Food & Wine anointed the country's 50 best bars in its latest issue. The list, featuring swanky cocktail dens that pour upscale drinks, leans heavily on New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington D.C.. Texas received mention for only one bar, the Anvil Bar & Refuge in Houston. Dallas didn't make the list.
Why was Dallas snubbed? Perhaps Food & Wine doesn't have much presence in this corner of Texas. National glossies frequently rely on freelance writers in various locations to keep the publication up to speed on what's happening. These stringers often feed these large, nationally driven lists.
Jonathon's Oak Cliff was recently mentioned for its beer-and-cheddar soup, though we found out that the restaurant was discovered through Yelp. But Bubba's Cooks Country was also mentioned in a national fried chicken list. And Fearing's, Local, and Arcodora & Pomodoro have been mentioned in the magazine in the past. Clearly Dallas is on the Food and Wine radar -- even if it's just a tiny green blip in the southwest corner of the scope.
The other possible explanation is that Dallas doesn't have any bars that are good enough to make a national top 50 list. Considering some of our most locally celebrated bars, that's a bitter drink to choke down.
So why weren't they included?
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The Black Swan is a fine bar, with good, consistent mixology. But the space is quirky compared to others in the top 50. Most of the bars in the list have a real presence about them; the space is as polished as the drinks. While I'm almost certain Gabe Sanchez could hang on a national scale measured on his bar skills alone, the Black Swan as a bar would likely come up short. The Windmill Lounge seems it would be precluded for the same reason: great drinks, divey space.
The Marquee Grill and Cedars Social measure up when it comes to interior design. Both offer large, clean, interesting drinking spaces that grab your attention when you walk through the door. Here, though, consistency is an issue. When the Bar manager is shaking your shaker (Jason Kosmas at Marquee and Trina Nishimura at Cedars) the drinks are top-notch. Supporting bartenders, however, need to hone their consistency.
Private Social is another bar that strikes me as a national contender. Rocco Milano has the chops, and the Social side of the restaurant is plenty impressive. Glossies tend to write with a significant lead time, though, and Private Social only recently opened. It's likely the restaurant lacked enough of a presence when the story was written.
Best Of lists often receive scorn from readers. They validate the people who are included as our finest and leave those left out grumbling like the kid picked last for the kickball team. With Food & Wine's 50 Best Bars in America, though, we're all in the same boat as Dallasites. Seems like a good excuse to go get tanked.