First Look: Rodeo Bar Has Texas Swagger

Lauren Drewes Daniels
The Rodeo Bar certainly has a lot going for it. Not only does it occupy a ground floor space inside the stunning Adolphus Hotel, but it also has an excellent view of the AT&T Discovery District, which is kind of like the Times Square of Dallas.

The Rodeo Bar got an updo this past year. It originally opened in 1981 full of Texas swagger and sporty jocularity. It was a peanut-shells-on-the-floor kind of place. The bar closed in 2020 as part of a major revamp at the 110-year old Adolphus Hotel, which was built by the founder of Anheuser-Busch, Adolphus Busch. The Rodeo Bar reopened this January, cleaned up with a nice sheen of starch.

On a recent Friday evening, we pulled up at the valet at the Adolphus, because why find a parking space in downtown when they’ll validate your ticket inside at the bar? No matter where you park or how you arrive, be sure to enter through the main entrance of the hotel. It's full of slick marble, brass, cozy fireplace nooks, and stunning artwork. Then, walk through their coffee bar, over the black and white tiled floors and look for the deep red neon glow announcing that God saved the rodeo bar. It’s the perfect punch of Texas braggadocio.
click to enlarge Real honky tonks don't have selfie walls, but it's cool either way. - LAUREN DREWES DANIELS
Real honky tonks don't have selfie walls, but it's cool either way.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
The bar was packed on the night we went, which was on a Friday during happy hour. There wasn’t an inch to squeeze into to get a drink. After wandering around for a minute, a server told us we could order at a separate counter in front of the kitchen and they'd bring us our food and drinks, like at a fast-casual restaurant. Not as fun as the bar, but it got the job done.

As mentioned, the Rodeo Bar bellies right up to the AT&T Discovery District at the corner of Commerce Street and Akard Street. Patrons inside can catch glimpses of the busy and bright space across the street through passing cars.
click to enlarge Window booths at Rodeo Bar are great for people watching. - LAUREN DREWES DANIELS
Window booths at Rodeo Bar are great for people watching.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
It strikes a retro chord; some of the walls are covered with different pieces of memorabilia, like a ribbon from the 1975 State Fair and a '80s swag from Steak and Ale.

The music definitely sets a tone with old blues tunes like “Tennessee Boogie” by Zeb Turner and not-so-old blues by Justin Townes Earle (if that panged a little bit, watch this is a gem from Letterman).

Happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. with a $5 menu that includes their Rodeo Burger, queso, chili cheese fries, chili, draft beer, boilermakers, slow fashioned and house wine.

We went with a burger and Lone Star with a side of fries that were also $5, which is a bit much for a paper boat of potatoes. The burger is of the trending smashed variety. This is likely a love or hate patty thing; personally, I love it. The smushed beef on the grill renders tasty charred pieces, plus it doesn’t sit on your stomach like a brick.

Overall, the bar has a fun energy, benefitted from a good soundtrack, decent happy hour offerings and great people watching outside. It’s hard to “create” a honky tonk or retro vibe; just trying to can ruin it. But, if visitors are in town and you want to show them a little Texas swagger, valet at The Adolphus and woo them with that swank space, then bring it down to earth with a Lone Star and smash burger.

Again, Rodeo Bar will validate your ticket from the valet, but don't forget cash for a tip.

Rodeo Bar, 1321 Commerce Street (Downtown), 10 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. Sunday - Thursday, 10 a.m. - 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday