Critic’s choice: 1919 Hemphill
The legendary Southside venue is the only game in town, but it’s great, regularly hosting shows by national and local punk acts and offering local activists space for meetings and organizing. Love and passion are the only drivers of this statewide institution. Good music and progressive politics keep it healthy.
Readers’ choice: The Where House, 2510 Hemphill St, FW
Critic’s choice: New Media Recordings, 1329 Hurley Av, FW
Though a business first, this studio run by The Theater Fire’s James Talambas occasionally hosts shows. Featuring local underground giants and lesser-known out-of-towners, some of these gigs are truly significant, and they all go well with brown-bagged High Life forties.
Seat for People- Watching
Critic’s choice: The Café at Central Market, 4651 W Fwy, FW
You’d think that Central Market’s top-quality produce, organic chips, craft beer selection, and gourmet delicacies would price it out of most folks’ food budgets, but spend a lunch hour in the café, and you’ll find an interesting cross-section of the city’s populace. Sure, there are a lot of Westside soccer moms and businessmen whose sunglasses are apparently sutured to their faces, but you’ll also find a veritable social gumbo of cops and hipsters, servicemen and -women stationed at Carswell, Arlington Heights kids, local chefs, beer nerds, wine snobs, gluten-averse dieters, gluten-ambivalent gluttons, and dreadlocked parents introducing their kids to the joys of seitan. More often than not, you’ll also see someone you know.
Critic’s choice: Hip Pocket Theatre, 1950 Silver Creek Rd, FW
Something about sitting at a table in the shade, away from the bustle of city life, enjoying a cold beer, and listening to a local singer-songwriter emote at The Backyard makes for a damn good way to enjoy a late afternoon. Just about the time you’ve got a nice buzz going and begin thinking about leaving, a bell rings. It’s showtime! Everyone ambles down a dirt path to the Hip Pocket stage to watch another inventive production. Afterward, you think about leaving, but then the music and beer begin again at The Backyard, calling you to amble back up the path. Getting sidetracked was never so much fun.
Have a Conversation
Critic’s choice: Finn MacCool’s back room, 1700 8th Av, FW
Notice we say “back room,” because the front of the house can be rockin’. Park in the back, come in through the back door, and grab a booth. You might have to alert the staff to your presence, but once they know you’re there, service is OK, and drinks are cheap. Yes, you can smell a little cigarette smoke drifting through, but you can also catch the drift of your companion’s words. Fancy that.
Time Travel without Going Anywhere
Critic’s choice: Lynn’s Saloon, 1037 SE Pkwy, Azle
Jacksboro Highway is where young Fort Worthians sometimes go for thrills and chills, leaving the safety of West 7th and West Magnolia Avenue behind. While most of the famed watering holes along Hwy 199 are long gone, some still remain. One particularly great throwback is Lynn’s Saloon. Established in 1941, this beer-and-a-shot joint still occupies a plain, large, freestanding metal building whose roof is graced with a huge fiberglass horse. More than the wood-paneled walls and vintage neon signs, Lynn’s cast of colorful regulars will take you back to a time when the West was indeed wild.
Meet Someone of the Opposite Sex
Readers’ choice: Tours of Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s brewery, 701 Galveston Av, FW
Critic’s choice: Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar, 621 Houston St, FW
Since opening about five years ago, Pete’s has gone from a mystery –– “Aren’t dueling piano bars so San-Antonio-River-Walk-circa-1994?” –– to a bona fide hookup destination. There’s just something about singing along boozily to “Sweet Caroline” that brings out the touchy-feely in young, straight Fort Worth. And we’re pretty sure every bachelorette party in town goes down at Pete’s. The bride-to-be may be off limits –– may be –– but perhaps her bridesmaids are “Lookin’ for Love in All the Wrong Places.”
Meet Someone of the Same Sex
Readers’ choice: The Rainbow Lounge
Critic’s choice: Trinity River Bears
The gay male “bear” subculture of the LGBT community prides itself on openness to all ages, races, body types, income levels, and more. Fort Worth’s bear group, the Trinity River Bears, upholds this tradition at its second Sunday meetings, which often include brunch and a cookout at Club Reflections. Be prepared to mingle with an earthy, chatty, diverse group of guys.
