Dark Horse Tavern has risen from the ashes of the Palomino Tavern and Star City Kitchen in downtown’s Union Plaza. Owners of these former establishments have partnered with Chef Lawrence of Tom’s Folk Café to bring a distinctive experience. This rustic, chic bar has chandeliers lining its ceilings, but maintains a sense of humor and whimsy. Not every bar stocks its fridges with craft beers and vinyl.
The smoker on premises produces a tantalizing scent from which bacon, brisket and pastrami are smoked. Lamb al pastor is a fun play on a Mexican standard that gets retooled with harissa (a North African chili paste), goat cheese, chilaquiles and spicy grilled pineapple salsa. House specialties include a Bakka ranch steak of the week and a chef’s choice of house cured meats, pickles and artisan cheeses. It’s not all about the meats, though. Dark Horse offers three creatively curated salads. The house salad tosses greens, dried cranberries, green chile and spiced cashews in a mint julep dressing, while the superfood combines arugula, blueberries, barley, quinoa and granola in an avocado lime dressing.
The fun of having drinks with a group is ordering shareables, and there are plenty to choose from that pay homage to Mexico. A sweet and spicy dip reminiscent of corn in a cup is served with homemade potato crisps. For an additional charge, brisket can be added to the homemade tater tots that are topped with curry ketchup and cotija cheese. The most creative options are the seafood hushpuppies and the carbtastic vegan sopes, which are three Mexican-style cornmeal cakes topped with green chile pozole, barley, roasted vegetables and pickled pearled onions.
Dessert is never an afterthought with selections of pears poached in a basil cider tea and topped with granola crumble and an adorable grapefruit mini bundt cake with pistachio icing.
115 S. Durango St., Ste. C, 915-222-8977, Instagram & Facebook, Wednesday-Saturday 5 p.m.-2 a.m., kitchen closes at 10 p.m., $7-20, Vegan friendly