Last 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.
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.
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)
777 Main Street
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
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
Class is in session, people. Public School 214 will open its doors in the new section of West Village on January 29 as the first Texas location from the Los Angeles restaurant. The open format, 5,000 sq. ft., 200 seat restaurant features a full bar with a dining room opposite. The music and simplicity of the decor (industrial lighting, globes and other elementary reminiscent ephemera) keep the vibe modern and a bit hipster — this isn’t so much the place you’d go for a quiet meal, but for some good people watching with a good drink and a meal no the side, this’ll be the place.
While the vibe is decidedly Uptown, the food is anything but ordinary. I’m talkin’ Chorizo Mac & Cheese, Fig & Prosciutto Pizza, Lamb Bolognese, and Nutella Cookie Sandwich out of the ordinary. More on the food later … because cocktails.
The talked about the PS214 bar program with Colin Kerr, director of operations. He is so passionate about what he does, and the cocktails on the menu are evidence of that. He made each cocktail so unexpectedly detailed … even the Gin & Tonic is decidedly unique thanks to their housemade tonic.
The Crushed Velvet is their take on a Moscow Mule, featuring blackberry and blueberry reduction, lavender, Karlsson’s Gold vodka, and the obligatory ginger beer. It’s just sweet enough to offset the bite of the ginger beer, making it a dangerous option.
The Yellow Smoke was my favorite of the night, with fresh pineapple juice, serrano agave, and xicaru mezcal. The smokiness of the mezcal gives this somewhat simple drink a bit of exciting complexity. I think Dallas is still timid when it comes to mezcal, and here’s hoping that this helps Dallas gain some progress in regard to this unique spirit.
The (watermelon, St. Germaine, Aylesbury Duck vodka, salt & pepper) was delightfully sweet and refreshing, but could be improved. Try this with tequila or gin instead of vodka to up the ante.
The Lavender Vanilla was a different take on an old fashioned with housemade vanilla bitters, lavender simple syrup, and Four Roses small batch whiskey. I’d drink this all day every day …
The last cocktail that we tried was the Player’s Cut, a spirit forward cocktail that is their version of a negroni, with campari, Carpano Antica, and locally-made Brazos Texas-Style gin. I enjoy a bitter drink, but they definitely slow me down. I would order this again to go with my lamb bolognese!
The beer list exclusively offers craft beers and less nationals than usual — think Community Beer Co., Saint Arnold, Revolver, Real Ale, Peticolas, and many more. They will offer 24 craft beers with the promise of rotators and seasonal options. Check out their selection of drafts, bottles, cans, and event large format bottles for the table. One of the random cans I’m stoked about is the Coconut Porter from the Maui Brewing Company!
I did note that their wine selection is incredibly limited with just one option of select varietals. (Though they seem to have made good choices for the options they offer.) Also note that some of these wines will be on tap.
The food, as I mentioned, embodies their mission to impart “an education in the art of food and beer”. Some of the items are progressive while others are just f**king delicious. In terms of appetizers, you pretty much can’t miss the Chorizo Mac & Cheese (hello, it is topped with sea salt and vinegar chips and has chunks of chorizo instead of the traditional ground chorizo) or the Bacon Cheddar Tots (with shredded potato instead of chopped). To warm up, the Roasted Beet Salad is a ridiculously delicious mix of fresh and tender roasted purple and yellow beets, arugula, ricotta salata, pomegranate molasses, and marcona almonds.
The Wild Mushroom & Taleggio Pizza was delightful and ridiculously fragrant (and a great midnight snack) and the Fig & Prosciutto Pizza is a perfect balance of sweet and savory thanks to the fig glaze. If you’re a fan of pasta, the Lamb Bolognese features whole wheat linguine and very mild ground lamb.
Now, dessert … DO NOT MISS THE NUTELLA COOKIE SANDWICH! This is some seriously intense dessert with Nutella (duh), bacon brittle (uhhhh), cookies, and vanilla bean ice cream. Don’t share this with more than one other person.
Fun offerings to look forward to from PS214:
brunch (the menu looks like a scantron sheet, y’all)
USB plugs to charge your phone under the bar (am I weird to be really excited about this?)
If you’ve ever paid a visit to Plano’s increasingly popular Historic District, chances are you are already familiar with the deliciousness that is Urban Rio. Hopefully, this also means you are well-acquainted with Urban Rio’s breezy, rooftop watering hole, On the Rocks Cantina. In case you’ve been missing out: This “Next-Mex” eatery features inventive menu items influenced by Mexican and Spanish flavors and ingredients from the Rio Grande Valley. Urban Rio places a heavy emphasis on fresh, creative menu items, with scratch-made ingredients (they grind their own corn for their tortillas). On the Rocks Cantina features 14 beer taps (10 of which are craft, including local selections), 8 frozen liquor taps, a creative variety of handcrafted cocktails, and assorted vino.
