By the time we reached the lake, the rain had begun to fall. My wife and I have been living in Fort Worth for three years, and we’ve been to the lake only once.
Frankly, we’re tired of our friends constantly asking, “Man, the lake was awesome last weekend – do y’all go out there often?” We always have to lie. Usually something along the lines of “No, (sigh!) we had to work double-shifts at the soup kitchen and were just too tired afterward to do any yachting. We hope y’all had fun, though!” Now, here we were, lubbers on our second day out, in an enviable slip at Eagle Mountain Lake, sitting in our friends’ boat (a.k.a. The Challenger, Baby!), with our shoulders fully covered rather than bare and our faces damp with mist. Our friends and my wife were a little miffed, but I wasn’t too bothered. I mean, sitting in a boat, listening to music, and drinking with pals in a slip can’t be much different from zooming in a boat, listening to music, and drinking with pals, right? Well, not exactly.
For one thing, out on the water is where you can experience that communion with nature that everyone speaks so highly about but that I, an incorrigible city boy, have never been hip to. Today, I declare: Zooming in a boat, with the wind whipping your face and your body bouncing all around and the idyllic green landscape flashing by, is pretty freaking cool – I can definitely see why people spend most of their spare hours doing it.
Second, out on the water is where you can also come in contact with a sense of community that, for non-lake rats and city slickers like my gal and me, is downright refreshing. Everybody waves hello! Hell, our neighbors in Arlington Heights barely deign to acknowledge us when we trip over them, while the passersby on the lake act as if we’re their long-lost, millionaire twin children!
Third, there’s Kelly’s at Eagle Mountain Lake, a weird kind of manifestation of the lake’s fraternal spirit. The two-story bar-nightclub is one of two Kelly’s in the area – the other, Kelly’s Sports Restaurant, is owned by the same folks and is right down the street. At one point, the rain stopped, and we took advantage of the break to venture out of the marina. We only got about a couple hundred feet – about as far as Kelly’s at Eagle Mountain Lake – before the rain came pouring down again and sent us scurrying inside. The turn of events was a kind of blessing.
Other than the panoramic view of the water, Kelly’s at Eagle Mountain Lake is pretty standard: hardwood floors, pool tables, dartboards, neon signs. The waitresses were not only decked out in what has become the standard sports bar uniform – tight tank tops and shorts – but were also, oddly enough, uniformly attractive. As at Wing Stop, Kelly’s gals’ “clothes” are black. The upstairs of Kelly’s is dark and fancy, has a dance floor, and doubles as a nightclub and private party room.
However, Kelly’s at Eagle Mountain Lake should be a destination spot for lake rats and water-repellent city-slickers alike. The bar’s finger-food puts most other local joints to shame. You’ve never seen more perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned onion rings. Up until now, just about every onion ring I’ve had in town has fallen apart in my hands or, worse, on my lips. Kelly’s are firm, non-greasy, and pack a powerful kick. The Buffalo wings are small but meaty, and as for the jalapeño cornbread hush puppies, let’s just say I could eat about 50 of ’em in one sitting. They’re little balls of diet-killing decadence, and when you’re at the lake and, naturally, in a vacation state of mind, decadence is the name o’ the game.
But the best part about Kelly’s may be that sense of community I was talking about. My wife has been a vegetarian for almost 15 years, and she can tell when her food has been fried in lard. At Kelly’s, when we asked the waitress about the kitchen’s cooking oil, she left, and 30 seconds later, out popped Kelly himself, John “Kelly” Lancaster, with a vat of the condensed stuff in his hands. He held it up in front of my wife to let her read the contents herself. Everything checked out OK, and sure enough the food went down fine.
Even though we were strangers, and I got the sense that everyone else there was a regular, we didn’t get one askance look. In fact, we got a few waves.
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