Because my friend Leah works at the Ozzie Rabbit on East Lancaster, I texted her to ask if she’d ever been to this bar down the street from her called Sandi’s Red Barn.
“Hahaha,” she wrote back. “We call it ‘Secret Bar.’ Dope-ass patio.”
And later, after I’d gotten a drink there and returned to The Boiled Owl to start my shift and report my findings, my friend Dave said, “Oh, you went to ‘Secret Bar’?”
Apparently, the Red Barn’s unofficial alias is due to the fact that hardly anyone seems to know about it. I’d say its obscurity is due largely to its location. While the building is literally a conspicuous red barn, it’s found about a block east of Beach Street, next door to Best Friends, which is not a high-traffic area compared to tonier ’hoods like the Near Southside or West 7th. Unless you like the modest adventure of popping into weathered bars to mingle with their commensurately weathered inhabitants, places like the Red Barn are probably not on your radar.
I guess I noticed it a few years ago, when nearby Competition Music hosted after-party shows, but I always kept driving, usually on the way to one of the other bars on the north side of the street near Ozzie’s –– it’s not as if I thought it would be any rougher or sketchier than a bar like Rogue’s Gallery or the Peppermill Lounge. I suppose I just never paid it much attention during its brief appearances in my peripheral vision. But after having a beer there, I can attest that it is indeed a rad “secret bar.”
[box_info]Sandi’s Red Barn
2632 Lancaster Av, FW. 817-536-2727.[/box_info]
Though there’s not a lot of wow factor in the atmosphere, the Red Barn, walled entirely in vertical wooden slats, is comfortable. The front half of the room is barely big enough to fit its pair of pool tables and the bar, but the effect is cozy rather than cramped. Where the bar ends, the room narrows. I saw a poker table pressed against the wall and an old projection-screen TV next to the door leading to the patio. I’d wager that they were there for lack of a better place to store them. But behind the wall, where the room’s mid-point cinches it into two sections, there’s a glass display case full of knickknacks, all of them for sale. The patio is arguably the Red Barn’s chief selling point, but I probably spent more time staring at the case’s various odds and ends: collectible Coca-Cola pencils for $2, a “biker bitch” belt buckle for $20, refrigerator magnets depicting a chesty brunette half-heartedly covering her bare breasts with her hands for $6. I bought a couple of those as well as a transparent glass snail for $5. When I asked the bartender how often people bought that stuff, she said, “All the time. There’s always something new in there.”
So if you’re as much a mark for garage sales as you are for cheap domestics ($2.75 for my bottle of Budweiser), the Red Barn is as perfect a trap as you could want. But then there’s the aforementioned patio. Hidden by a privacy fence, the backyard is plenty big, its wooden deck extending from around a giant pecan tree, itself encircled by rails wide and low enough to rest your drinks on. Over the fence on the west side is a nicely unobscured view of the southeastern corner of downtown. I’d hesitate to call the view “stunning,” because, let’s face it, downtown Fort Worth isn’t really that eye-popping, but it is easily one of the best spots to gaze at the city’s skyline. For that vista alone, I’d say Sandi’s Red Barn is a secret worth whispering to anyone willing to listen. –– Steve Steward
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