Nurse a Hangover
Readers’ choice: Ol’ South Pancake House, 1509 S University Dr, FW
Critic’s choice: The Pour House, 2725 W 7th St, FW
You can keep your menudo. When the rooster crows after a Saturday night of debauchery, your best remedy is The Pour House. Featuring a Bloody Mary bar, $2 “MANmosas” and “MANsettias,” and dollar mimosas and poinsettias, the West 7th sports bar’s super Sunday brunch runs 11am to 3pm.
Take a First Date
Readers’ choice: Coyote Drive-In, 223 NE 4th St, FW
Critic’s choice: Reata Restaurant, 310 Houston St, FW
Few establishments exude elegance and romance like Reata. With its custom iron and wood décor, awesome rooftop view of downtown’s canyons, and award-winning haute cowboy cuisine, this downtown institution will also leave your date’s heart aflutter without giving your wallet a stroke.
Critic’s choice: Magnolia Motor Lounge
Having a cocktail during the day is one of life’s great pleasures, particularly when you spend most of your waking hours chained to a depressing desk in a depressing cubicle. To expand your horizons and lighten your outlook, head to Magnolia Motor Lounge. Bartender extraordinaire Katie Smith and the friendly, roomy surroundings will reel you back into the land of the living.
Critic’s choice: Lola’s Saloon, 2736 W 6th St, FW
Sometimes a body just wants to enjoy a cocktail in public in peace and not feel like either an ear just begging to be bent or a complete loner/weirdo. For a little one-on-one time with your Jack and Coke, Lola’s is the spot. The regulars are professional drinkers who know a person seeking liquid solace when they see one and will keep a healthy distance; at night, when the joint is jumping with some of the best independent music from here and beyond, melting into the crowd is as simple as a-one, a-two, a-one, two, three, four!
Critic’s choice: Avoca Coffee, 1311 W Magnolia Av, FW
Mayor Betsy Price likes to drop in here, as do other city officials, local movers and shakers, hipsters, students, artists, and musicians. This eclectic bunch of customers keeps the chatter coming, giving eavesdroppers an opportunity to hover nearby and listen in on convos about who got elected, who ran a marathon, who passed out at a frat party, and which local musician got all his gear stolen.
Have a Nightcap
Critic’s choice: Malone’s Pub
Malone’s is a quiet, dimly lit downtown bar staffed by fast, friendly bartenders, a joint that really comes alive after nearby restaurant workers get off. A great place to decompress after seeing a band or to chat with friends or that special someone, Malone’s also is nonsmoking and has the best non-digital jukebox in town.
Start Your Evening
Critic’s choice: Caves Lounge, 900 W Division St, Arl
Caves is a veritable Arlington/East Fort Worth institution and for good reason: The drinks are cheap, and the cool tattoo-parlor-like vibe is pure come-as-you-are. Think of Caves as Lola’s East but with less killer live music.
Critic’s choice: The After Midnight Club, 11050 S Pipeline Rd, Euless
What’s the worst part about breaking up? The feeling that you’re telling another human being that he or she is pretty much unwanted, unlovable, and worthless? Well, the next time you’re going to put someone’s ego through that meat-grinder, we suggest taking him or her to The After Midnight Club, a swinger’s joint in Euless. Give them the heave-ho, and within 30 seconds they’ll be mobbed by good-looking people (or so we’ve heard) who want to have sex with them. Breakup depression will be over before you’re back in your car and on your way.
Critic’s choice: Fast Freddy’s, 5707 Crowley Rd, FW
Like at all good pool halls, smoking is allowed here. This beloved establishment has 16 tables (6-, 7-, and 8-footers), including a snooker table, and they’re all in good shape with good cues. The prices are inexpensive, the all-female staff is friendly, and it’s open until 2 a.m. nightly.