Let’s say you’re one of those folks who follow March Madness from the swirling nebula of the round of 64 all the way to its victorious conclusion — and you go see the championship game in person. This year, then, you will be pre-gaming in our neck of the woods, as the Final Four and championship game will be taking place in Arlington on Saturday and Monday. While you’re here, you might be tempted to go to Bikinis or Pappadeaux or any of the other bar-and-grill chains clustered between I-30 and Division Street. Listen, if you decide to move here, there’s plenty of time to try Texas On-Ramp and Cattle, but since you’re just visiting, you really ought to go local and not just local to your hotel.
Let’s say you get here Friday and couldn’t care less about the pre-game hoopla. Like many tourists, you will likely head for the Stockyards, in which case, make your way to The Basement Bar (105 W. Exchange Ave., 817-740-0100). If you were expecting to come to Texas and see a person in a cowboy hat –– ding! –– wish granted! But you’ll also see a good cross-section of other Fort Worthians –– punk rockers, motorcycle dudes, blonde cowgirl chicks wearing tight plaid shirts and spray-tans — so you can tell all your friends back in Connecticut or Wisconsin that we don’t all look like we stepped out of a Copenhagen ad, just some of us.
After that, though, steer your cabbie away from the steers and head to the West 7th corridor. If you’re in a fraternity or sorority back home, most of West 7th will give you the impression that everyone in Fort Worth is just like you! Your cheap-beer-dowsing nose will undoubtedly lead you to Reservoir (1001 Foch St., 817-334-0560) While you’re there, try the chicken and waffles — the Balcones whiskey maple syrup is incredible, and if you spill some on your North Face vest, you can save it for later. If you’re still determined to find the true, non-clichéd spirit of Fort Worth, however, keep moseying, to nearby Fred’s Texas Café (915 Currie St., 817-332-0083), probably the most Fort Worthian thing in Fort Worth. It’s as much rock ’n’ roll as it is country, and it’s practically a landmark.
Speaking of landmarks, you’ll also want to get a margarita at Joe T. Garcia’s (2200 N. Commerce St., 817-626-4356). Yeah, “Joe T’s” is a very touristy thing to do, and plenty of us locals will trip over ourselves to send you to 20 other better Tex-Mex places, but if you’ve never been to Fort Worth before, skipping a trip to Joe T’s is like going to New York City for the first time and ignoring the Statue of Liberty. Do you need to waste valuable vacation hours climbing Lady Liberty’s infinite stairs? Yes. Once. And the same goes for Joe T’s famously jet-fueled, brunchtastic margaritas.
For downtown hangs while you await Patric Young hang times, get overwhelmed by the tap wall at The Flying Saucer (111 E. 3rd St., 817-336-7470). You’ll find most of the local breweries represented, and there’s a good chance you’ll come across a craft beer from wherever you’re from, though if you’re from the East Coast, please shut up about Yuengling — the world is tired of hearing about it. While you’re downtown, you might as well do a little bit of bar crawling too. Hit up Malone’s Pub (1303 Calhoun St., 817-332-5330), especially if you’re in time for Friday happy hour –– it’s an interesting place to eavesdrop. You also ought to stop in for an old-fashioned at the Scat Jazz Lounge (111 W. 4th St., 817-870-9100). Just leave your Wildcats hat in the car, though. The only headgear allowed in the Scat is a fedora, beret, or a jazz-grass buzz.
Wherever and however you get your buzz, you might eventually be looking for some late-night breakfast to soak up the buzz-inducing substances in your system. Go to Ol’ South Pancake House (1509 S. University Dr., 817-336-0311). Like Joe T’s, Ol’ South is what it is, but damned if we don’t all eat there, padding a night’s worth of whiskey and Lone Stars with huge plates of stick-to-your-ribs hash browns and massive chicken-fried steaks. And let me tell you, person I don’t know from out of town, the people-watching at Ol’ South around 3 a.m. is unparalleled. I’ll probably be among that collection of oddballs and last-call refugees, goggling right back at you. –– Steve Steward
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