by Brian McCollough
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
The immortal words of one of the worlds most celebrated authors above can easily describe the feelings of the past year. As for bar operators its been a darker and more trying year than ever before.
Opening a bar is a dream of a lifetime! It takes hard work, commitment, long hours, and passion! The same can be said in any industry, but I love bars. So what was it like to open a bar in 2020? What should be the best of times for eager and excited owners and staff in what will seemingly go on record as the worst of times. It Is Bittersweet that is for sure. Well, here is my list for the top new bars in 2020! Cheers!
What makes a great bar for me? Bartenders and atmosphere of course! (If the first two don’t work then the rest is for the dump sink.) Here are my TOP bars and bar openings in 2020:
- Nickel City Fort Worth
The second location for my dear “Old Pal” Travis Tober and his merry band of misfits. Born out of Austin Texas this second location has all the charm you’d expect of a modern saloon. This beloved new haunt prides itself on serving Whiskeys, Agave, Cold Beers, Sliders and Buffalo Wings. All of which are perfect for everyone wanting a good time and a few laughs. The walls are adorned with nostalgia neon and and the bar has padded arm rests for those with a bit more mileage in their barstools. I love it here! Say hi to Cubby and buy some shwag. Damn straight!
- Revelers Hall
For those missing a little bit of the French Quarter and needing that soulful spirit of NOLA right here in the charming Bishop Arts neighborhood! Revelers Hall has easily become the hottest joint in town! Live music everyday that echoes jazz and Sazeracs! Old Fashioneds over Fat Ice! The bartenders are some of the best in town and take care of the entire floor! Wear your mask, have a seat, enjoy some cocktails and stomp your feet cause it’s that kind of place! “Laisssez les bon temps rouler!” (yes it may have opened in 2019 but its crushing it in 2020)
Video games, skee-ball, buck hunter, cheeseburgers and a bar staff that makes me smile every time I’m there! Kyle McClard, operating partner, re-painted all the walls in Nintendo and Pac Man motif during shutdown to make the most out of his “vacation”! Amazing! Easy going laid back good time with a great patio and a great staff! The operators are some of the best bunch of hooligans I know, so does everyone else!
- Dahlia Bar & Bistro
From the same bunch of hooligans I just mentioned, the brothers Mark and Chris Beardon; with their new addition to the lower Ross Ave corridor brought us Dahlia. A lively atmosphere that brings new energy and an elevated casual bar scene to its location! It is a great compliment to their neighbor Alice and makes for a great way to spend your time and dollars! They will also make you an Ilegal Mezcal Carajillo… BONUS!
- The Peak Inn
132 N. Peak St., Dallas TX, 75226
It’s simple, its divey, its brilliant. If you haven’t been by this great little corner spot then get to it. Pool table in the back. Charming little patio too, yes, its charming. Its cozy, its warm, its friendly, its perfect… it also has great burgers! (may have opened late 2019 but they survived the times to be here in 2020 and that’s amazing)
- Harwood Arms
From the Harwood group and their incredible team comes this perfect little pub! Wooden booths, with high partitions and comforting delicious bites you’d expect on a great pub menu. Cocktail menu and beer list is great! Great design inside with a fantastic staff makes the experience comfortable and worth going back to for sure!
The former space occupied as Bolsa has now been turned into another great local spot in Bishop Arts. With a patio face lift, incredibly creative straight forward dining experience by Chef Owner Matt Balky, the seats at the bar give you all the other things you need to imbibe with confidence. Have a cocktail, have a beer, have a lovely glass of wine selected by owner/operator Corey McCombs, who curated their boutique wine list. Date night must!
- Bar Charles
From the renowned restaurant The Charles comes its speakeasy ”esque” Bar Charles in the back. Champagne, table service, refined spirits selection, cocktails and a staff that guides your experience. Its sexy! Ask for Keithe when you’re there, she runs the room there make no mistake! She also comes from a humble pedigree, trust me on this.
The long- awaited Tiki bar Swizzle has finally come to fruition and it is an island- hopping good time! Marty and Jen finally completed their awaited dream and ours too! The atmosphere and décor alone transends the entire experience of Trader Vics and island drum- beats! The cocktail menu is loaded with classics both bitter and frothy, swirled and imaginative, shaken and blended! All with a flair unique to its name! Swizzle is a grand welcome to our bar scene and this guy could not be any happier for two of my favorite folks! Break out the rum, lime and sugar cause its Daiquiri time! Oh and they have frozen Dole Whip in the machine! #dallastikiweek
- Jaxon Beer Garden and all the things there.
Downtown Dallas has a whole new district titled AT&T Discovery and inside that is the Jaxon Beer Garden and Hard Shake! This operation is run by one cool cat we all love Alex Fletcher. His time and patience with this extraordinary block has yielded one hell of an entertaining behemoth. This will be a game changer for the entire Downtown experience and I encourage everyone to check this whole thing out! I’m not even talking about the amazing eatery inside the Hard Shake building!
- Xaman Café
A fantastic new haunt on Jefferson with a barista and café in the front and an agave bar in the back! If you know me and my amigos we love agave spirits! This place is dark and candlelit and perfect for cupitas of mezcal and cocktails! The culinary aspect of this place is exceptional as well.
- Yellow Rosa Cockteleria
This is a welcome new addition to Deep Ellum! Yellow Rosa connected to Basic Taco has canned cocktails, frozen cocktail, delicious cocktails with a great agave selection. All set in a rustic garden with Aaron Wang and staff as an even better bonus!
- Tipsy Elf
This joyous little guy took over the Botanist bar and its gorgeous coffee shop and patio over the holiday season! It was a beautiful production and packed safely distanced every night! Congrats homies!
- Ye Olde Scarlett Pumpernickel Tavern
If Miller High Life is your thing, Mellow Corn whiskey on the side and the absolute guarantee of random happenings… then this is for you and me. Owner Adam Salazar has had his influence on this town for over 25 years and served more of you than most of our modern bartenders combined. Go there, watch some hockey, have some drinks, a beer and shot, a killer roast beef sandwich and some fried pickles! You’re welcome!
- The Amber Room at Wishbone & Flynt
Just down from Nickel City is this spot with a great chef driven kitchen by Stefon Rishell and a great little bar with a solid offering. They have a speakeasy called The Amber Room in the back of the restaurant which is where it gets even more fun. Enter through Bryan Avenue if you prefer but Kyle Bronson and his partner did a great job to survive the tough year! Go support out in funkytown!
There are some other great spots too that deserve mentioning:
Krio, the Tejas reopening, Sloane’s Corner, Thunderbirds, Primos MX, Elm and Good, Catbird at the Thompson Hotel and many more. Let’s celebrate them all this year and many now ones to come.
However as great as all these spots are it doesn’t detract from the sad number of closings we will all miss. Black Swan is at the top of that list for me and I know many others as well. My heart goes out to all the hard- working folks whose lives have been catastrophically changed because of the pandemic. I hope we are all able to cheers again and hear the “tink and clink” of our glasses, in person, and in our favorite bars! Cheers, goodbye 2020! Wishing all of you a healthy, prosperous and a very Happy New Year 2021!