The Davey O’Brien Sports Lounge & Club Bar has some similarities to the numerous sports bars that can be found around the Fort Worth area.
There are stuffed jalapeños on the menu. Only at the Davey O’Brien Sports Lounge, the jalapeños are stuffed with crabmeat and served atop polenta.
There’s sports memorabilia lining the walls. But instead of an autograph or two, there’s history at the lounge that includes the Heisman Trophy won by O’Brien in 1938 when he was at TCU.
There’s plenty of seating in the 2,200-square-foot room on the 11th floor of the Fort Worth Club, but instead of the typical bar stools there are several seating areas that include places where Fort Worth Club members can plug into technology while they watch a sporting event on one of the room’s 11 televisions.
The lounge, which opened in November, has quickly become the place to be for the approximately 2,000 members of the Fort Worth Club when they are looking for a break from the more traditional offerings of the downtown institution.
“The days of a club just offering fine dining with tablecloths and linens and a formal atmosphere are going away,” Fort Worth Club manager Michael Thackerson said.
“Successful clubs are having to offer multiple types of venues for the members to use. Sometimes people come in and they want that formal atmosphere. Other times they want to come in and meet friends and watch the game and just have bar food. They want a casual upscale atmosphere.”
The lounge offers that with its upscale sports lounge food, artifacts many people haven’t seen and the occasional chance to see the Fort Worth Club culinary team in action.
A huge table greets members at the entrance to the lounge. That table allows executive chef Timothy Prefontaine and his team to put on a show. In the short time the lounge has been open, members have been able to see their pizza cooked and sushi rolled, and to pick out their own protein when the table is set up as a carving station.
“It’s been a huge hit,” said Prefontaine, who has worked at the Fort Worth Club for more than eight years. “It’s been getting popular over the last five or 10 years to have more interaction with chefs and do more stuff a la carte and out front so people can see it. We’ve had a lot of different uses for the table.”
When the table isn’t in use, diners can order off a menu that’s anything but typical sports bar fare. Not when the Reuben sandwich is made with buffalo brisket that’s been cured in-house for two weeks. Not when the sliders have Wagyu beef that comes from a ranch south of Dallas and is some of the best beef that Prefontaine says he has ever tasted.
Some of the food looks similar to what you’d find at any sports bar — but it has a Fort Worth Club touch.
“That was the challenge,” Prefontaine said. “We all go to watch parties. You don’t want to stray away from the comfort foods too much. You want to take those concepts and ideas and do them as best you possibly can with some different twists.”
The reception to the concept has been nothing but positive. While the room typically seats 70 people, there were 85 guests in the lounge at a watch party for the TCU football game against Texas. There was also a full house for the Dallas Cowboys game against Minnesota.
The lounge serves as a business center for members during the day and then transitions into sports-lounge mode at 3 p.m. each afternoon.
Regardless of the time of day, the namesake of the lounge is well represented.
Two of the four club walls are filled with O’Brien memorabilia, everything from a high school uniform to plays he drew up himself during his professional football career. All of those items were in storage before the lounge opened and provide more insight into O’Brien’s life.
There’s also a wall dedicated to the Davey O’Brien Memorial Trophy and Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award. While some of the items have been on display before, others were in storage and are being seen for the first time by the club patrons.
That memorabilia offers diners a chance to see the rich history of the award and look at items that include everything from an original Earl Campbell jersey from his playing days at Texas to a helmet of former Baylor great Mike Singletary that features a face mask that was broken during a tackle he made.
“We really wanted to focus on the Davey O’Brien history,” said Thackerson, who has plans to rotate new memorabilia so members can see more items.
“The [Davey O’Brien] foundation was running out of room. This gives us a chance to put things out there and allows our members a chance to see it.”
Anthony Andro has covered the Texas Rangers for the past 10 years and has seen the inside of a sports bar or a hundred.