pale Ale (5.5%). It has a nutty flavor as well as a summer fruit aroma. This beer won the 2015 Best of Craft Beer silver award. Next, I went for the Scotch ale. Piper Down (5.8%) is now in the running as one of my favorite craft beers … it’s not super heavy and it has a smooth taste. I tasted a chocolate, sweet after taste with this brew. This beer won the 2015 Best of Craft Beer gold award. The name came from Scottish bag pipers that drank too much … the piper became top heavy and people would yell, “piper down” when they began to fall. (I have to admit, I went back two days later for more.) My last tasting was the Victory at Sea Coffee/Vanilla Porter (10%). As expected, it was a dark, smooth brew. I am not a coffee drinker, but that didn’t not stop me drinking this beer. It had more of a vanilla taste than coffee.

San Diego Street Car
San Diego Street Car

Moving on to the spirits, I was curious about the first cocktail on the list–the San Diego Street Car (Devil’s Share Moonshine, Ancho Chili liqueur, corn water, lime, Burlesque bitters, egg white). I was puzzled by this concoction, so I had to ask the bartender how he came up with this interesting drink. He said it was his version of elotes in cocktail form. He wanted to bring out the corn flavor of the moonshine rather than mask it. After understanding the background of the drink, it made me enjoy it all the more.

I would urge you to go to your local liquor store and try out some of Ballast Point’s spirits. Here’s your shopping list:

3 Sheet’s Rum: made from pure cane sugar rather than molasses (80 proof)
Fugu Vodka: Filtered 15 times (80 proof)
Devil’s Share Moonshine (whiskey): hints of tropical fruit (98.6 proof)
Devil’s Share Burbon: American oak barrels, hints of caramel and vanilla cream (92 proof)
Old Grove Gin: made from juniper berries, rose, and coriander (88 proof)

Ballast Point Brewery
www.Ballastpoint.com
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Bird Cafe's amazing bar
Bird Cafe’s amazing bar

Bird Cafe
155 East Main Street
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
www.birdinthe.net

A Night with Little Red Wasp and Grace

IMG_3261Last week I was invited out to happy hour at Grace and Little Red Wasp in the heart of downtown Fort Worth. Both of these amazing restaurants are owned and operated by Adam Jones–Grace is the “fancier” of the two restaurants as well as a higher price point. Grace provided a lovely experience, but Little Red Wasp was my favorite out of the two. Both of these restaurants are a stones throw from some of the best downtown Fort Worth has to offer–Capital Grille, Del Friscos, Ruth’s Chris, and the like.

The bartender reported that the two most popular drinks at Grace are the Bosc Pear Martini and the Seven. The Bosc Pear Martini (Grey Goose Le Poire Vodka, Amaretto, Lemon, Vovetti Prosecco) has a slightly slimy in texture thanks to the grit of the Grey Goose Le Poire, but the taste was incredibly silky and subtle. The Seven (Ultimat Vodka, mint, cucumber, lemon, lime, simple syrup) was almost a mojito with a kick. The outside of the glass was rimmed with salt and cayenne pepper, which certainly stayed with you after the drink was gone. Even though these were the most popular drinks ordered at the bar, I would like to go back and try some of the other mixed drinks on the menu.

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The Little Red Wasp at Little Red Wasp

So now on to the highlight of the night (for me)–Little Red Wasp. I can’t say enough good things about the atmosphere and the drinks here. I was lucky enough to get a taste of almost every cocktail on the menu, and I honestly can say that there was one drink that I wouldn’t order again (good odds), but my top two must try drinks are: the signature Little Red Wasp (Dulce Vida Reposado tequila, red pepper puree, mint, lemon juice, jalapeño honey) and the Perfect Storm (Zaya Rum, vanilla bean syrup, apple cider, ginger beer). The Little Red Wasp had a fruity taste with a nice “sting” from the jalapeno. I can now say that my all time favorite cocktail is the perfect storm. It is definitely on the sweeter side, but it is a must try. Not only does it taste amazing, I loved the presentation in the copper mug.

The Bitter Beauty at The Little Red Wasp
The Bitter Beauty at The Little Red Wasp

I am excited to go back for one of Little Red Wasp’s beer pairing dinners. On the first Wednesday of every month, they hold a five course pairing that highlights a particular brewery. In February it was Oscar Blues and March will be Panther Island Brewing.

All in all, it was a great night in two amazing places. Go for happy hour and you won’t be sorry. (Tip: try the homemade ranch and chips at LRW)


GRACE

777 Main Street
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
817-877-3388

Dining Room Hours: 7 Days a Week- 5:30-9:30
Bar Hours: 7 Days a Week- 4:00-10:00 (Full Menu available.)

Happy Hour: Half Price Bubbles (by the bottle, half-bottle, or glass) 4:00-6:00 daily
Women and Wine: Wednesday nights 4:00-7:00 ($10 gets you three glasses paired with light bites)

LITTLE RED WASP
808 Main Street
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
817-877-3111

Hours: Monday- Friday- 11:00-10:00
Saturday-Sunday- 10:00-10:00 (Brunch- 10:00-4:00)

Happy Hour: 7 days a week- half off draft beer from 3:00-6:00