Even if Urban Rio is heavy in your rotation (as it should be), here is a little tidbit you may not know: Each month, Urban Rio features a five course cocktail pairing dinner, and it’s only $34.90 per person. Let that sink in for a minute. The average price tag of a craft cocktail in Dallas is in the double digits. I don’t think I need to elaborate any further on what a ridiculous deal this is.
I happily attended Urban Rio’s November Fall Cocktail Dinner. The menu was both festive and creative, with some delightfully unexpected offerings thrown in.
The first course paired a decadent Pumpkin Martini with a velvety Butternut Squash Soup. The Pumpkin Martini (spiced rum, pumpkin spice syrup, nutmeg, cinnamon, crowned with house-made pumpkin whipped cream) made me feel like I was abusing my grown-up powers and indulging in dessert before dinner; this baby was sinfully creamy and delicious. The Butternut Squash Soup was prepared with a puree of onion and celery, which gave the soup a lovely, smooth texture without being overly rich. This gourd-centric pairing slapped us in the face with autumn-y goodness.
Our second course featured the Berry Breeze cocktail, paired with Berry Jalapeño Shrimp. The Berry Breeze (pear vodka, apple juice, and cranberry juice) was lightly sweet with a lovely pop cranberry. The sweetness of the cocktail was offset by the garlicky shrimp, accompanied by a zesty berry-jalapeño sauce and a strawberry pico.
For the third course, we were treated to a Maple Old Fashioned, paired with Roasted Ham. The Maple Old Fashioned (maple rye whiskey, cranberry bitters) was surprisingly sweet and decadent for a spirit forward cocktail with only two ingredients. The sweet maple flavor paired beautifully with the smokiness of the ham, which was crowned with a zesty maple mustard sauce, served atop creamy leek mashed potatoes.
“Why stop at just one entree?” asked Urban Rio. The fourth course featured the Pecan Dream cocktail, paired with Pecan Crusted Salmon. This pairing was my favorite, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one. I heard all kinds of praise songs being sung for the Pecan Dream (house-infused toasted pecan rum, banana, vanilla vodka, walnut liqueur, and sugar). This one-of-a-kind cocktail was reminiscent of delicious banana nut bread. It paired beautifully with the flaky, pecan-crusted salmon, which was prepared with mustard in the crust for just the right amount of contrasting bite to offset the sweetness of the cocktail. Bravo.
Finally, our fifth and final course paired the Chocolate Covered Raspberry, abeer creation, with an indulgent Chocolate Mousse. So, the Chocolate Covered Raspberry (Grapevine Brewery’s Nightwatch Oatmeal Stout with Lindemans Framboise) was technically not a cocktail … but, I am totally OK with this, because it was freaking delicious. Aptly named, the sweet, jammy, raspberry goodness paired perfectly with the rich, creamy chocolate mousse. I don’t usually consider beer when pondering after-dinner libations, but I definitely will going forward. Yum.
To tide you over ’til Urban Rio’s next amazing cocktail dinner in December (scheduled for December 16, at 6:30), the kind folks at the On the Rocks Cantina were kind enough to share a duo of festive holiday drink recipes you can create for yourself, at home.
Cranberry Mule 2 oz Deep Eddy Cranberry Vodka
1 oz fresh lime juice
0.5 oz simple syrup
Fill copper mug with ice. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with fresh mint. Strain into mug and top with ginger beer (we prefer Gosling’s!). Garnish with fresh cranberry skewer, lime wedge and sprig of fresh mint.
Winter Vixen Cocktail 1 oz St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
1.5 oz POM pomegranate juice
Fresh pomegranate seeds
Fill the bottom of the champagne flute with pomegranate seeds (about ten). Layer St. Germain and pomegranate juice in the champagne flute and top with champagne.
Urban Rio Cocktail Dinners are hosted on a monthly basis, typically on the third Tuesday of every month (check out their events calendar to confirm future dates and times). Once again, the cost is just $34.90 per person (tax and gratuities not included)- such an amazing deal! Space is always limited, so make your reservation ASAP! For reservations, call 972-543-8911 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some other noteworthy Urban Rio happenings:
Check out On the Rocks Cantina’s 7 Deals for 7 Days specials, featuring:
Monday- $1 off all beer
Tuesday- $2 off cocktails on the rocks
Wednesday- $3 off Crown and Down
Thursday- $4 frozen drinks
Friday- $5 glasses of wine
Saturday- $6 beer-ritas
Sunday- $7 off bottles of wine
Be sure to check out their events calendar for additional drink specials and live music offerings.
