The Greatest Little Roadhouses in North Texas

The place else can you may have a drink in a financial institution as soon as robbed by Bonnie and Clyde whereas listening to a former faculty soccer participant named Huge Cat sing and having your ear talked off by the ex-coach of the Malawi nationwide basketball workforce? In reward of the Gar Holeand 5 different good-time gathering locations price a brief detour.


There are not any streetlights in Westminster, Texas. There isnt a college or a metropolis sewer system, both. On the slender asphalt highway that’s the closest factor to a important drag, theres principally only a strip of 4 ramshackle, century-old buildings, which, within the dim mild of nightfall, may nearly move for the set of Rio Bravo.

This chalk define of a city, north of McKinney and east of Anna (the place residents technically get their mail), sprung to life within the 1860s. First often called Seven Factors, the group blossomed on the skirts of a Methodist faculty and was renamed Westminster, after Westminster Abbey. However a spate of poor record-keeping and, ahem, embezzlement led the city to declare chapter and disincorporate in 2005. The very subsequent yr, a tornado tried to complete issues off, and nearly did.

However whereas this city of 861 intrepid souls nonetheless doesnt have a twister siren, amongst many different city-defining options, it now has the Gar Gap, a real roadhouse in each authentic sense of the phrase. Shortly earlier than the pandemic, proprietor Claude Spider Webb turned three of these buildingsthe one within the center was a financial institution robbed by Bonnie and Clydeinto the bar of his Luckenbach desires. (Theyve since expanded right into a fourth constructing.)

On any given evening, youll discover Annette, a big-haired and even bigger-hearted bartender; Huge Cat, an ex-college soccer participant with an unexpectedly candy singing voice; Adolfo, the chef behind the very best chili burger youll ever have; and Webb, who is aware of everyones identify and treats all of them like household, even the man who is available in nightly to quietly shuffle between the tables whereas sporting Crocs, dancing by himself to no matter Pink Dust nation band is acting on the indoor stage. 

Its a frontier Cheers with a deep forged of regulars, whom Webb has dubbed the Gar Hooligans. A few of em have Ph.D.s; a few of em didnt end the seventh grade, he says. They drive up in SUVs, on Harleys. One girl rides up right here on her lawnmower, and weve had a man come up on a horse and hitch it to the railing out entrance.

Webb traces the Gar Gap identify and ethos again to the early Seventies, when he was a scholar at Austin Faculty up in Sherman. He would go along with his mates to water ski at Lake Texoma, and theyd pull their boat as much as the identical bait store to purchase beer. It was mainly a shack crammed with minnow buckets and some previous males taking part in dominoes, however Webb had found his Bali Hai. The bait store was referred to as the Gar Gap.

His sophomore yr, he moved into a virtually century-old dorm that he describes as Animal Home on steroids. He talked the blokes throughout the corridor into turning their room right into a bunk room and his room into a celebration room. He went to Goodwill and purchased orange shag carpet, hung blacklight posters, and greased the home windows with WD-40 so ladies may climb in with out alerting the RA. He dubbed the room the Gar Gap.

Over the a long time since, there has at all times been a Gar Gap, whether or not it was a person collapse his home whereas he was working because the athletic director for Melissa ISD or slightly nook of his workplace in East Africa when he served because the coach for Malawis nationwide basketball workforce within the 90s. (It sounds actually spectacular till you get there and also you notice theres not even a basketball within the nation, Webb says, laughing. Have you ever ever seen the previous Kevin Bacon film the place he goes to Africa to recruit gamers, The Air Up There? Thats precisely what it was. I used to be in slightly pickup truck with transportable basketball targets within the again, pulling up in villages, pulling out basketballs, and educating em tips on how to play.)

Then, in November 2019, certainly one of his finest mates from faculty referred to as. Theyd had a dream of sometime opening their very own Gar Gap beer joint someplace, and he mentioned he had discovered the proper spot in Collin County, an previous biker bar. When Webb went to see it, it was boarded up and reminded him of the previous bait store. This factor has potential, he thought. 

For many of his life, Webb had been an educator: a instructor, a coach, a youth minister. Most of his faculty buddies had gone on to develop into attorneys, coronary heart surgeons, and financial institution presidents. Ten of themplus a few of their wives, Webbs finest good friend from highschool, certainly one of his daughters and her husband, and the son of Panola County DA Danny Buck Davidson (of Bernie fame)determined to pitch in some cash, and so they closed on the buildings in February 2020.

We had been the geniuses that opened the bar in the course of a pandemic, in order that was the primary impediment we needed to overcome, Webb says. We opened in June, after which the federal government shut down each bar within the state. Your entire first yr was a large number. However folks began getting vaccinated, and we gathered momentum, week after week. Nicely now draw 150 or so folks each Friday and Saturday evening, and theyre outdoors having a blast, listening to nice music, consuming good burgers.

