If there’s one thing that aptly captures the fenced-in ennui of a Monday, it’s getting stuck at a left-turn light that never turns green. I made this connection when the light at the Camp Bowie/377 traffic circle cycled through a second time without sending me on my way. I was trying to get to Cowtown Bar & Grill, and I’d already made two U-turns on Alta Mere before I figured out you can get into the parking lot only if you’re headed west on Camp Bowie.
The stoplights ran their course, skipping me again. Fuck it, I thought, as my car scooted through the intersection and onto Camp Bowie. A pair of headlights pulled behind me, as three blocks of opportunities for illegal left turns opened on my left. At this time of night, every car creeping on your back is a cop. At least that’s the rule I live by. My tailgater swung around me as I pulled into another left-hand turn lane. He drove a banged-up Ford Focus.
Finally, I made it, flinging open the Cowtown door as Oleander’s butt-rock power ballad “Why I’m Here” pounded out of the internet juke and into my skull. I’d been trying to remember what this place was like the last time I’d been, but all I recalled was that I’d gotten kind of lit someplace else and bummed a ride to this bar, where I bugged the waitress with pot-addled questions about one of the appetizers that had a funny name that I don’t remember. That time, the lights were so bright you probably could have raised a hydroponic farmer’s market in there, but tonight, apart from Oleander, Cowtown Bar & Grill was pretty cool.
For one thing, the lights were pleasantly dim; paradoxically, I noticed a lot more details. The bar had changed ownership over Memorial Day weekend, but I don’t think the transfer altered a whole lot superficially. The joint is still centered on a roomy rectangular bar surfaced with gray tile, with rows of condiments placed within easy reach. Under the new ownership, the grill part of the joint offers wraps and salads (for “hippies, treehuggers, and housewives,” according to the menu) and “hearty eats,” including burgers such as the Happy Fat Kid, a half-pounder topped with cream cheese and jalapeños. Around the perimeter of the bar counter, columns covered with concrete “rock” support cocktail table sections at opposite ends of the room, each bathed in the light of neon beer signs. When I tended bar at Lola’s this summer, I’d heard that Cowtown was throwing its hat in the music-venue ring, and to that end, the joint has a stage fronted by a hardwood dance floor bordered by a wooden rails and barstools. Whoever designed this bar had a keen eye for balance.