Nearly 100 bands will entertain Denton at Oaktopia this weekend. In between the nonstop assault of music, art and culture, you're probably going to get hungry. Chances are you'll get pretty thirsty, too. Man can't live on beer alone (we know, we tried), and if you don't know your way around Denton, you might lose valuable time — and even more valuable money — seeking out sustenance instead of enjoying the festivities. With such a killer music line-up, it'd be a shame to miss a set because you're waiting around for mediocre eats in a town that's flush with great food. Let us be your guide to dining around Little D with this list of our favorite things to eat and drink around the square. These spots are both quality eateries and conveniently located in walking distance from fest venues.
A Fried Chicken Biscuit
940’s Kitchen and Cocktails, 219 W. Oak St., Denton
Hypnotic Donuts & Biscuits, 235 W. Hickory St., Denton
There are few things more simple and satisfying than a fried chicken and biscuit breakfast, nor anything quite as traditional; southerners have been pairing fried chicken with varying forms of quick breads for centuries. Fortunately for us, Denton does not lack in chicken biscuit options. Our favorite lives at 940's Kitchen and Cocktails and only exists on the weekend brunch menu. A massive boneless chicken breast, breaded and deep-fried, is served atop a flaky peppered biscuit and smothered with chipotle bourbon queso and a sunny-side up egg. Pair that bad boy with a peppered bloody mary for an indulgent brunch.
Hypnotic Donuts also serves multiple iterations of the chicken biscuit, from the traditional to what can only be described as “eclectic stoner-inspired chicken biscuit mash-up.” The Olivia is your classic chicken biscuit with honey, larger than your standard fast-food sandwich but still compact enough to hold in your hand while driving. The Jim is a sweet and spicy Franken-breakfast with breaded chicken served on a sliced, inverted glazed doughnut with optional sriracha. The glaze melts off the doughnut and onto the hot chicken. What it lacks in portability it makes up for in calories.
Brekkies in Bed
Brekkies, (delivery out of Seven Mile Cafe) 529 Bolivar St., Denton
Brunch is awesome — but it's even better when you can have it delivered straight to your door. If you're massively hungry but too hungover to move, it's Brekkies to the rescue. Operating out of Seven Mile Cafe, this delivery-only venture fulfills a much-needed service in a city that still struggles to expand its delivery food options beyond pizza. Menu options will feel familiar to Seven Mile regulars, but keep in mind these dishes are purpose-built to survive their 10-minute delivery window. In place of fragile poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, you'll find pulled pork tacos served inside buttermilk pancake wraps with scrambled eggs and a bourbon cherry coulis. The Aloha chicken sandwich is a giant fried chicken breast on an oversized biscuit with candied bacon and a sweet and smoky adobo pineapple salsa. For the time being, orders can only be placed online through ChowNow.
A Massive Meat Plate
Barley & Board, 100 W. Oak St., Denton
Rooster's Roadhouse, 113 Industrial St., Denton
Denton may be a small university town but we’re still Texans, so when it comes to meat, we still say go big or go home hungry. The Sweet Pig and Angry Bird at Barley & Board is a half rack of barbecued pork ribs topped with their famous brazen quail, a full deboned bird coated in brown sugar and cayenne pepper and fried to a devilish crunch. Served on a board with creamy coleslaw and their signature house-made pickles, this is your classic barbecue dish dressed in a tuxedo. Barley & Board also touts a great selection of sharable small plates, an impressive selection of craft cocktails and beers on tap, and killer burgers.
If you're looking for more of a blue collar experience, head on down the street to Rooster’s Roadhouse. Their Pit Sandwich is an all-in-one barbecue sampler platter. It comes piled high with sliced brisket, pulled pork and smoked sausage, all smothered with barbecue sauce and a smoky pico on Texas toast. Can you say "meat coma" with your mouth full?
Queso from a Hidden Taco Truck
Coup D'etaco, 331 E Hickory St. (inside Harvest House), Denton
Oaktopia is bringing boatloads of taco trucks to our neck of the woods, but those in search of the best queso in town must seek out the hidden taco truck of cheesy destiny. Coup D’etaco is Harvest House’s resident food truck, serving Asian fusion tacos from their permanent porch spot inside the bar’s patio area. Though their tacos are adventurous (think twice-cooked pork belly with ginger slaw), their queso is rustic and spicy, not the Velveeta crockpot mess you’d get at a predictable Tex-Mex joint. It’s served with a decent portion of thick, crunchy tortilla chips, hefty enough to withstand intense queso/salsa piling. Speaking of salsa, theirs is pretty good, so order both and double up on your chip bounty. If meat isn’t your thing, Coup D’etaco also has vegetarian-friendly options like a fried avocado taco and a sweet potato quinoa taco that wanders towards the spicy side.