Sister restaurant Urban Crust is pairing with Urban Rio to throw a festive NYE bash at Urban Crust’s Rooftop Event Spot. The “Cocktails and Confetti” NYE party will feature live music from the Josh Goode Band, small bites from Urban Crust, and a cash bar with signature drinks from Urban Rio (credit cards also accepted). Tickets are $50 and will go on sale on December 2. Tickets can be purchased here.
I hear that Urban Rio will be offering a new series of quarterly beer dinners, launching in 2015. Just like the cocktail dinners, the five-course beer dinner will be offered for only $34.90 per person! The inaugural event, featuring Texas beers, take place on March 17, so make your reservations and mark your calendars!
URBAN RIO 1000 E. 14th St. Ste. 100, Plano, TX 75074
Hours of Operation: Open Daily: 11 AM – 2 AM Brunch Menu offered Sat. & Sun. from 11AM – 3PM
Ivy Kitchen is a new restaurant that serves sushi, steaks, and one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten. We had the pleasure of speaking with Brit Milam who came to Ivy Kitchen from Cured in San Antonio and has left his mark on the restaurant. He spoke about Ivy Kitchen’s local vs. global attitude, which means they refuse to sacrifice quality to call something local.
Their drinks are top notch (the Bootstrap Manhattan is not to be missed) and their wine list, curated by Raven Wine, is one of the most brilliantly simple lists I’ve seen in Dallas. They offer some of my favorite local liquor brands, including TX Whiskey and Cinco Vodka! Their Sake Margarita is a sort of surf and turf of the cocktail world and The Ivy is their best seller.
Ivy Kitchen offers an abridged menu available in the Look & Dine theater of LOOK Cinema, which shares one wall with them. Don’t worry … they won’t serve anything in there that’s too pungent out of courtesy of the other moviegoers!
Alcohol offerings: Full bar, full wine list, local and import beers (some local drafts)
Brunch: Saturday and Sunday
TVs: in the bar
Kitchen hours: 11am-10pm
Bar hours: an hour after the restaurant (especially Thursday-Saturday)
Gluten-free options: yes
Not to miss:
Edemame is coated in the crazy good spice
Crab cake is possibly the most amazing thing I’ve ever eaten. The Cole slaw has macadamia nuts in it and is badass. Like … legit.
Their Burger patty is made with equal parts short rib, brisket, and beef … and it’s one of the best burgers that I’ve ever had.
Last week I was privileged to attend a media dinner at a new Tex-Mex restaurant in Bluebonnet Circle, Pegaso Mexican Diner. The circle has made a huge turn around since the days of the Qui and Tiff and Andi’s. Now the circle is full of great restaurants and retail, and Pegaso is a wonderful addition to the neighborhood.
Pegaso is set up like Freebirds or Chipotle where you go through a line to build your plate. They also offer a few platters were everything is already chosen for you want a quick decision. The basics of the menu are: enchilada plates, burritos, burrito bowls, salad bowls, and street tacos. With almost everything, you pick your filling, sauce, and sides. My first experience was awesome because I was able to try a lot of the menu in small portions. I kept thinking about how good the food during the rest of my week that I went back a few days later for my weekend Mexican food fix. Going through the line for the first time was somewhat overwhelming with all of the choices. It was safe to say that I’m pretty sure I would not have been disappointed with anything I would have chosen. The simple things like the rice and refried beans are amazing. The food is such high quality (this is nothing like Taco Bell fast food).
Eventually they will be offering late night on weekends as well as breakfast.
I’ll admit it … I’m a queso fanatic. For that reason, I deem myself qualified to say that their queso blanco was amazing. My other top recommendations are the enchilada platter with chicken tinga, chipotle crema, vegan cilantro rice, and pinto refried beans. One of the best sides I have tried is the Spicy Mexican Elote (a corn dish with chipotle crema, mayonnaise, and queso fresco). This dish has a great mix of sweet and spicy flavors.
So awesome food, now what about the drinks? Yes, this is considered “fast casual”, but the margaritas are hand shaken using 100% agave Tequila (your choice of Silver, Reposado, or Anejo). I was a big fan of the skinny margarita on the rocks ($8.50). The cucumber margarita on the rocks ($10.00) was a refreshing twist on a traditional margarita and the cucumber mellowed out the sweetness.
