Like Arlingfun, the Mid-Cities tend to receive an unfair amount of disdain, especially from people who live in Fort Worth. People like me, for example. Contempt, however, is relative. For every one Cowtowner looking down his or her nose at Hurst, Euless, and Bedford, there are probably five people in Austin asking why someone would ever live in Fort Worth, probably out loud, possibly over a round of 512 Pecan Porters, definitely with their voices dripping in condescension like organic maple syrup running down the side of a stack of gluten-free flapjacks.
Still, the Mid-Cities do kinda suck, at least for any nighttime excitement. Well, that and their freeways — you can’t say anything about that part of North Texas unless you mention the irony of suburbs having bad traffic — but I digress. When it comes to getting drinks, the best you’re gonna get in HEB is a cool dive like Euless Yacht Club or a bar ’n’ grill like The Flame. I guess there are some sports bars that are pretty fun. I went to Volcano’s a couple of times and enjoyed myself, but there really aren’t many places to make me want to navigate 121 and 820 just for a few beers.
Despite all that, I still find myself occasionally heading to HEB, if for no other reason than a change of scenery. At the recommendation of my friend Cody, I checked out this place called Witten’s Grill and Sports Pub, a sports bar off Pipeline Road that shares a shopping center with the kind of quaintly suburban businesses that you seem to find only in places like Hurst: a model train shop, a dance studio (Laura’s Dance Dynamics), and a store called Lampshade, its name spelled in backlit capital letters, insistently bathing the parking lot in an ominous, crimson glow.
Witten’s sign, however, glows green, welcoming you off Pipeline and into the pub’s tidy, spacious environs. Behind big windows painted with daily and weekly specials, I could see people shooting pool. To the immediate right of the front door, the four pool tables occupy an L-shaped space that probably encompasses a quarter of the building, so I figure billiards are a big deal at Witten’s. The pool area is set off by long counters where patrons can sit. (Witten’s is as well supplied with cocktail seating as it is with pool tables.)
I sat at the bar, a long slab of black laminate punctuated at the ends by square, mirrored, bar-to-ceiling pillars. The one to my immediate right reflected the four flat-screens hung above the back bar, momentarily giving me the impression that the TVs continued in an unbroken line to the end of the gaming area near the pool tables. The Stanley Cup game was backward, though, and I realized my mistake. Banked against the walls and hidden behind the pillar’s blind spot were a Golden Tee and a Big Buck Hunter, as well as framed sports jerseys autographed by the likes of Bird, Sanders, and Witten (no relation), plus some Dallas Star whose name I couldn’t read. It had a “K” in it, and he was number 8.
The most salient characteristic I noticed about Witten’s was that it was clean, not in a screeching, obsessive-compulsive sort of way, but in a way that suggested order and efficiency, rather than regimented scrubbing. In any case, the bar’s neatness was complemented by an amicable bartender, plus a kitchen that’s open late. I probably should’ve known better than to eat an entire bowl of beef-seasoned queso, but I was already drinking beers 20 miles from home, so any and all “should’ves” were already moot. At least I didn’t eat the whole thing.
While my beef-and-cheese folly was a little bland, my beers were cheap — at Witten’s, a can of PBR is always $1.75, and there are specials every night. I scanned the back bar’s array of liquor bottles, lit from the shelves by red, green, and blue LEDs, but decided against doing any shots. While I don’t mind the odd evening in Hurst, I definitely never want to stay the night. — Steve Steward
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