Secret Oaktopia-Themed Donuts
Back Dough at Queenie's Steakhouse, 115 E. Hickory St. (around the side of the building), Denton
After enjoying a bowl full of secret queso, head over to the side door of Queenie’s steakhouse for secret doughnuts from the Back Dough. On Friday and Saturday nights, from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. (or until they sell out), Chef Tony Neglia serves gourmet doughnuts straight from the kitchen door after dinner service ends. Each week features a handful of sweet and savory options from a seemingly endless parade of fried flavor-creations, each one is treated to the same epicurean presentation one would expect from Denton’s high-end steakhouse. The Elvis is crammed full of peanut butter cream and topped with fresno chile cream and a brûlée'd banana. The luxurious chocolate mousse doughnut is topped with luxardo cherries, and there’s a candied lemon slice atop the blackberry lemon curd doughnut. To celebrate Oaktopia, Chef Tony Neglia will feature a surprise festival-themed doughnut for this weekend only. Make sure to show up early; the line can grow to about 20-deep, depending on the time. And bring cash — doughnuts are $4 a piece and Back Dough accepts actual dough only.
Jupiter House Coffee, 106 N. Locust St., Denton
West Oak Coffee Bar, 114 W. Oak St., Denton
If you're looking for a caffeinated pick-me-up, there are two convenient options on the square to choose from, each with their own ambiance. Jupiter House is a long-standing local favorite, and probably your best bet if you're short on time or money. In addition to standard coffee options, Jupiter House also offers traditional and vegan baked goods, fresh-pressed juices, smoothies and bagels. It's an affordable, approachable coffee house with a solid undergraduate art student vibe.
Around the corner, West Oak Coffee bar is Jupiter House's older, more distinguished sibling with a grad degree in literature and a well-groomed beard. In addition to an expertly made latte, West Oak has a full kitchen, serving a solid breakfast/brunch/lunch menu until 3 p.m., along with an impressive selection of in-house made pies and cookies all day. West Oak Coffee Bar pours a mean latte, but if high-octane caffeine isn't your thing, try the new taro latte, a caffeine-free concoction of steamed milk and bright purple taro powder. Taro is a naturally sweet, potato-like root vegetable that serves as a cooking staple in many tropical areas of the world. Its slightly sweet, nutty flavor and purplish hue make for an exotic yet soothing nightcap.
Jupiter House has more seating and better Wi-Fi, but West Oak has a warmer, well-curated craftsman-inspired dining room and slick patio seating. Jupiter House sources their coffee locally from Distant Lands in Tyler, Texas; West Oak brews only Arkansas' Onyx Coffee Lab. Both make excellent coffee and are staffed by friendly, competent Dentonites — which shop you prefer just depends on what you're looking for in a coffee house.
Oaktopia-Themed Craft Cocktails at Paschall Bar
Paschall Bar, 122 N. Locust St., Denton
Those fed up with fest-ivities will find welcome respite at Denton’s secret speakeasy, if they can find it. Opened in 2011 by members of Denton folk-rock band Midlake, Pashcall Cocktail Bar was the first to bring obsessively executed craft cocktails to Little D. Located at the top of a dark staircase behind an unmarked door at the corner of one of Denton’s oldest buildings, this bar promises no TVs, no blaring music (save the black metal that occasionally filters up from Andy’s Bar below), and most importantly, no cut corners. Waiting 10 minutes for a cocktail isn't unheard of, as some of the drinks require multiple preparation methods, dry-shaken egg whites, flaming wood chips or a touch of brûlée. These cocktails are worth the wait.
For this weekend only, Paschall’s bartenders have concocted a few specialty cocktails to pay homage to visiting musicians. A cocktail inspired by Andrew W.K. features Bacardi rum, pineapple, luxardo cherry liqueur and a grenadine float. Served up with a cherry and twist, the jewel-red pool of liqueur at the bottom of the glass is meant to resemble the artist’s controversial, blood-soaked debut studio album, "I Get Wet." Though Andrew W.K. is now sober, we think the perpetual party guru and presidential candidate would appreciate having a glass full of party named after him.
Dentonites are also excited about the return of prodigal daughter Norah Jones. She doesn’t like sweet drinks, preferring a simple cocktail of vodka vigorously shaken with cucumber and ice. Paschall’s take on her eponymous cocktail dresses up that basic recipe with some fresh mint, lime juice, a touch of absinthe and a bit of simple syrup. Bright and deceptively alcoholic, it’s the kind of drink that makes you wish for summer year-round.
A Pint of Something That Won't Get You Drunk
East Side, 117 E. Oak St., Denton
Harvest House, 331 E. Hickory St., Denton
West Oak Coffee Bar, 114 W. Oak St., Denton
In the past few years, Denton’s already-buzzing bar scene added some heavy-hitters promising an abundance of local, craft and microbrews on tap. This is great news for beer drinkers, but even better news for those of us looking for quality non-alcoholic beverages during a night out. East Side boasts more than 80 beers on tap, 60 of which are brewed in Texas, but they also dedicate at least one tap to our favorite non-alcoholic pint: Saint Arnold's Root Beer. Believe us, it tastes better from the tap.