Pegaso also offers a selection of domestic ($2.95), imported ($3.75), and local ($4.25) bottles. (I feel that I shouldn’t have to say that you can’t get the drinks to go … but I’ll err on the side of safety.)
All of the items at Pegaso are made with high quality ingredients and sustainable harvested produce when possible. They use healthy fats such as Canola oil in their fryer as well as accommodate any vegan request that is possible. This is a family-friendly restaurant with a very reasonably priced kids menu ($3.75).
PEGASO MEXICAN DINER
3516 Bluebonnet Circle
Fort Worth, Texas 76109 Website | Facebook
“Look, Sandy Glopperson checked in on Facebook and is drinking Burt Reynolds’s juice from a jug!”
One of these two sentences describes how social media first introduced me to the fact that there was a restaurant less than five miles from my house serving a bunch of variations of moonshine and moonshine-based cocktails I needed to check out. At the time, I was loosely familiar with the idea of moonshine, but didn’t realize this was the start of a quick crash course elsewhere (more on that later).
I went on a Friday night with a group of friends and was impressed at the quick transition from strip mall parking lot to a cool indoor scene and open patio. Basically, it’s about as comfortable as you can feel within a football field or so of a Twin Peaks. Our waiter was very attentive from the beginning and it was apparent he really enjoyed presenting the menu and concepts to people – which I only note because I think I would be sick of doing that in about a week.
For the uninitiated, the menu has three tiers of strength and flavors – ranging from sweetened sugar water with a kick to the stronger, fruit-infused flavors. We went with the waiters recommendations and quickly ran through a number of options that were on the sweet side and not too strong, but good, including the Cherry Limeade and Pineapple Bomb. The South House Cherry Limeade was listed as its own moonshine flavor, but the waiter encouraged me to try it with Sonic-style ice and mixed with a bit of Sprite to taste exactly like a spiked drive-thru drink. It was delicious and dangerously easy to drink, although I learned later getting the moonshine straight minus the Sprite is much better for those used to drinking stronger cocktails. The bomb was also a great tropical cocktail (although you have to really like coconut to enjoy it without being overpowered). There was also the Jolly Rancher that tasted exactly like a watermelon Jolly Rancher (I guess they hit that one on the head) … so high fives all around on that one.
At this point, it was time for a food break, and Mash’d had some good options (although food reviews tend to get a lot more positive after everyone has 3 drinks). A twitter follower recommended the beef Bulgogi tacos–which I happily devoured–and the wings were good as well. Reviews on some of the other food the group had was a bit more mixed, but everyone found at least one item on the menu that they enjoyed.
With some food in me, it was time to tackle one of the stronger moonshines on the rocks. (DUN DUN DUN.) I went with the Midnight Moon Blackberry and quickly found it was like drinking a straight infusion. All of a sudden, it was like I snapped out of some sugar-induced haze and remembered what I like about drinks to begin with – complexity, tasting the alcohol, a nice finish that lingers. (Oh yeah … and the intoxicating properties don’t suck either.) This is kind of where my review turned on a matter of personal taste. I had enjoyed everything I had earlier in the meal, but it was very much a novelty and not something I’d make a habit of drinking. I also sampled the straight apple pie moonshine and had the same reaction – this was something I would want to pour myself at home versus sampling one time with friends.
I had also been told to close the night with Hillbilly Moonshine, their moonshiney take on a white Russian and, if that’s a preferred drink, I can say you won’t be disappointed. It’s very heavy (which, I mean, duh), so I wouldn’t plan on more than one and I’d do it at the end of a meal only.
All in all, I enjoyed the trip out, although for future visits, I plan to only stick at the straight, high end of the menu and probably skip the cocktails altogether. I would definitely recommend at least a visit to Mash’d for a different drinking experience and a chance to try new things, but my bigger recommendation is to keep an eye out at Total Wine, Spec’s, etc. for the different flavors of South House moonshine and start building your own experience at home.
Drink strength: 3 of 5 (I mean, I had all or parts of 8 different drinks in 3 hours and, while I didn’t drive, didn’t feel remotely smash’d) Food: 3.5 of 5
After my visit, I had the opportunity (along with the other SDD contributors*) to visit JEM Beverage Company in Carrollton, who makes many of the moonshines at Mash’d under their South House label, as well Western Son vodka (also featured in the Hey Ginger frozen drink at Mash’d) and Red River Whiskey … and some other delicious stuff. It was here I learned what moonshine is (they make bourbon, infuse it with flavors and then don’t age it, which explains why I liked it so much straight). I walked out of the distillery that day with several bottles of each and have been enjoying drinking all of it on the rocks at home without the syrups, sugars, etc. Simplicity is key.
