A new, non-alcoholic bar hopes to introduce DFW to a physioactive tea from the South Pacific, blended into flavors like raspberry lemonade or cookie dough.
Kava Culture Kava Bar (109 Industrial Street) opened towards the end of 2021 as a franchise of Florida’s Kava Culture. It’s the first outpost of the brand in Texas and the first outside of Florida. The bar is a passion project for local ER physician David Darrigan.
Darrigan had been curious about kava years ago while looking for an alternative to alcohol. “I see so much of the bad effects of alcohol and DWIs [at work],” he explained to Eater. His research led him to this root of a plant in the pepper family, said to be a mood-booster and stress-reliever.
“It makes you calm, relaxed, social without the negative effects of alcohol, like hangovers. It doesn’t affect your central nervous system,” Darrigan says.
While in Florida working to oversee emergency rooms, he visited a Kava Culture location and the rest is history. Darrigan scoped out locations all over Dallas, but decided Denton would be the perfect place to open a kava bar. For one thing, people in the area had actually heard of kava before. “It’s kind of hippy, open-minded, it’s just the perfect location,” he says.
When visitors first check out Kava Culture, they get a free bula, or a kava shot served in a traditional coconut shell. “We ask them to tell us something to celebrate, we say cheers, and we give them the bula,” Darrigan says. “It tastes like earthy root water.”
But that’s not the only way to drink kava at the bar: Kava Culture’s offerings include familiar flavors like Pineapple Express, Nutella bomb or Cookies’ N Cream. The menu also include another physioactive tea made out of plant roots, kratom, with the ingredients flown in from South Asia. A Delta-8 hemp-based drink with a small percentage of THC is also on the menu. (That drink is for ages 21 and up, and every other drink is for ages 18 and up). “As a doctor, I wouldn’t have gotten into it if I didn’t research it and think that it was safe for people,” Darrigan says.
Kava Culture also sells coffee in the morning, opening at 8 a.m. “Coffee and cava are actually really good to pair together,” he explains. “You get energy but you don’t get jittery.” There’s no kitchen, but some vegan food is on the menu like bagels with vegan cream cheese.
The look is appropriately tropical, and the focus is on a 25-seat, ocean wave-themed bar shaped like a U that’s designed to foster community. Events range from open mic night to trivia or knitting clubs. So far, the dog-friendly bar’s drawn in a diverse crowd: everyone from those in recovery to vegans and yogis or folks just looking to try out a new experience. Darrigan says some regulars even drive for an hour to get to the “social sober” bar.
“It’s a nice safe haven for people who don’t want to be in a loud rowdy bar, nobody gets in fights, everybody is just happy,” he says.
Darrigan’s still working days and nights in the ER seeing patients and overseeing emergency rooms, but he hopes to add additional Kava Culture locations across the Dallas-Fort Worth area if this location takes off.