In some ways, the bars success may be credited to Webbs lifelong scholarly pursuit of consuming institutions. He grew up in East Dallas, the place, as a toddler, his dad would convey him alongside to beer joints and dive bars. Webb can be plied with Dr Peppers in a purple leather-based sales space whereas his father performed pool at Willies Lounge close to Tenison Park. His dad and mom would go to the Longhorn Ballroom on Saturday nights, or theyd drive to Fort Value to bop at Panther Corridor. The sagest recommendation Webbs father ever gave him was, One in every of nowadays you need to discover your personal beer joint to hang around in. So he did.

Webb walked into Adairs on the age of 18 with a good friend who launched him to the proprietor, R.L. Adair. In brief order, R.L. gave him the nickname Spider and employed him to have a tendency bar. All my buddies hung on the market, so I fulfilled my dads needs for me, Webb says. I name the Gar Gap the bastard baby of Adairs and Luckenbach.

Adairs had a well-known hamburger, so Webb employed Adolfo to create one, too. Luckenbach had an out of doors beer backyard, so Webb constructed one behind the previous financial institution constructing with the highest of an previous metallic grain silo serving as a cover. On Wednesday and Thursday nights, he has stay music inside, however on Friday and Saturday nights, bands take to the larger stage outdoors. For his or her first anniversary, Webb hosted a celebration of Lois Adair (who ran Adairs with R.L. till his loss of life in 1987, then stored at it on her personal till 2006). He bought Jack Ingram to play the shindig, and former Eleven Hundred Springs frontman Matt Hillyer opened.

It’s unbelievable that this place even exists, as a result of its within the fastest-growing space in North Texas, Webb says. However you actually drive off Freeway 121 1 mile, and you’re feeling like youve gone again 50 years in time.

Or extra like 100. Thats simply a part of what makes this top-of-the-line little roadhouses in Texas. It appears like at any second Bonnie Parker may stride via the again door and previous the secure she as soon as plundered to order a whiskey neat on the bar. Annette wouldnt bat a watch. Shed merely smile and ask, Which sort? 

Gar Gap, 106 Houston St., Anna, 469-301-6284. 1 hour from Dallas


A mimosa brunch with wagyu eggs Benedict and a facet of tater tots most likely isnt your first thought on the subject of roadhouses, nevertheless it was chef Michael Scotts. A number of years in the past, he was catering a Christmas social gathering for a pair hundred folks at a McMansion in Bartonville when a girl grabbed his arm. Youve bought to satisfy Tim Home, she mentioned. Hes shopping for the previous Bartonville Retailer.

The long-lasting white clapboard Bartonville Retailer, in a single type or one other, has sat on the crossroads of Jeter and McMakin for greater than 140 years. The Jeters, McMakins, and Bartons settled the realm within the mid-1800s, banking on the promise of a pure spring and the truth that the land was located on the midway level between Denton and Grapevine, Justin and Lewisville. 

Over time, the cities footprint has shrunk. To guests, it could seem like an odd, seemingly unzoned mixture of sprawling suburban homes, horse paddocks, and patio and Jet Ski shops squeezed between the water towers of Lantana, Double Oak, and Argyle. However to Scott, who has a home right here, its 6 sq. miles of paradise. 

So, after their introduction on the social gathering, Scott needed to know Homes plans for the historic landmark. I am going, What are you gonna do? He goes, Barbecue. I mentioned, Nicely, you may have enjoyable with that. After which I mentioned, What a couple of high-end meat store? Im the company govt chef and gross sales supervisor for the Hunt household. I run their wagyu beef enterprise. 

The long-lasting white clapboard Bartonville Retailer, in a single type or one other, has sat on the crossroads of Jeter and McMakin for greater than 140 years. The Jeters, McMakins, and Bartons settled the realm within the mid-1800s. 

Scott had been working as the company govt chef at Northwood Nation Membership when he first met Caroline Rose Hunt about 5 years in the past. He would host what he jokingly calls millionaire date nights, serving up prime cuts of beef within the wine room for members and their visitors. One evening, a member confirmed up with a feminine companion who occurred to know a factor or two about steaks.

The Hunts have been ranching for about 125 years, Scott says. Kenneth Braddock, their ranch supervisor, has been there 35 years. He ran a cow-calf operation utilizing principally Angus, some Brangus combine. After which they bought into wagyu genetics about eight years in the past. Hunt was so impressed with Scotts beef expertise on the plate that she employed him to handle the product facet of the brand new wagyu beef program for Rosewood Ranches. Their important product is F1 wagyu, a genetic mix of fifty p.c wagyu and 50 p.c Black Angus. 

