I ran away from home again last week. I recognize I’m not a teenager fed up with rules like “Don’t drink a bottle of MD 20/20 before playing piano in your church Christmas pageant.” (Fun fact: MD 20/20 is technically wine, so Electric Melon flavor is the perfect gift for your least favorite relative.) I’m dabbling in prognostication, but when I head to Austin, it feels like I’m running toward the Fort Worth of the future.
Five years ago, I split time living between the two cities, taking up space in my friend’s condo at the end of Austin’s Rainey Street. Back then, it was quiet, and bullhorn calls of “PULL!” from rowing crews on a nearby lake were my only alarm clock. My neighborhood was full of bungalow-to-bar conversions, like the Lustre Pearl, which was similar to The Bearded Lady (1229 7th Av, 817-349-9832). Today, that part of Austin is swallowed up by downtown, with hotels, apartments, and more towering cranes than food trucks. The hot area for ATX locals shifted to the East Side, which has the kind of dimly lit drinking dives that fit perfectly with West Magnolia Avenue devotees here.
Change is inevitable, and our southern sister from another mister is the clear vision ahead. (Hopefully, Fort Worth in 2026 isn’t a Westworld-style theme park for wealthy tech billionaires to murder and screw cowboy droids.) Despite Bravo’s Real Housewives of Dallas and ESPN B-roll shows, Big D is not our sister city, which explains some of the often tone-deaf results when our neighbors to the east dabble in Cowtown bar and restaurant ownership.
Take the new Tortaco (910 Currie St, 682-990-0735), a tattoo parlor-themed taco joint duplicated from the Dallas original and dropped in the West 7th corridor. Owned by the Firebird Restaurant Group (El Fenix, Snuffers, Meso Maya), the restaurant boasts on its website that “Inspired by metal, enveloped by music, and resurrected by art, Tortaco offers guests a respite from society’s expectations.” Huh? I contend that Taco Tuesday should be a recognized day of worship, but I’m not buying into an existential crisis triggered by roasted chicken tacos and a shot of mezcal.
In contrast, the Fort Worth outpost of ATX-based Torchy’s Tacos (928 Northton St, 817-289-8226) remains packed every day and doesn’t require you to rethink your life choices or get a barbwire tattoo. Torchy’s can help you meet a drunk single doctor at 8am, but that’s a geographical anomaly unique to its location.
With big retail comes more bars and restaurants, and The Simon Property Group is about to open the Shops at Clearfork (5143 Apache Plume), which is a twin of The Domain located 175 miles down the road. Whole Foods Market (3720 Vision Drive, 817-461-9362), founded in Austin, anchors the Waterside development and brings with it a mix of food, drink, and entertainment that thus far doesn’t scream strip-mall Hades.
Round Rock may be the new Silicon Valley, but Fort Worth leadership is making significant moves by courting companies like Facebook and Amazon to the Alliance corridor. Fred’s Texas Café saw the potential to put “Cold-Ass Beer” into these new Texan faces a few years back and opened Fred’s North (2730 Western Center Blvd, 817-232-0111). Other local bar owners should consider a similar expansion direction, with road construction creating a captive clientele above the 820 loop.
Last, I turn to our problem child, West 7th Street. It’s easy to anthropomorphize this sector into a dude-bro wearing gothic typeface on a tight T-shirt. This area’s problems are a topic too big for one paragraph. But I contend that we should take on Austin’s approach to its West 6th Street and treat the area like the Thunderdome. If you yearn to get college freshmen wasted, start a bar fight, and sob on an Uber driver, then go there. It’s one-stop shopping for either embracing or avoiding the hot-mess express.
Truthfully, after a rough 2016, gazing toward future Fort Worth life is comforting. So cheers, my dears, to a new year, and may the bridges we burned light our way.