As a 2014 transplant from England to Texas, I have spent four years drinking my way up and down West Magnolia Avenue while finding a home at Republic Street Bar. I wanted to branch out a little, see what the Fort’s other neighborhoods have to offer.
My inaugural crawl started on the bricks of Camp Bowie at the Showdown (4907 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-738 4051). The interior is suitably dark, and the faintest whiff of tobacco smoke still clings to the furniture and walls like monuments to a bygone era. A ceiling full of red glass beer mugs clouds the small, L-shaped bar. On each of my visits, I tried to engage the bar staff in conversation about the vessels but to date have learned only that they are “for regulars.”
My Coors Light was as refreshing as it was quotidian. A few games of pool on the careworn cloth passed by before I was sinking a Rahr Oktoberfest. The heavily decorated seasonal brew was a welcome flavor-lode following the domestic. After multiple trips to the bar by my drinking buddy and me, we arrived at the unanimous decision that the bar staff were, let’s say, having one of their “‘Y’ in the day” off nights. Only a sense of duty drove me to the bar one last time to order a prodigiously iced vodka-tonic. Bog standard.
A few minutes’ stroll west took us to Sarah’s Place (5223 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-731 7337), a karaoke bunker with all the curb appeal of a wartime refuge. We met the eponymous owner outside as she was polishing off a cigarette. Sarah was friendly and welcoming. Phew!
The interior looks and feels like a giant man-cave – all deep chairs, shuffleboard, darts, neon strip lighting, and tchotchkes. There was no karaoke setup, so I cannot vouch for that side of things, but the two guys behind the bar were super-chatty, so the craic was rippling from one side of the bar to the other. Daryl, the big guy with the epic beard, is everything you want in a barkeep – genuinely warm and engaging with a keen eye for an empty bottle. And fast hands.
The range of available bottle and canned beer was thoughtful – from Guinness, through a couple variations of Sierra Nevada, and arriving on domestic soil – and received able support from an impressive liquor list. I muted my developing buzz with a PBR, then abandoned all thoughts of moderation with a bottle of Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA, a 7.2-percent ABV festival of hops without the piney, desiccating finish of many a similar beer. Soccer chat, shooting the shit, and a robust vodka-tonic rounded out an enjoyable hour or so at Chez Sarah.
The night was to end on a confusing note less than a mile down the street at Whiskey Business (5731 Locke Av, 817-759 9220), a shack-style dive in the middle of a parking lot, which sits where The Mule Pub once reigned. We entered around 10pm on a Friday night. The voluminous bar rambles from pillar to post, ending at two well-kept pool tables. Including the barman, there were seven people in the house. Numbers were swelled by a four-piece heavy metal cover band thrashing out legit covers. The full drum-kit’s full blast filled the empty space. The bar seemed to stock only Bud Light on draft and Modelo in a near-empty fridge. My Bud Light was flat, the Modelo cold, and the vodka-tonic watery. Having done some not-necessary-for-the-purposes-of-this-article drinking at the other two bars, I was sufficiently squiffy to not give too much of a damn that the night was ending with a distinct lack of effervescence. We ordered a Lyft and headed to our corners.
The night was mixed. Showdown is quite likely a good hangout if you are already a regular, but the bar appears to have all of those it wants. Sarah’s Place is a fun retreat with a great mix of customers of all ages. Whisky Business? Well, to each (seven) their own, I guess.