“These people pretty much know what a good time is.”
We were sitting in Jaquval, a new nanobrewery in the Bishop Arts District. I’d just told my guest that the owners of Jaquval are also the owners of Oddfellows, the all-day cafe and wine bar next door, and Revelers Hall, an utterly perfect New Orleans-style cocktail-and-jazz-and-stomp-your-feet club. Thinking about those two neighboring spots, and taking in the comfortable hangout vibes of Jaquval, my guest immediately summed the whole place up.
This is the new good-time spot from Bishop Arts’ leading experts in a good time.
You might want a little bit more detail. Here we go: Jaquval makes a handful of beers in its petite space. The emphasis is on drinkability and classics done right. You won’t go down rabbit holes full of triple IPAs, pastry sours, or incomprehensible for-nerds-only pints here. Instead, Jaquval keeps just four beers available all the time: a light lager, a porter, an IPA, and a coffee stout. Right now, they’re joined by just three rotating seasonal beers.
On first visit, I tried three of seven. They are uniformly excellent. (Brewer Justin Hatley joins Jaquval from the ever-reliable Lakewood Brewing Company.)
The porter is easy to drink, warms your belly on a cool winter night, and doesn’t have additions or extras. It appears I’m not the only person who wishes there were more dark beers around that are just good old dark beer, not coffee this, imperial that, vanilla something. (Jaquval has its coffee stout for those folks.) The English pub-style ale is a dead ringer for some pints I had in pubs on a trip through England and Wales in September, and it’s another refreshing beer to enjoy while the weather decides whether to be cold or not. (In England, of course, they don’t call them English pub-style ales. They call them bitters, the misleading official term for a beer that is not that bitter.)
I tried ordering the Czech pilsner twice, but both times was served a hefeweizen instead. The second time, I gave up and enjoyed the hefe, because it’s super-light, mild-mannered, and well-balanced. If you like your wheat beers to taste like straight bubblegum, you’re better off elsewhere, but I appreciate Jaquval’s more citrus-forward, Germanic take on the style. This would be a great refresher in high summer.
The bar is decorated like a Central European cafe. There is some discussion in a Dallas Morning News interview about a European trend called “ruin bars,” which are meant to look like ruins or, maybe, just to look like poverty. Luckily, that tasteless idea does not come across in the actual Jaquval space. Instead, the vintage Hungarian posters, jaunty illustrated artwork, old mirrors, and drinking paraphernalia make the place look like, well, a nice bar. If you wanted to be more descriptive, you could say that it’s like the antique-store maximalism of a Texas Roadhouse was applied to a tavern in Budapest.
Jaquval’s food menu blends elements of its Central European theme with co-owners Amy Wallace Cowan and Jason Roberts’ New Orleans heritage. (In addition to operating Revelers Hall here, they own a restaurant in the Bayou City itself, called Frenchmen All Day. Think Oddfellows, but on Frenchmen Street.)
We sampled a little bit of both. From Louisiana came our appetizer of blue crab and poblano hushpuppies, so dense inside they were practically molten. I’m not sure about the texture, so I dunked mine in plenty of spicy remoulade. The German-style sausage plate was a bigger hit. It features two kinds of sausage—Luscher’s bratwurst and a special Luscher’s smoked link made for Meat Fight—alongside a tangy mustard made with Jaquval’s lager, sauerkraut, and a warm, lovely German potato salad. Sausage and beer: who needs more? (If the answer is you, Jaquval also offers a Caesar salad, French onion soup, burgers and sandwiches, and a root beer float.)
Soon the food operation will be even more of an all-day deal: Jaquval connects through an open doorway (and shared restrooms) to its future sister restaurant, a daytime deli and bagel shop called Trades. Trades is scheduled to formally open Tuesday, Feb. 6. (Normally I would make a lot of mean comments about the dumb dad-joke pun of these two restaurants’ names, but darn it, the place is too good for an easy insult. Won’t stop you, though.)
A lot of things suggest that Jaquval is set up for long-term success, but I’ll focus on two. First: they know how to appeal to everyone. Don’t want a beer? The bar doesn’t have cocktails, but it offers ciders, ginger beer, a spritz, some reasonable wine, and mead. The root beer is made in-house.
Second: It’s just fun. The music is good, the vibe is relaxed, the people-watching is fun, the drinks are easy to love, and, just like Revelers Hall, Jaquval feels like a place where you could easily plan to visit for 30 minutes and instead stay for three hours.
In other words, these people know what a good time is.
Jaquval Brewing Company, 312 W. Seventh St.