No matter where in the world I travel, my vacations tend to focus around two things: cigars and whiskey. Preferably simultaneously. Whether that’s the Occidental Cigar Club in San Francisco, the Carnegie Club in New York City, or any sidewalk cafe in Paris, these are places where I feel the most at home. Recently a new cigar bar has opened its doors a few hours north of Dallas, Texas, located in a resort and with promising spectacular views of Lake Texoma: the Leaf & Barrel at the Tanglewood Resort.
Full disclosure: I was invited to the resort by their PR folks, who very generously provided a room for my stay. However we paid for all food, drinks, and other expenses while there, they did not stipulate any requirements about writing a review, and the resort was not allowed to make any changes to this article.
Tanglewood Resort is a three star resort located on the northern Texas border overlooking Lake Texoma. Originally constructed in 1974, the resort has just about everything you would need to keep your entire family happy for their vacation. On the resort grounds, there are restaurants, multiple pools, a spa, and a proper golf course and driving range. And for boaters, there’s a boat launch nearby and boats for rent if you don’t BYOB (bring your own boat).
Everything about my interaction and experience with the facility, starting with their initial outreach to me, indicates that they are investing significant amounts of time and attention to upgrading and improving the experience at the resort. The Leaf & Barrel Bar is literally the crowning example of this transition.
The resort sprawls across multiple acres, with many interconnected buildings making up the main resort structure. The most prominent feature is a large tower that overlooks the whole resort and the adjacent lake, which is where the bar is located. This tower is nine stories tall, with the cigar smoking lounge located at the very top. Underneath the lounge are six premium rooms, each one specifically themed to a point in history or a famous entertainer.
In the lobby of the tower there’s a small elevator that will take you straight to the top of the tower, where the doors open onto the main bar. The elevator is operational 24 hours a day (as it also services the hotel rooms within the tower), and there doesn’t seem to be a proper “door” to the bar once you reach the top. The room itself is open pretty much all day, but it is only staffed starting around five PM.
The first thing you’ll notice is the view. It is absolutely stunning, and even better from the cigar lounge one story up (more on that in a second). Especially during a rainstorm that passed through while I was there, the views were dramatic and breathtaking. It was absolutely somewhere you could come and just watch the world go by, especially with the entertaining boat traffic from the marina nearby.
The room itself is starting to show its age, with dated carpets and an older bar, but it is well maintained and clean. The staff seem to be doing a good job keeping everything in working order and are unfailingly pleasant to speak with.
On one side of the bar, you’ll see their collection of whiskey on display, which has some legitimately good choices available — even a few bottles I hadn’t seen myself before. Prices for pours of these whiskies were remarkably affordable, and even including the cost of a cigar, I’d struggle to spend more than $100 a person.
Like I mentioned, the staff was amazingly friendly. The bartender working the bar when I visited happily mixed me an old fashioned (more mid-century than traditional) and even made a recommendation for the whiskey I might enjoy which indicates a good level of knowledge about their products. For those who might not be a whiskey drinker, there’s a full bar available as well, including beer, wine, and other spirits.
You might notice from some of the pictures that the dress code in the bar is a bit relaxed compared to the big city versions of a cigar lounge. That’s pretty much the vibe here — this is a vacation resort, after all, and more emphasis has been placed on comfort and relaxation. They do require folks to wear actual clothes though and not pool attire, which is appreciated.
Something to be aware of is the fact that, while there is no smoking allowed in the bar area itself, there really isn’t a physical barrier separating the bar from the smoking area. The result is that there’s a perpetual faint cigar smoke smell in the air. They do a good job trying to keep it contained, but there’s only so much you can do about it. For those with respiratory problems or sensitivity to smoke, just be aware.
The bar is cool, but the real party piece is up at the top of the spiral staircase that’s in the middle of the room.
One quick note here about the staircase: this thing is steep. There’s a good railing around it that you can hold onto and steady yourself against, but I was a tad concerned by the end of the night that I might get a bit too tipsy to properly navigate my way down. It’s also the only way up or down, as there’s no elevator access to this part of the building.
I spent a good number of hours up here and met a bunch of people who had been coming to the resort regularly, either as part of their family vacation or because they had family that lived in the area. According to them, this area used to be only an observation lounge but had recently been converted into this cigar lounge. Aggressive air filters have been installed and keep the air breathable, even with a full house of lit stogies.
This is, without a doubt, the best view at the entire resort. And the fact that I could sit there, whiskey in hand, enjoying my cigar, made this everything I need a vacation to be.
One thing that would have made it better is if there was regular service up here from the bar. When I wanted another drink, I needed to head down to the main bar downstairs, grab it, and then head back up (all via the aforementioned narrow spiral staircase). Not a deal killer, and probably a good way to ensure that I wasn’t getting too sauced to safely navigate those stairs.
This was a fun experience, and one of the more unique places I’ve enjoyed a cigar in my life. The views were stunning, the staff was fantastic, and they had some good cigars and whiskey on offer at a downright reasonable price. Not to mention the friendly folks in the lounge with me — I think I made a new friend every time I sat down.
For those who live in the Dallas and Ft. Worth areas, I can definitely see the appeal here, especially if you have a family and some kids to entertain. The Tanglewood Resort is right in that sweet spot that is just far enough away from the city to be relaxing but still close enough to be drivable. There’s something to keep everyone entertained here, and this whiskey and cigar lounge is a great option for a romantic evening for the adults in the party to enjoy.