Over the last couple of years, no corner of Fort Worth has experienced as extraordinary a re-vitalization as Magnolia Avenue, in the Near Southside section of town. Once a sleepy strip littered with abandoned storefronts, it is now home to some of our most exciting bars and restaurants: cafes like Avoca and Brewed; adventurous and critically-praised eateries like Shinjuko Station and Ellerbe Fine Foods; and more casual (but just as delicious) spots like Yucatan Taco Stand and Spiral Diner.
And just when it seemed like Magnolia Avenue couldn’t get any more vibrant, well, along comes another star in this ever-brightening constellation: The Bearded Lady, a old-fashioned-style tavern that also serves gourmet-style pub food. It opened earlier this summer, and based on a recent Thursday evening visit, it has emerged as an instant neighborhood hit.
The first thing that strikes you about The Bearded Lady is the space itself, a 1926 Craftsman house that’s been restored and transformed, with dark wood floors, an exposed brick fireplace; and a long bar across the near side wall; it’s the sort of homey spot where you are likely to see a group of friends engaged in animated conversation at one table, and another group playing an intense round of dominoes at the next table over.
Outside there is a large, tree-shaded patio, where every table was taken on the (unexpectedly temperate) night we visited. Once the weather cools in the fall, I suspect you’re going to have to get to this patio early to snag a spot.
As for the food and drinks offerings: There are dozens of beers available on draught (and countless more in bottles), and the list has a heavy Texas slant. We tried the “Blood and Honey,” an American Wheat Ale from the Granbury-based Revolver Brewing; and the “Devil’s Backbone,” a Tripel-style beer from the Blanco, Texas-based Real Ale Brewing Company.
Our drinks proved the perfect accompaniment to our food, which takes pub standards like burgers, fries and mac-and-cheese and puts an artisanal spin on them. We started with the stuffed mushrooms – baby portabellas stuffed with feta and bits of vegetables, and them deep-fried. (When they emerge, they look like giant fried doughnut holes.) They are surprisingly light and not nearly as greasy as you might fear – and the accompanying housemade ranch dressing has a great, spicy-tangy kick.
For a main course, we split the black bean veggie burger, and customized it with feta and carmellized onions. Although the burger already came with fries, we order a second serving of fries (or frits as they are called here), just so we could taste all of the dipping sauces: a wonderfully thick and slightly sweet ketchup; a grainy mustard dip that’s made with beer from Fort Worth’s Martin House Brewery; and a curry aioli.
All told, The Bearded Lady seems equally suited to happy hour or after-dinner drinks; a quick snack or a full meal. The only bad thing about it is that it makes a visit to Magnolia Avenue even more difficult than before – because how can you choose just one or two places to visit from such an extraordinary embarrassment of riches?