The relatively new Harvest House, a brick-and-mortar outgrowth of owner Matt Arnold’s annual Harvest Fest, opened last year. With nearly 50 beers on tap, they also cater to non-drinkers by carrying four rotating flavors of locally made Holy Kombucha. For the uninitiated, kombucha is a slightly sweet, effervescent fermented tea thought to be of eastern origin. Though kombucha’s probiotic health benefits are unproven, it’s a great alternative to soda and is adept at quelling hangovers. Currently on tap at Harvest House: the Green Guru, sangria, blueberry mojito and ginger flavors. The Green Guru is a refreshing fermented summer cocktail with notes of cucumber, kiwi, live blue-green algae and a pinch of Himalayan sea salt. The West Oak Coffee Bar on the square also carries Holy Kombucha on tap.
Food Truck Fare
Austin Street Truck Stop, 208 N. Austin St., Denton
Despite its reputation as a live music-loving college town, Denton still struggles with late-night food options. Luckily, East Side addresses the issue with a congregation of food trucks in their backyard at the Austin Street Truck Stop. Denton's Second Annual Food Truck Fest will fortuitously coincide with the first night of Oaktopia festivities, bringing more than 30 food trucks to the block of Oak Street that runs between East Side and Oak Street Drafthouse. Diners will be able to sample fare from a number of trucks that don't often make it out to Denton. Beyond Thursday, however, Austin Street Truck Stop hosts a number of regulars that stay open late to feed downtown Denton's hungry masses. The Pickled Carrot makes the best banh mi in town, Big Knife tacos has killer vegetarian tacos and newcomer Beware of Dog serves an assortment of gourmet yet affordable hot dogs, brats and spicy sausages. Check the food truck park's schedule for availability and hours.
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Bearded Monk, 122 E. McKinney St., Denton
With more than 20 craft beers on tap and more than 1,000 bottle offerings, the Bearded Monk is a hophead paradise with a comfortable and friendly atmosphere. Owner Ben Esely founded the Bearded Monk around an approachable aesthetic, a passion that's evident in everything from staff interactions to the decor. It's more than just a great selection of craft beers curated by enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff; it's a casual spot for the community to gather and chat about beer, play games, enjoy a comedy open mic and scope out the work of local artists. Stop by for a recommendation, a pint of something new or a growler full of your favorite brew.
A Juice Detox for What Ails You
Juice Lab, 508 S. Elm St. #104, Denton
Multi-day festivals mean multi-day celebrations, and that much party catches up with you eventually. If you’re feeling a little rough around the edges, drag yourself down to the Juice Lab for a fresh-pressed elixir of organic fruits and vegetables. Our favorite restorative, appropriately called After the Party, is made with alkaline water, activated charcoal, lemon, maple syrup and sea salt. The Yum Zinger is a good all-around pick-me-up perfect for any time of the day; it comes standard with apple, lemon and ginger — add cider vinegar and cayenne for a little kick. The Juice Lab also stocks some of the freshest vegan, raw and gluten-free foods in the city, along with a variety of baked goods and fresh deli items (including house-made popsicles), so it’s an excellent place to stop by for healthy eats on the go. Located about half a mile away from the square proper, it’s a short walk (or an even shorter bike ride) from the fest.
Extra Flaky Pastries
Ravelin Baking Company, 416 S. Elm St., Denton
Ravelin is Denton’s lone European-style bakery since Davis Purity Bakery went under this summer. They open early, bake everything fresh using all natural ingredients, and there's coffee, obviously. Ravelin's rotating selection of freshly baked, flaky croissants will satisfy sweet and savory cravings; the chocolate almond croissant is as decadent as it is delightfully messy. The savory croissants come filled with combinations like spinach and feta, ham and cheddar or green chili sausage. They also sell fresh-baked artisan breads and a large selection of European-style desserts. If you find yourself inadvertently licking the television while watching The Great British Bake Off, Ravelin is the place for you.
Custom-Built Wine and Cheese Plate
Wine Squared, 110 W Oak St, Denton
If vino is your thing, visit Wine Squared for an impressive variety of high quality wines by the glass or by the bottle in an entirely unpretentious setting. Denton's punk rock wine bar touts an expertly-curated wine list that pairs well with their extremely knowledgeable staff and cozy bistro decor. In addition to the city's most comprehensive wine list, Wine Squared offers custom-built cheese and charcuterie boards with a smattering of accompanying spreads. Pair the nutty Spanish manchego with prosciutto and raw honey, or spring for the smoked gouda, smoked salmon, and an herb-infused olive oil. Enjoy your wine, cheese and charcuterie feast beneath their charming covered back porch, or people-watch from the front patio seating that overlooks Denton's Historic Courthouse.