Braddock is chargeable for elevating 1,600 head of wagyu crosses on the 9,000 acres the Hunts preserve close to Ennis, whereas Scott grades the meat each Monday and Friday at 4 am, operating 80 head per week via two places in Itasca and Fort Value and promoting it all around the world.

Scotts circuitous profession path began early, when he was rising up on a houseboat in Sausalito. He was washing dishes at 14, left residence at 15, and skilled with Yoshi Tome at Sushi Gen in Los Angeles at 17. Then he hung out in Shinjuku, Japan, with Tomes grasp chef. From there, he leveraged his data of wagyu and sushi to work his method via Sonoma and Napa earlier than shifting to Texas in 1995 to take a job at Lakewood Nation Membership, after which Northwood.

Just about the one factor he hadnt carried out was open a bar. So, in 2019, Scott and Home relaunched the Bartonville Retailer. As a substitute of promoting the Dr Pepper and Fritos that Home remembers shopping for there as a child, Scott is serving up ranch water and smoked wagyu brief ribs. 

Tim and I labored on a marketing strategy, after which all of it simply morphed into what it’s now, Scott says. Its simply been actually cool. , folks come on this place and so they assume theyre gonna get a fried bologna sandwich, and out comes a $90 wagyu tomahawk on a plate with burning sage. Thats type of how that went.

Inside the principle entrance is Jeters Meat Store, the place Scott sells wagyu steaks and brats. He additionally provides chef experiences, personal dinners, sushi lessons, and wine and tequila dinners. Harkening again to his time in Japan, he has Cobb grills from South Africa that mimic Japanese barbecue, and hes constructed a hibachi desk on the patio the place he can do lobster fried rice and wagyu steaks. 

However in case you get the incorrect impression, indicators within the girls room remind you that the place is on a septic system. Your steak may come on a paper plate. Your younger waitress could be gradual along with your mimosas and margs. And your brunch leisure, possible the award-winning Western swing crooner Dave Alexander, could be late to take the stage. However Alexanders greatest fan, a single seventysomething lady sitting on the desk subsequent to you, with shampoo-and-set hair, customized gold cowboy boots, and a plate of wagyu steak and eggs, can be completely comfortable to attend. 

The Bartonville Retailer, 96 McMakin Rd., Bartonville. 940-241-3301. 45 minutes from Dallas


When your identify is Laura Bush and youre not married to a person identified just by the West Texas pronunciation of his center preliminary, a nickname is important. Laura Spydie Bush bought hers from the three-wheeled Can-Am Spyder that she made positive to maintain in her divorce. She felt shed earned at the very least that after 23 years of marriage.

The biker life suited her. She loved her newfound freedom and mates. But it surely introduced tragedy, too. Her finest good friend was killed in a bike accident, as was her brother Greg. He died in 2017, after he hit a black cow that had wandered onto a rustic highway at evening.

To honor his subsequent birthday, Bush organized a memorial journey. Her plan was to guide family and friends to a restaurant in Walnut Springs the place Greg had come for a steak dinner the evening earlier than his accident. Theyd have a beer in his honor after which proceed on to the Trinity River Distillery in Fort Value, the place Greg had carried out a lot of the boiler work and there was a barrel of Silver Star whiskey getting old in his identify.

The day turned out to be so sizzling that almost all everybody bailed on the journey, opting as a substitute to move straight to the distillery. However Bush had heard that the restaurant proprietor had a property up on the market, and he or she needed to speak to him about shopping for it. Since her divorce on the cusp of her fortieth birthday, she had labored exhausting to rebuild her life, going from a part-time job as a volleyball coach with the Boys & Ladies Membership of Hood County to a company gig as a life-style director for a senior dwelling facility. At one level shed studied on the Culinary College of Fort Value. However she knew she didnt need to be caught within the kitchen or behind a desk. Her boyfriend instructed her she ought to open a bar. She figured it was both that or run for Granbury Metropolis Council. 

I knew that I couldn’t attempt to open a enterprise and run a marketing campaign on the identical time, the civic-minded Bush says. One would fail miserably. So I backed out of operating.

The property she was initially inquisitive about wasnt out there, however the landlord supplied to indicate her the place subsequent door, the previous Rattlesnake Ballroom, which was out there for hire. It was additionally my brothers birthday weekend, Bush says. He and I used to go to the Rattlesnake Ballroom on a regular basis and hearken to music. She didnt want extra of an indication.

She opened the doorways to the Rattlesnake Roadhouse in August 2018, after which, on the finish of 2020, she purchased three adjoining properties down the block and moved the bar. This was a railroad city, and when the railroad left, folks left, Bush says. Some buildings had been destroyed by hearth, some by twister. So what you see standing at present is all that has survived. 

She transformed the northernmost constructing, a former abattoir, into the kitchen. The center constructing was lacking inside partitions and a roof, however Bush saved the faade and completed out the remainder, including a second ground with a balcony, dance ground, stage, and pool room.  For now, the theme appears to be principally classic pin-up posters, uncovered plywood, and cable spool tables. 

