The Black Dog used to be on Throckmorton Street downtown and has been closed since late last year, when owner Tad Gaither decided that he not only wanted to flee downtown (limited parking, panhandlers, vermin), but, being a relatively wily businessman, he also wanted to go where the action is. Other than the Stockyards and the TCU area, West Seventh – with J&J’s Hideaway, the Wreck Room, Torch, Sixth Street Grill, Bronx Zoo, Shamrock Café, Blue Grotto, Fred’s Texas Café, Pop’s Safari & Wine Bar, and a couple of other hang-outs – is probably the hottest non-Sundance Square neighborhood in Cowtown.
Arriving on the Black Dog’s heels are a martini bar, another 7th Haven, a new La Familia, and God knows what else. The best part is that, like the Stockyards and that portion of West Seventh near the Torch, West Seventh near the Black Dog is pedestrian friendly – there are a lot of small streets, wide sidewalks, and stop signs at nearly every intersection. Revelers will be able to club-hop safely on foot. The area is also ripe for some sort of music festival – two or three blocks could be easily cordoned off and not disrupt traffic flow, and since there are no houses or apartments near the Dog and its Clubland neighbors, there won’t be any shut-ins to complain about loud noise. Someone should get working on a block party now.
The Black Dog had a soft opening last Saturday, and Gaither’s squeaky-clean (clean-looking, at least) joint drew a respectable-sized crowd. By the time Austin’s Invincible Czars hit the stage, around 10, the place had filled rather nicely – not bad for a show that was promoted mostly by word of mouth.
Most of the same bohemians you loved and loathed from the original Black Dog turned out, along with Fred’s Terry Chandler (who made a neighborly pit-stop early in the evening), several local musicians, a ton of barely legals, and a few well-dressed yuppies (who had probably gotten lost on the way to the Torch).
“Cavernous” could be the best way to describe the narrow space now occupied by the Dog. At one end of the building, near the entrance, you’ll find a couple of billiards tables and the jukebox; at the other end are plush couches, a foosball table, and some dart boards. In the middle is the seating area, sandwiched between the bar and an empty section of floor for the bands. The décor is pretty sparse – unless you count the dozens of Best Of Fort Worth plaques hanging behind the bar – and the color scheme is a warm red and black with lots of dark wood all around. (The fact that red and black were the colors of the resistance during the French Revolution is not lost on staunch liberal Gaither.) However, the coolest interior design accents are the block-glass windows. They give a glorified East Village-influenced hole-in-the-wall like the Black Dog a touch of Upper East Side-influenced minimalist class.
As for all of this redevelopment around West Seventh, I’m still a little up in the air. My concern is that all city planners are doing is strong-arming into existence a Sundance Square Junior – a lot of nightlife and activity but little that is unique. I don’t know about you, but when I see billboard-sized signs for Mattress Giant and PetSmart, I don’t really feel a party-hardy vibe. Maybe some neon would help. Or more Black Dogs.
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