Harnessing the unique Western heritage of Fort Worth, the legendary horse and mule barns of Mule Alley is emerging as a beautifully restored destination within the Stockyards Historic District.
Today, you’ll find a charming collection of hotels, shops, entertainment venues and restaurants.
Here are our favorite Mule Alley eateries.
97 West Kitchen & Bar
Many hotel restaurants are overpriced, underwhelming convenience food. To Hotel Drover, 97 West is Jared Leto: the best supporting actor that vastly improves the overall production.
The restaurant’s menu is what the chef calls “reimagined Southern comfort foods.” Menu highlights include sweet tea marinated fried green tomatoes, wood-grilled ribeye cap steak salad, New Your strip chicken-fried steak, and cast-iron seared redfish. The shishito pepper crab dip will exceed your wildest imagination of just how decadent crab dip can be. 97 West’s beverage program is brown spirit forward creative cocktails from local distillers.
If you’d like to excite a crowd of close friends or family, try the Chef’s Table. Based on your vision, Executive Chef Grant Morgan (formerly of Dragonfly at Hotel ZaZa and Velvet Taco) and his culinary experts curate a menu of food paired with drinks unique for your party. Chef’s Table pricing starts at $250 per person; tables can seat up to 12 guests indoors or 14 outdoors.
The Biscuit Bar
For fast-casual on Mule Alley, The Biscuit Bar is your one-stop shop. Owners Janie and Jake Burkett have five Dallas-Fort Worth locations, with the Stockyards being the latest. The Biscuit Bar is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Or, as we say in the South, “supper.”
Born in Deep South Hattiesburg, Mississippi, I should be a biscuit girl. Especially as my dad hosted a Southern cooking radio show, “The Back Burner.” He would make biscuits with eggs, biscuits with grits, biscuits with gravy… And I would prefer a plain Eggo waffle. But, much to my delight, biscuits come in many forms at The Biscuit Bar. And accompanied with a margarita is one of them!
I opted for the Country Farm Salad, one of several. It was topped with a generous handful of biscuit croutons. Turns out, in the form of crunchy croutons, I like biscuits quite a lot. The drink menu to wash it down ranges from coffee to tea to margs and mimosas plus orange juice, cranberry juice, pineapple juice… just name it!
And as for a showstopper of a side dish, you’ve got to try the sweet potato tots. They are the sidekicks that kick it all up a notch. (I’d recommend adding a side of ranch… but in the South, we always do!)
Chef and renowned restaurateur Marcus Paslay (Clay Pigeon, Piattello Italian Kitchen) has again brought his distinct culinary vision to life with Provender Hall. (The name is a hat-tip to The Stockyards’ cattle-centric backstory.) Close to 5,000 square feet and two stories tall, Provender Hall was the largest of all dining establishments we reviewed on this trip. The bar is on the first floor and dining spans both floors, with beautiful wood and brick accents. Two catwalks overlook the first floor from the second.
Keeping it real about my Provender Hall experience, I arrived at 8:59pm. They were closing at 9pm, hours earlier than we thought. Yikes! With Mule Alley just scuffing its hooves into unprecedented retail territory, hours of certain restaurants may be limited — as was the case that Thursday night.
So, the kitchen was closed… but never underestimate the knowledge of a bartender. They see everything, hear everything, and are in-the-know on everything. Bartender Doug poured me a heavy-handed glass of chardonnay and gave me the insider knowledge of the best on the menu.
The Steak Frites are a must. For a main dish, the Crispy Redfish on top of sweet potatoes and greens are “slap yo mama good.” For oyster fans, the East Coast Oysters are fresh and fantastic.
Sidesaddle Saloon is the newest restaurant and cocktail bar to open on Mule Alley. Owner Sarah Castillo welcomed me to her latest Cowtown eatery with the same hospitality you’d expect from this notorious superwoman restaurant-preneur! The woman who had the vision for Tini’s and Taco Heads (both in Fort Worth) created Sidesaddle Saloon as an “elevated watering hole that gives a nod to the cowgirl.” As she said, “We’re fans of tough, fearless women who can handle their own.” Count me in.
Let’s talk about food.
A plate of Biscuits and Beef Jerky met me. You’ve already heard my rant on biscuits, so those were just going to sit there and mind their own until my guest arrived. As for beef jerky, I hadn’t indulged myself since the seventh grade, when I would purchase a shrink-wrapped package of Slim Jim beef jerky at the middle school snack bar to suffice as my lunch. But, with the formidable Castillo across the table, it was dire straits. Beef jerky it was. And after one bite, it was… nirvana. This jerky was made in-house, was lean, chewy, salty — but not overly so. Savory, a little smoky, the beef jerky, in and of itself, is worth a trip to Sidesaddle Saloon. It was so delicious, in fact, that by the time my guest arrived, she had no choice but to eat the biscuits, because it was all that was left.
Next up, the Hummus with a Vegetable Platter. I make hummus at home often. It’s pretty simple: garbanzo beans, garlic, tahini, sea salt, lemon, and good olive oil. Nothing else to it, right? Apparently, wrong. The hummus at Sidesaddle Saloon is like none you’ve ever tasted before. The green chimichurri sauce was tangy and savory; it even topped the hummus in my book. For my guest, it was hummus over chimichurri. But by all standards, the hummus tray, with chimichurri sidekick, is a must.
Here you’ll have no shortage of beverage options to wash down your grub. From the aged whiskey, which is available on tap after soaking in house-made barrels, to margaritas, they have you covered. There are several different margaritas to choose from, but I have to champion the Flores Ladue. I’m a tequila girl and I have had my fair share of good margaritas, but the Flores Ladue was better than good — it was perfection. The touch of peach came from Combier Penche De Vigne. The margaritas come in petite serving glasses, not fishbowls, but this is where you may find yourself in trouble. These margs are tiny but mighty. Sip your beverage slowly, or you may find yourself stumbling off your stool, singing Shelly West’s 1983 classic, “Jose Cuervo.” Sidesaddle Saloon pays homage to the American Cowgirl, but don’t be that cowgirl.
No trip to Mule Alley could really be complete without hanging your hat at the anchor of the district: Hotel Drover.
When all of the comfort food and punch-packing booze have yet to metabolize and you’re feeling high on life but low on driving, stay and play at Hotel Drover. A few steps away from your food and beverage galavanting lies the finest hotel in Fort Worth, and, dare I say, the entire DFW area.
Be sure to pack a swimsuit — the early bird catches the worm at Hotel Drover’s fabulous cabanas with chandeliers and luxurious seating. (No extra charge, availability based on first come, first served).
Cover photo courtesy The Biscuit Bar
Brook Benten Jimenez, M.Ed. is a decorated fitness personality. She specializes in wellness travel stories for Texas Lifestyle Magazine. Making every day an adventure, BB routinely presents workouts with an endearing kitsch twist. Upcoming events include a virtual cycling class to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, a “Vino & Vinyasa” yoga + wine class at Craft & Racked Wine Bar in Round Rock, TX, and a Flash Mob to the ABBA song, “Dancing Queen.” Find out more and stay in touch at www.BrookBenten.com/events-1.