A high-powered lawyer friend, who happens to be female, recently reminded me of the risks inherent in asking guys out for drinks. Her story goes like this: Not too long ago, she invited a client, who happens to be male, to join her for an after-work cocktail. She picked the V Lounge at Eddie V’s, which I think is a great choice, since I’m partial to the raspberry-chili martini served there and, quite frankly, anything on the bar menu.

first-date_965804But I have noticed that the V is a bit, y’know, dark inside. There always seems to be a friendly, well-dressed, charming guy handy to proffer a cell phone, lighter, or even a small flashlight to help a lady read the menu. And that, frankly, ought to indicate that the place is not just “business casual.”

Apparently, some guys read a dimly lit, seductive room as an invitation to let their hands roam. In inappropriate places. Now, I’m not excusing what my friend’s client did. He’s a total creep. The sexy V was just an unwitting accomplice.


All of this was on my mind recently when I asked a guy friend to join me out for some drinks to catch up. No, really. He’s a guy, and he’s my friend. “Catch up” meant conversation. So where do you take someone with whom you’re not trying to score these days? Where do you go when you really just want to have a drink and chat with a friend who happens to be a totally cute hetero guy?

A possible answer: Shula’s 347 Grill, which also doubles as the bar in the revamped Sheraton Hotel downtown. The grill is named after its owner, former Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula, who owns the record for most NFL wins (347, duh!) and also several similar restaurants across the country, including the super-high-end American Steak House in Houston. Fort Worth boasts the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach’s only Texas location on the casual end of the Shula Empire spectrum. But like all of his restaurants, 347 is adorned by two replica Lombardi Trophies. And, you know, nothing can derail a red-blooded American male’s mind faster than the sight of one of the Holy Grails of professional sports.

Even more important, the place is well lit, which kinda puts the kibosh on canoodling. Although smooove jazz pours out of the speakers, you’ve probably never seen more giant flat-screen TVs in one place in your life. In other words, no matter how hot you may be looking, bright lights, big screens, and objects of awe are likely to keep him on the right side of the foul line. See? Just drinks.

So my friend and I popped into Shula’s 347 on a Wednesday night, and the place was virtually empty. Sure, there were some hotel guests and a small contingent of what we discovered were Texas Wesleyan law students. But the place was empty enough for several servers to gather ’round the bar at one point and update their fantasy football picks. The service was just fine. I’m just sayin’: I hope more customers, especially more female customers, regularly haunt Shula’s. The more people, the more distraction action, and the more distraction action, the fewer seductive glances coming at you from across the table.

Another thing that helps define Shula’s as a primo spot for don’t-get-any-ideas cocktails is the bar menu. A wee bit shorter version of the regular menu, the bar menu is chock-full of guy food (burgers, sandwiches, and metric tons of red meat – rrrrr!), offering nothing seductively nibbly or, for that matter, even basically nibbly. While a Shula Cut® steak would most certainly tap into his, ahem, primal drives, there’s nothing really flirty about a woman wrestling with a 48-ounce steak.

Be forewarned: Shula’s happy hour, from 4 to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, may lead to one too many, and a lady can’t afford one too many even in friendly company. The prices are as low as Bob Griese’s interception rate. Domestic drafts, including Rahr’s Blonde and Ugly Pug, are $2.50. Imports are a buck more. Well drinks are $4, and a Jose Cuervo margarita will run you a measly five spot. A word of advice: Bring $10 tops, and since you’re not letting him buy you any, you’ll remain sober enough to keep both the sparkling catching-up conversation going and your top button buttoned.

And stay away from the wine menu. Don’t let the California Folie à Deux Ménage à Trois give him any ideas. — Laurie Barker James


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