4514 Travis St. #101
Dallas, TX 75205
Bodega Bar is the very definition of a secret bar. It’s a place you wouldn’t find normally, unless you happened to be strolling through the interior of the Travis Walk Shopping Center near Knox Street. Its owners claim to be proud of its seclusion, but the seductively cozy tables visible in the bar’s front window alcoves just beg to be discovered. Inside, the room is spacious. It just keeps going and going, like that ship on “Doctor Who,” which is great if you’re hanging out with a large group. If you’re on a date, there are lots of private areas and nooks to steal a moment or two. The vibe is Old Italy, like something from a Tuscan village; low lighting, old wine casks and crates used for décor, and fountains gurgling pleasantly in the corners. The staff is courteous and helpful, never hesitating to guide you through Bodega Bar’s well thought out selection of small batch wines.
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2303 Pitmann St.
Dallas, TX 75208
When Jack’s Backyard closed last year, a lot of people were left shaking their heads. A sprawling outdoors Austin-styled bar featuring great live music and food, how could the formula not work? This time around, the folks at the Foundry seem determined to get the concept right. The bar has been gussied up a bit – there’s tons of festive new art, like the torn rubber tire collage which covers one wall. The beer garden and the parking lot are better lit, making party pioneers feel safer about their surroundings. But the biggest change is the stage area. It’s been rotated 90 degrees and rebuilt for better sound insulation, which is probably good news to the residents who live nearby. Go there now. With its new look and attitude, we have a feeling The Foundry won’t be a secret bar for very long.
5320 Maple Avenue
Dallas, TX 75235
The building isn’t much to look at. You might even double-check the address to see if you’ve been sent there as a practical joke. But if you can drop the pretense, Louise Owens and Charlie Papaceno, the owners of the Windmill Lounge, will guarantee you have a great time. These two know their craft, making extraordinary vintage cocktails and even a few of their own devising. The jukebox is chock full of rare, hard to find musical gems; the Windmill regularly gets voted Best Juke Joint in several local awards. And if that isn’t enough, there are the regulars. At their best, the crowd resembles the motley “come as you are” boozers from the TV show “Cheers.” At their worst, they can seem like the casting call for extras in a David Lynch film. But regardless of the crowd’s temperament that day, the drinks are good, and the visit is always, always interesting.
1408 W. Magnolia Ave.
Fort Worth, TX 76104
Thank goodness The Usual is anything but. To their credit, it’s a little more daring for a bar to dare to be as original as The Usual is in Fort Worth. The joint feels like a speakeasy, and manages to be stylish while delivering specialty, Prohibition-era cocktails, right in the middle of Cowtown. Who’d have thunk it? We’re talking drinks with grown up names, like the Cardigan Daiquiri, and the Unconventional Wisdom. The Usual’s skilled bartenders demonstrate a love of their craft and like to use serious bar ingredients like Italian vermouth, green Chartreuse and grapefruit bitters. The crowd is diverse, but leans toward the hip. A food truck swings by every so often to take care of the munchies.
Finn MacCool’s Pub
1700 Eight Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76110
Finn MacCools’ is an Irish-styled pub that manages to grow each year without losing its neighborhood feel. Located in the Hospital District, MacCool’s has undergone a recent expansion, which means there’s more room to hobnob, and also room for a pool table, juke box and dart boards. But success hasn’t changed what MacCool’s is at the core, namely, an unpretentious low-key place to hang out with friends. Yes, the bartender will still take the time to learn your name, and he’ll be happy to suggest one of MacCools’ many bottled drinks or draughts. MacCool’s has its share of regulars, but they’re a friendly lot, never hesitating to welcome a newcomer or to share a story or two.
Related: Best Irish Pubs around Dallas