It is the fate of all food and drink writers to eventually experience the law of diminishing returns. Sometimes I simply get too big for my britches, or more likely, pencil skirt, and expect a three Michelin-star experience at a four Michelin tire kind of joint. But I don’t have the luxury to become a creature of habit. It’s in my job description to hit different kinds of bars and talk about their version of a Harvey Wallbanger 52 weeks a year. For me, these realities sometimes lead to fatigue, not from the variety of experiences I encounter taxing my resolve but how often those visits turn out so patently and painfully dull.
Toward the end of last year, I was hitting a rough patch, scrapping more columns than ever made it to print. Each night out seemed sucked up by a scourge of surly local bartenders sloshing drinks across sticky rails in spotty glasses. Was it really lackluster libations and poor service? Or were my over-inflated expectations causing this long run of bad luck?
Luckily, during a work trip in Austin, I found my slump buster after meeting up with two friends at their favorite place for happy hour, Fixe Southern House. Over the course of an evening, it became perfectly clear how Fixe had locked down the affections of my pals with good old-fashioned customer service. Recently, when Fixe opened its second location, this one in Fort Worth, I contemplated whether or not its charm was transferable. When my aforementioned Austin comrades made the trip up here, we made plans at their favorite place’s new outpost for a test run.
Fixe’s menu for cocktails, wine, and beer is well curated and easily navigable. Still, I asked our server Brittany for advice and ended up meeting my current winner of “Most Delightful Local Service Industry Person of 2018.” (Yeah, we hugged it out.) She recommended starting with the outstanding and summery Fixe 75, the bar’s version of the popular French 75, in which the standard champagne is swapped out for sparkling rosé.
During happy hour (4-7pm nightly), you’ll pay a mere $7 for specialty cocktails like the Barrel-Aged Manhattan with a skewer of tender belly bacon, a Smoked Sazerac, the aforementioned Fixe 75, or the Honey Badger, made with aged Old Forester whiskey, honeycomb, and lemon. Two excellent wines, the 2015 Belle Glos Las Alturas Pinot Noir and the 2015 Cakebread Chardonnay, are both available for $9 a glass at happy hour as well. The very reasonable drink prices, in combination with a great selection of small Southern-inspired bites at the bar, is obviously attracting a lot of people — it was pleasantly full, though the service didn’t miss a step.
Most restaurant and bar owners might be aware that a special customer is coming in and will say hello. In Fixe Fort Worth’s case, they upped the ante and put together a small barrel of my Austin friend’s favorite drink — a special-order Manhattan that features the very rare High West Rendezvous Rye the bar brought in just for her — and engraved a glass with her name on it. In Louisiana, the birthplace of Fixe Chef James Robert, they call giving an unexpected little bit extra “lagniappe” (pronounced lan-yap). But to me, it’s that kind of service that differentiates bars that truly treat their customers like family versus the ones that pay lip service to the concept. Now, if I could just send all my bartenders to be trained by this crew, I might be able to stave off the slump next time.
Fixe Southern House
5282 Marathon Av, FW. 682-707-3965.