On a Tuesday evening, the place begins filling up as quickly because the doorways open at 5 for Bushs weekly steak evening. These within the know have reserved their fillets upfront. She buys a complete beef tenderloin, hand-cuts the fillets, and grills them to order. When theyre gone, theyre gone.

The gang is about half cowboy hats, half trucker hats. However the vibe is so West-with-a-capital-dubya that it nearly feels extra Tombstone than Texas, with feathers in hatbands and fringe on jackets. Bush says there are greater than 200 working ranches within the space, and it definitely seems to be that method.

The shock is the canine. A silver-haired couple has some type of tiny terrier on a leash, and Bushs daughter is holding a French bulldog named Mable. A man sporting Cinch denims and square-toed boots stands by the pool tables with a Spaniel over his shoulder. From Bushs telling, shes helped elevate six figures or extra for causes near her coronary heart: children, vets, canine. She sits on the board of the Bosque Animal Rescue Kennels (BARK), a no-kill shelter in Clifton, which helps clarify the four-legged nature of the gang.

Earlier than the music startsthe web radio station Texas Pink Sizzling Radio is broadcasting stay, with Lacey Ingram and Scotty Isaacs onstageI head to the bar to get a drink, figuring the apparent selection is a Dos Equis from the massive galvanized tub of ice within the middle. The 2 bartenders, Jennifer and Jill, are clearly professionals with no time to spare. They take dinner orders and sling drinks in a choreographed two-step that by no means slows. Then my fool mates step up.

One asks for an Previous Customary, and the opposite calls for a spicy margarita with contemporary lime juice, not a mixer. I search for the closest biker to bounce them out the door, attempting to behave like I don’t know who these tone-deaf Dallasites are. However then Jill, exhausting to age in her dyed-black pigtail braids, seems to be at them with a smile and says, Is ghost pepper tequila spicy sufficient for you? We solely use contemporary lime juice. And In poor health need to get Jennifer to make the Previous Fashionedshe makes the very best one.

With out a phrase, Jennifer takes a glass, muddles some sugar and bitters within the backside, provides ice, pours in some TX Whiskey, and tops it with a curl of orange peel and a Luxardo cherry. Shes on the reverse finish of the bar, taking one other steak order and popping the cap off one other beer, earlier than we are able to thank her.

Bush briefly emerges from the kitchen to the touch tables. Wearing chef reds, her brown hair in a thick braid down her again, she doesnt appear like a biker. However as she makes her method across the room, greeting regulars and petting canine, she may simply move for a cruise director. 

She at all times knew she needed the bar to be a music venue, however she additionally understood it was in the course of nowhere. Early on, she went to a neighborhood mattress and breakfast affiliation assembly and offered a chance for the members to develop into lodging companions. She discovered a vet who drives canoe shuttles in Granbury in the course of the day to run shuttles to and from the roadhouse at evening. Along with the biweekly stay radio present, shes booked honky-tonk legend Mark Chesnutt, and the Bellamy Brothers placed on a present on the finish of February. Shes even began getting calls from Nashville and across the nation from bands trying to guide gigs.

Its nonetheless rising, and its nonetheless constructing, Bush says. Its been the wildest journey of my life. 

Rattlesnake Roadhouse, 4173 Third St., Walnut Springs. 817-269-0554. 1.5 hours from Dallas

Three Extra For the Highway

Rockett Cafe & Membership
The Rocketts well-known chicken-fried steak is alone definitely worth the journey to Waxahachie. However behind the golf equipment Western saloon faade, youll discover a lot extra. They host pool leagues and Texas Maintain em in the course of the week and stay music on weekends. Ray Wylie Hubbard performs March 10. 5790 FM 813, Waxahachie. 972-617-8634.

Strokers Dallas
Rick Fairless psychedelic motorhead nirvana takes up 2.5 acres off Harry Hines. Theres a retail retailer with customized bikes, mechanics to service your journey, a element store to make your hog sparkle, and an ice home supplying chilly beer, fried rooster, and stay rock and blues. 9304 Harry Hines Blvd. 214-357-0707.

Pivovar Resort
In case your emphasis is extra on the home than the highway, Wacos new Czech-forward boutique lodge has what you want. Plus a restaurant with slivovitz flights and schnitzel, a Czech beer brewery, and a beer spa. Thats proper: bathe in beer in a copper slipper tub. Beer flight and cheese board elective. 320 S. eighth St., Waco. 254-224-6271.

This story initially appeared within the March challenge of D Journal with the headline, The Greatest Little Roadhouses in North Texas. Write to [email protected].


Kathy Wise

Kathy Clever has been the chief editor of D Journal since 2016. At numerous factors earlier than that, she was a…

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