Review: Hotel Drover Is an Authentic Ode to Fort Worth’s Cowboy Spirit
The 200-room guesthouse is a rustic oasis that's right at home in the historic Stockyards district
Drop into the middle of Downtown Austin or your average Dallas nightlife strip, and you feel like you could be anywhere. The cities both cater to international business and tourism, and half the residents you meet are California expats.
Show up to the Stockyards neighborhood in Fort Worth, though, and there’s no question you’re in Texas. The Stockyards are what most people from outside Texas imagine when they think of the Lone Star state: western shops and steakhouses, cowboy hats and boots in the wild, and a literal rodeo just down the street. Cattle drives still take place each day on Exchange Avenue, there’s a new John Wayne Museum, and you’re a short walk from Billy Bob’s, billed as the world’s largest honky tonk.
That decidedly Western culture conspires to make the Stockyards a great destination for those taking quick trips into town from Dallas or the suburbs, as well as visitors from out of state who want the old-world Texas experience.
Named for the cattlemen and women (or drovers) who herded longhorns across the plains and helped put Fort Worth on the map, the 200-room Hotel Drover aims to capture those visitors inside its newly opened doors. The draw is twofold: it’s an attraction in itself and a compelling place to rest your head after a day exploring all the city has to offer. The promise of rustic luxury (and a good steak) brought me in for an overnight stay.
The dramatic drive up Mule Alley to the hotel entrance is situated along a row of 100-year-old restored horse and mule barns that have been converted into restaurants, shops and a forthcoming brewery. The mixed-material building sports stone, metal and wood, all framed by a front courtyard stocked with bubbling fountains and bright flowers.
Step inside the lobby and you’re immediately greeted by a metalwork cowboy. An antler chandelier hangs from above and horse-themed paintings line the wall opposite the check-in desks. Keep going to find heavy wooden tables flanked by rich leather sofas and cowhide lounge chairs — all the trappings of an oil baron’s living room.
A two-story library extends up to the mezzanine, a massive stone fireplace is roaring despite the day’s 85-degree heat, and the lobby bar is doling out hot espressos and cold beers.
To hammer home the point that you are, in fact, in Texas, the lobby also houses a Lucchese boot shop. Founded in 1883, Lucchese is famous for its bespoke boots and Westernwear. If you’ve got the time, get fitted and head home with a custom souvenir.
The big glass doors at the back of the lobby lead to the sprawling grounds. The courtyard is dotted with cacti, wooden lounge chairs and fire pits, plus a live music stage for unplugged shows that draw guests and locals alike in for the evening. The swimming pool backs up to Marine Creek, with lounge chairs, complimentary towel service and three private cabanas. And shade can be found under the covered patio bar, where liquid SPF is doled out in the form of icy Margaritas and beers.
In Your Room
Guest room configurations begin with the Standard room, available with one king bed or two queens. The King Patio is a ground floor room with a private patio and pool views, while the five distinct Spa King rooms feature a soaking tub in the spacious bathrooms. All rooms come equipped with hardwood floors (unequivocally superior to carpet), and the furniture is made locally in the Stockyards, bringing those leather-and-cowhide lobby vibes upstairs. Each room has a minibar (though mine was empty upon arrival) and a Keurig coffee maker, and the bathrooms are stocked with decorative stone sinks and Los Poblanos bath products from New Mexico. The latter are a nice touch if you want to leave your usual supplies at home and don’t mind smelling like lavender.
The standard rooms are spacious enough for a couple; my wife and I could spread out with our laptops and do some work, then prep for dinner without running into each other. So whether it’s a vacation or business travel that brings you in, you’ll do just fine without an upgrade. But there are also 26 suites should you choose to hang your hat in larger environs. Those have oversized bronze soaking tubs, fireplaces and expansive terraces.
At the Restaurant
The on-site restaurant is 97 West Kitchen & Bar, which serves three meals per day and handles in-room dining. Exposed wood beams line the ceilings and hold oversize chandeliers, and the tables and chairs are again a meditation in wood and leather. Life-size paintings of the Lone Ranger and Tonto guard the entrance, lest your mind wanders and you forget the theme here.
Executive Chef Grant Morgan’s menu sticks to the hotel’s Texas sensibilities. Think chicken-fried oysters, fried green tomatoes, redfish and steaks — the kinds of foods you want to eat after a tough cattle drive … or a day of sightseeing. The wine list is an all-American affair, while the beer selection skews Texas and the spirits menu focuses on whiskey. The choices are unlikely to surprise you, but they get the job done.
On a recent Tuesday night, the restaurant was packed with hotel guests and local residents occupying the dining room tables and spilling out onto the spacious covered patio. If you’re waiting for a table, you could do worse than the U-shaped bar, where the comfortable, high-backed stools provide a fine perch for having a Sazerac or mezcal-spiked Margarita.
From check-in to nightcap, Hotel Drover nails the Western aesthetic. Just be sure to venture outside the property to drink in the historic district and the city that inspired it.
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