Texas | February 18, 2022 11:45 am

The Best Little Rodeo Bar in Texas Makes Its Long-Awaited Return

After closing in 2018, Dallas’s iconic tavern is back with an updated space and menu

A neon sign "God Save the Rodeo Bar"
Patrons flock to take photos with the neon-red sign proclaiming “God Save the Rodeo Bar,” which has become its unofficial rallying cry and a popular post on Instagram.
Steven Visneau

The year was 1981. Reagan was in the White House, MTV hit the airwaves, and the Dodgers won the World Series after a strike-shortened season. All notable events — but perhaps none so meaningful to Dallasites as the opening of Rodeo Bar

Attached to the historic Adolphus Hotel in downtown, the quintessential Texas tavern was named after Walt Garrison, a professional rodeo rider and Dallas Cowboys fullback. Known for its good burgers, rowdy vibe and peanut shell-littered floors, it operated until 2018, when it was closed for an extensive renovation and overhaul. Like many projects, the bar’s return was delayed by the pandemic, but on January 10, the resurrection was complete.

Rodeo Bar 2.0 features a much-needed refresh, from the design to the menu, but the goal was to maintain the classic Texas vibe of the original. The 95-seat space sports a mix of vintage and refurbished booths, wooden tables and chairs, and red-leather bar stools. The old peanut shells have been cleared out, but the original floors remain.

The bar has also expanded via a downstairs space dubbed The Back Room. It’s bathed in original 1980s neon beer signs, vintage rodeo posters, western photos, and other ephemera preserved from the original. Patrons flock to take photos with the neon-red sign proclaiming “God Save the Rodeo Bar,” which has become its unofficial rallying cry and a popular post on Instagram. The room also has billiards, darts, and comfortable sofas, plus a disco ball and a jukebox—it’s hard not to have a good time down there.

To make it all happen, the Adolphus enlisted hospitality group Makeready to revamp and operate the concept, and Dallas-based Swoon the Studio to redesign the interior.

People hanging out at the Rodeo Bar
Kathy Tran

Justin Fields, SVP of restaurants and bars at Makeready, says that it was critical they preserve the heart and soul of the original concept. “Quite literally, we asked ourselves, how do we retain the past, while setting the stage for many years to come?”

Beyond keeping some of the old decor, Rodeo Bar has also channeled the old menu, with a focus on smashburgers and other nostalgic bar staples. 

“We loved the idea of an old-school Texas tavern where you walk up, order swiftly, and get back to eating and drinking,” says Fields. “This is a no-nonsense bar with friendly service serving approachable fare influenced by Tex-Mex and traditional Texas cuisine.”

The Rodeo Burger features 44 Farms beef, American cheese, “RB saucy sauce,” pickles and onions. The Tommy Ranger is topped with chili and cheese, and El Tejano features a beef patty, ​​corn tostada, smoked pork adobado, guacamole, pickles and chipotle aioli. The non-burger side of the menu includes nachos, Texas chili, buttermilk chicken wings, a housemade corn dog and a carne asada plate with rice, charro beans and pico de gallo. If all that makes your arteries throb, there are a few salads. If not, go ahead and order the burnt ends sandwich or foot-long hotdog.

“We want Rodeo Bar to be known for its food, but also be aware of the fact that it is a bar, and a casual bar at that,” says chef Charles Olalia, who created the menu. 

Hamburger and cheese corndogs from the Rodeo Bar
Steven Visneau

The beer list leans old-school (Lonestar, Shiner, Coors Original) but does include a few craft varieties. Cocktails are simple, ranging from a Tajin-rimmed Margarita to the Bucked Off (whiskey, Benedictine, bitters) and the Real Cold Cocktail, which merges whiskey with another Texas institution, Dr. Pepper. 

Th unassailably smartest play, however, is to order one of the four boilermakers. The Next Door Neighbor is a Corona and a shot of tequila, while the excellently named Do You Even Industry Bro? pairs Miller High Life with a shot of Slow & Low.

For anyone who visited the bar’s original iteration, Rodeo Bar is a blast from the past, only with a bit more polish and fewer peanut shells. But even newcomers with no history inside these walls can appreciate the retro Texas sensibilities, solid burgers, and cold drinks.