Fashion / Shopping

The Real Stories of Sundance Square — 5 Must-Visits in Fort Worth’s Restaurant and Shopping Wonderland

From Texas Cuisine to Chic Boutiques to a Retro Barber, This District is Full of Heart

BY // 10.14.19

In the bustling heart of Downtown Fort Worth, Sundance Square is a true mecca of must-visit stores, restaurants and more.

The development spans 35 blocks, and while every spot is a piece of the memorable mosaic that makes up Sundance Square, each restaurant and shop has its own story to tell.

Read on to discover the inside stories of five of Sundance Square’s top destinations. Come for the entertainment — stay for the personal touches.

Reata

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Reata’s Mike Micallef has a secret love of baking.

This Fort Worth favorite is known for its “Legendary Texas Cuisine,” which can be enjoyed on four separate levels, from a glass-domed private dining area to the sprawling rooftop bar.

But the Fort Worth location is actually its second. The restaurant first debuted in Alpine, Texas, near where owner Mike Micallef’s father Al opened a ranch back in 1991.

Deeming the area devoid of tasty food, Al took matters into his own hands and opened Reata, named for the movie Giant, which was filmed just 30 miles away.

Today, Micallef is all about good food and doing good.

“At Reata, we are honored to work with many worthy causes every year. One of those I’m partial to these days is Bacon Bash Texas,” Micallef says.

The Cranfalls Gap, Texas event raises money for Type 1 diabetes and Nikki Warms the Cold using recipes concocted from Pederson Natural Farm’s Bacon. And Micallef has ambitions that go beyond voting for his favorite. “If I ever step down from judging, I’d like to form a team and compete,” he says.

When he’s not bringing home the bacon — or eating it — Micallef devotes himself to his secret love of baking.

“I’m really working at perfecting my macaron recipe,” he notes. While he leaves the dessert menu details up to Reata’s team of top chefs, there are definitely some collaborations going on.

Micallef thought about making a dessert tamale, but the chefs’ bread pudding was too good to beat so they put their creation in a corn husk. The rest, as they say, is history.

Waters and Buffalo Bros.

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From-scratch is Jon Bonnell’s favorite kind of cooking.

Earlier this year, Chef Jon Bonnell’s upscale sports bar Buffalo Bros. joined his Waters restaurant, a haven for sophisticated seafood, in Sundance Square.

The original Buffalo Bros. near Texas Christian University wowed crowds with Buffalo-style chicken wings, deck oven pizza, made-to-order subs and more televisions than you could possibly count.

The Sundance Square counterpart shares that dream, with delectable pizzas made from scratch and wings fried from the best grade chicken that money can buy.

When you visit, you may spot Chef Bonnell as you wait for a table.

“Our policy is first come, first serve when it comes to tables and bar stools,” he says. “We do not take reservations, and as the owner I feel like that should apply to me and my family as well.”

Buffalo Bros. is known for taking the sports bar concept to the next level, thanks to the teamwork of Bonnell and co-founder and native New Yorker Ed McOwen. “We have been working together as chefs for over 20 years, and folks have often asked us if we were brothers — hence the Buffalo Bros. name and concept,” he says.

Bonnell devours the wings at Buffalo Bros. every chance he gets, or, if he’s craving something a little lighter, the “great treasure” that is their salads.

Melt Ice Creams

Melt Ice Creams’ Kari Crowe-Seher spreads happiness with every spoonful.

Owners Kari Crowe-Seher and her husband Mark opened Melt Ice Creams several years ago, determined to scoop up happiness for North Texans everywhere. They currently have three sunny treat shops across the city, including one in Sundance Square.

The couple slings unique, creative flavors from an ever-changing menu driven by top-quality seasonal ingredients. Six “Always Flavors” are consistent, and a new set of four flavors, dubbed the “Sometimes Flavors,” are introduced every week.

“We make everything from scratch, and our cone pairings and sundae toppings are often our best-kept secrets,” Crowe-Seher says.

Melt spreads a little happiness in every bite not only through the flavors themselves, but by donating a percentage of its sales to a different Dallas-Fort Worth nonprofit each year.

Crowe-Seher is living proof that your dessert habit can coincide with a healthy lifestyle — an ultra-healthy lifestyle, even. The ice cream savant runs ultra marathons, building on her experience as a college soccer player and long-time runner.

Sensing that running was her true emotional and mental therapy, she took it back up for the Dallas Marathon at the end of 2017.

The next year, she was tapped for one of the hardest races in the world: The Leadville Trail, a deadly serious, 100-mile race at 10,000 feet in Colorado, spanning a gain of 13,000 feet. She finished the intense challenge in 29 hours and 56 minutes.

“Running long distances builds mental fortitude, and sometimes you just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving — similarly, running a business often requires mental fortitude as you run into unforeseeable problem every day, but they are both an adventure that teaches you a lot about who you are and how you want to approach life,” she says.

Willow House Boutique

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Willow House Boutique’s Sarah Howell is part of a family band.

Hand-picked merchandise and a true family experience make Willow House Boutique what it is. The charming store operates three locations across Texas, each outpost sharing pieces that reflect the overall brand and a few items unique to each store.

“We’re on a mission to bring the cute clothes and fun vibes, and make sure every person who walks in the front door feels like family,” manager Sarah Howells says.

Howell would know about a tight-knit family. She’s part of a traveling family band called The New Sound is Family, a “modern-day take on The Patridge Family, because seriously, the Partridge Family is a ten out of ten on the coolness scale.”

They draw from her parents’ history in Christian rock, and Howell spent her teenage years sleeping in the backset of a van while they toured the country. The experience taught her that the high road is the best road (pun intended), and adaptability is a skill highly prized.

Howell was drawn to Willow House Boutique by the way religion ties into the store and its thoughtfully styled displays.

“When I found Willow House Boutique, my fashion and music worlds collided beautifully,” she says. “It stole my heart right away. I’ve never seen a more ingeniously designed boutique with so much homegrown love poured into it.”

Local Barber of Fort Worth

Local Barber’s John Razo is a third-generation barber.

Fort Worth native John Razo of Local Barber has witnessed the city’s tremendous growth first-hand, and just knew he had to be a part of it. He opened Local Barber of Fort Worth two years ago, providing straight-razor shaves with a hot towel, classic haircuts and professional styling in the retro space.

Razo’s grandfather was a barber, owning the business where Local Barber is now set up. Razo kept the tradition, but brought in some old-meets-new renovations that have helped Local Barber to be voted the Best Men’s Barbershop in Fort Worth.

“I took over the location and totally renovated the whole entire space to what a barbershop would look like back in the 1950s. I even found six 1920s token barber chairs and completely refurbished them,” Razo says.

Razo works alongside his team of three trained barbers and Babe Ruth (yes, that’s his real name), the “Sultan of Shine” and who Razo called the best shine man in Fort Worth.

On his days off, Razo also gives free haircuts at St. Patrick Cathedral’s Catholic Charities.

“Something as simple as getting your hair styled can change your overall well-being,” he says.

Razo wants to hold Local Barber up as the standard that competing barbershops try to meet. Judging by the awards and happy clients, it looks like he’s done well so far.

Sundance Square is full of stories and must-visits like this. For more information on the Square, click here.

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