*Note from Susie: if you think you’re a good drinker and can speak English and spell (or if you know someone who fits that criteria), email me! I’m looking for writers both in Dallas and other cities!
“So why Plano?” someone asked, almost incredulously, about this restaurant that has been in place for more than a decade.
On one hand, I get the attitude about Plano. (And truth be told, I still fight it myself sometimes.) On the other hand, it was a good reminder of the prevailing idea that these darn suburbs are just out to ruin everything creative and good. Despite not boasting a Dallas (proper) address, somehow the Roy’s brand has thrived out in the ‘burbs, and that’s why a group of us were invited to a special Eat Creative dinner to showcase its new drink and food options – some of which were designed by local Chef Scott Nakachi.
The event was food-intensive, but I jumped at the chance to try the Pacific Rim Cosmotini (vodka, ginger and passion fruit syrups, egg whites, blood orange liqueur). It had a good flavor and it didn’t take long to realize how quickly (and cheaply) one could blow through these – especially during their happy hour when drinks are only $6.
We also sampled some of the food items on the bar menu (which is also only $6 during happy hour – save one exception we’ll get to later) and it was pretty damn good. There was edamame and butterfish lettuce wraps, which were both well-prepared and are must-tries. I found myself eating the fish by itself, which I guess makes me a huge jerk … but it was that good. There were also delicious steamed pork buns and, the star of the show, a giant Wagyu burger the size of my face*. It was spicy and perfectly seasoned, and for $9 on the happy hour menu, it’s a solid meal choice to balance out the happy hour cocktails and walk out feeling full. It also came with massive onion rings which were heavily-breaded and thick.
Based on the conversation at the table, a few of us who were more into onion rings in general enjoyed them and the others seemed to think it was too much. (Who isn’t into onion rings? They must be communists.) The fat kid in me loved them, but I had to maintain composure as an official SDD representative and not smoosh my face into the plate of them. Ebi rolls followed, which were also battered and tasted like one of the heavy rolls Americans love to eat while onlooking foreigners cringe. It was tasty, but there’s just too much fresh seafood on the menu to opt for a roll unless you’re really in the mood to ruin your dinner.
What we’d eaten to this point quickly became an afterthought when the main courses came out – especially the Maine lobster pot pie. The crust was flaky and delicious and the giant pieces of lobster were swimming in a curry sauce that was hot and delicious. It came in a giant tray that could easily feed three people (or even two going all out pig-style.) You need to eat this dish. I don’t mean to shortchange the other entrees that were all delicious (including an Alaea salt-crusted, bone-in ribeye first introduced by Plano’s Chef Scott), but this was the dish that inspired Susie to email me and say “I want to lick my screen to taste that lobster business!!!!” I have to make sure I capture the magic.
^^ Put this in your face ASAP. ^^
Finally, we finished with two delicious desert options: pineapple upside down cake and Roy’s signature molten lava cake. Both were devoured by the sharing table and, while chocolate never fails, the pineapple upside down cake was not too sweet and just different enough to stand out.
In summary, allow me to summarize this with a forgotten, but aptly named, SNL Digital Short – Roy Rules. If you need a happy hour spot in North Dallas or Plano, you really can’t beat the value offered here.
2840 Dallas Parkway, Plano, TX 75093
(972) 473-6263 Website | Facebook
Summer is upon us, and we all know what that means, Dallas … patio season is now in full swing! With that said, The Social House recently had us come in to try out some fresh bites and Summer cocktails on the patio of their Addison location.
Everything we tried at the tasting was great. It may just be that I love mangos, but my favorite beverage was the Frozen Mango Margarita. The thickness of the fruit itself makes this frozen margarita taste more like a smoothie. It’s pretty awesome. If it’s food you’re after, check out the Irish Pork Nachos. They’re made with house-cut chips, topped with Ancho pulled pork, avocado mousse and pickled jalapeños …yes, it was as good as it sounds.
Whether you are looking for a great patio to lounge on a beautiful day, a tasty beverage after a long day or some delicious food for a grumbling stomach, The Social House is your one-stop shop!
PROTIP: Check out their amazing happy hour specials! For example, the cocktails shown above (or below) are all served at half-price during happy hour… Talk about the happiest of hours!