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Recently, a couple of couples in our friend group moved into the up-and-coming Oakhurst neighborhood around North Sylvania Avenue. This area’s housing prices are burgeoning, thanks to the massive investment in the nearby Race Street corridor. The new Oakhurstians had shared tales of some colorful-looking bars in their new ’hood. A late January Friday seemed like the ideal opportunity to check out a few of these places.

An intrepid band of five folks with tinges of anxiety mixed with a frisson of the excitement of the unknown headed first to The Office (2804 E Belknap St, 817-831-9806), a bar as unassuming and lacking in promise from without as it was full of surprises within. The “bring your own liquor” joint has a reverse TARDIS effect, being smaller inside than it appears from the street. Its rangy rectangular exterior gives way to a jam-packed interior featuring a small bar, two pool tables, two dartboards, four slot machines, and a few high tables with rotating stools. Tammy, our welcoming and chatty host, furnished us with the particulars –– types of beer, the liquor situation, and general bon vivant conversation. As a group, we stuck to a mix of domestic bottles and Coors Banquet drafts. The bar was full –– which is to say that 20-some people occupied the pool tables, slots, and stools. The atmosphere was that of a friendly local pub where regular folks are having the craic at the end of their working week. We felt at home and vowed to return.

A quarter mile southwest of The Office sits the phoenix Fuel 2.0 (2616 E Belknap St, 817-831-3835). The large biker-friendly bar was about half full at 9:30pm. Most everyone in the place sported some combination of biker gear. I had a light chat at the bar with a guy and his old lady before being greeted enthusiastically by a mature barmaid dressed in a gloriously ostentatious pirate costume. The other barkeep, her husband, seemed to be dressed as a priest. Turns out it was Pirate Karaoke. This iteration of the sing-along required nothing more than the bar staff to wear a costume while those down to drink rocked up to the mic to atonally butcher a range of classics from Sabbath all the way to Ozzy. One of our group performed a killer Danzig track. Sadly, most of the regulars were outside smoking cigarettes. The bar has a wide selection of bourbon and vodka, plus the wells included decent clear liquor. My vodka tonic was huge on vodka, light on tonic, and with just the right amount of ice for a January night. My subsequent Jim Beam was unconscionably massive, proving to be the threshold drink of the night. I was solidly drunk on finishing it. I am using this as an excuse for losing a couple games on the well-kept pool table. We left with an invitation ringing in our ears to attend next Friday’s Cowboy Karaoke.

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Our next and last move of the night was a short hop to Dino’s Live (2708 Race St, 817-222-2608). We entered as the witching hour approached. The large barn of a bar heaved with twentysomethings. The place was jumping to the pulsing, driving rhythm of a Hispanic band playing party tunes. The long, well-stocked bar was four deep with swaying, leering, lurching drinkers. During the 10 minutes it took for me to get beers, the drunkest of our group had somehow purloined Jell-O shots while swerving to avoid a scuffle that two guys insisted on having over a woman who may or may not have been interested in either of them. We headed closer to the stage. The atmosphere reminded me distinctly of the nightclubs of my youth in England –– working-class places full of people partying hard. The attendant razor’s edge of sexual promise and physical violence is something I have not experienced since moving to Texas. We called it a night after a couple of drinks, weaving past those passed out on the patio and its surrounds. While the night ended at our least favorite bar, nobody felt sad ’cos two out of three ain’t bad. 

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