The good news: None of the ladies at The Bearded Lady actually have beards. The same can’t be said for the gentlemen, however. After all, this new bar-restaurant off West Magnolia Avenue is in one of Fort Worth’s hippest districts.
The quirky name reflects co-owner Shannon Osbakken’s obsession with the circus; there is also a bar in Brooklyn with the same name. But the name is as far as the circus connection goes. Otherwise, the food and ambiance can be summed up as craft beer bar crossed with a touch of Denton.
The location is a refurbished century-old house with charming roomlike enclaves. The bar is tight on space, but wooden benches and tables in the dining areas feel warm and welcoming. The wall is covered with beer mottos, vintage trays and a whimsical collection of cuckoo clocks. To the side, a large streetside patio has picnic tables and is dog-friendly.
The atmosphere is relaxed and collegiate, although perhaps a bit too collegiate. Water was served in plastic cups, with straws to boot. Service was good-natured and informal, but sometimes bordering on forgetful. As long as you’re here to relax with a beer and a few snacks, you’ll be good.
No bar dare open in 2013 without a decent beer selection, and Bearded Lady has that covered with a serious lineup of craft brews from respected American breweries such as Deschutes and New Belgium, and local beers from the likes of Rahr and Revolver.
Food has been a work in progress. Prior to opening, a lengthy menu was conceived, and that remains on the website, but it has been scaled down to make it more manageable, and you won’t always find the same items every night. But there remains somewhat of a beer theme, whether it’s beer-battered okra or dishes that are thought to pair well with beer.
One thing the kitchen does well is fry things. One of the best and most distinctive items we tried were the fried cactus strips ($6), served with spicy chipotle-ranch dressing. The strips were cut into long rectangles and fried in the restaurant’s signature beer batter, creating a superbly crunchy yet moist crust. Dusted with grated Parmesan, they were like behemoths, with a slightly tart, tender green cactus strip inside.
That same batter was put to work on the signature brat corny dogs ($8). Four fat sausages were skewered, then coated in a shaggy crust. They came with an order of perfect french fries, skin still on and fried to a golden brown. The brats were spicy but too fat to catch in a mouthful; the ratio of meat was too high. Something with the girth of a regular hot dog would be a better balance.
The pinnacle of the menu is the stuffed burger ($11), with grilled onions, avocado, feta and cheddar cheese. Served on an oil-slicked bun, this was a meal so massive and sloppy that it almost required a fork and knife. The ingredients were thoughtful and fresh, including crisp green lettuce and thick pickle slices. The onions were a standout, with a char-grilled flavor that added some smoky flair.
The burger comes with your choice of side, and may we recommend the fried okra. Yes, it was more of that wonderful beer batter, enclosing the crunchy green pods — the perfect combination of fresh vegetable and luscious crunchy crust. You could put anything in this batter and we’d like it.