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Downtown Fort Worth A street downtown by Byrd M. Williams Courtesy UNT Libraries Special Collections Design by Ryan Burger

Happy Hour

Readers’ choice: Yucatan Taco Stand, 909 W Magnolia Av, 817-924-8646

Critic’s choice: Proper, 409 W Magnolia Av, 817-984-1133

Want a taste of the good life on a budget? This tiny cocktail bar packs a mighty wallop at a fat discount from 4 to 7pm on weekdays. Try the Old Fashioned, French 75, or any other of the happy hour specials for just $5 (more than 50 percent off) and bask in Proper’s cozy, relaxed environs. Winos and beer lovers can also sip bargain-priced hooch. Impress your date here without fear of your card being rejected after a few rounds.

Tiki Bar

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Readers’ choice: Four Kahunas Tiki Lounge, 506 E Division St, Ste 160, Arl, 682-276-6097

Critic’s choice:  Four Kahunas Tiki Lounge

In Arlington’s bright, burgeoning Urban Union complex, it’s easy to miss the small door that leads you back in time to the 1960s. Four Kahunas is a cool, dark throwback to the days when people celebrated a proper cocktail hour with fruity drinks. All the fresh ingredients are prepped onsite, so it may take a few minutes if you’re imbibing anything fancier than a Canadian Castaway. Beware, the shareable potions like Release the Kraken pack a hefty rum punch – one you might not notice until you try to stumble your way to the surfboard that brought you here.

Drinks at 4 Kahunas Tiki Lounge are as potent as they are pretty. Photo by Susie Geissler

Bloody Mary

Readers’ choice: Chef Point Bar & Restaurant, 5901 Watauga Rd, Watauga, 817-656-0080

Critic’s choice: BLK EYE BLOODY

Bloody Marys enjoy the unique distinction of being both the cause and cure for many a hangover. If you’re looking for the best local incarnation of this tomato-based cocktail, it’s a no-brainer. The BLK EYE BLOODY elevates this common brunch accoutrement to sophisticated levels. To wit: A properly prepared BLK EYE BLOODY begins with a glass rimming of Halo del Santo, a locally made (and fiery) cocktail garnish. Then blend BLK EYE Vodka, fresh lime juice, Cholula chile-lime hot sauce, the obligatory Worcestershire sauce, and Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix to create a cocktail worthy of kicking off (or recovering from) a vodka-fueled night out on the town.

Gay or Lesbian Bar

Readers’ choice: The Urban Cowboy Saloon, 2620 E Lancaster Av, 682-707-5663

Critic’s choice: Club Changes, 2637 E Lancaster Av, 817-413-2332

With a dark and dingy dive bar vibe, impressive range of liquor, decent pool table, and varied clientele, this bar has it all. All the way out, one foot in, one foot out, and just curious folks of all ages can be found within Changes, which offers a relaxed, serious drinking atmosphere with just a soupcon of sexual tension.

Seat for People-Watching

Critic’s choice: Lola’s Trailer Park, 2735 W 5th St, 817-759-9100

The enclosed bar has bay windows that open up, allowing patrons to sit in the shade at the comfort of a table with a ceiling fan providing a cool breeze and a bartender just a few steps away while also being able to see and hear the band and everyone coming and going inside or outside at one of the hippest joints in town.

Wine Bar

Readers’ choice: Winslow’s Wine Cafe, 4101 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-546-6843

Critic’s choice: WineHaus, 1628 Park Place Av, 817-887-9101 

For six years now, this pioneering neighborhood spot just around the corner from West Magnolia Avenue has been serving up quality wines on tap, which reduces waste and ensures that your glass of wine always tastes like the first one out of a freshly opened bottle. WineHaus also stocks a sizeable assortment of bottles to take home or to enjoy in-Haus – maybe with a pizza or cheese board from neighboring Chadra Mezza. The small staff of just two regular bartenders helps to create a level of familiarity after just a couple of visits, and they can make excellent recommendations for any palate or occasion, minus the snobbery that often accompanies such a request at other wine bars. The living-room like ambiance inside sets you at ease the minute you walk in the door, making WineHaus a popular spot for first dates. Often, you’ll find the sleek marble bar occupied by regulars on a weekday evening, but they’ll always make room for a newcomer. 

Bar Decor

Critic’s choice: Thompson’s, 900 Houston St, 817-882-8003

Elegant and fantastical decor elements give Thompson’s an otherworldly feel. With long, wooden bookshelves and a barrel-shaped ceiling that’s plastered with newspapers, there’s a decidedly bookish feel to this downtown bar. Every bit as much thought and detail go into concocting the superlative mixed drinks here, which have literary titles that are downright punny.

Mixologist

Readers’ choice: Pam Moncrief

Critic’s choice: Tia Downey, Clay Pigeon, 2731 White Settlement Rd, 817-882-8065

Tia Downey and the staff at Clay Pigeon have transformed this out-of-the-way fine-dining destination into a legitimately great cocktail lounge. Since coming onboard about a year ago, Downey implemented subtle changes and additions to the drink menu that illustrate her high level of sophistication and culinary acumen. The drinks complement the menu, and they’re designed with the same farm-to-table ethos. Thanks to Downey and company, Clay Pigeon has become one of the most well-rounded dining experiences in town. 

Tia Downey is taking Clay Pigeon’s bar to new heights. Photo by Twig Capra

Bar Bathroom

Readers’ choice: Twilite Lounge, 212 Lipscomb St, 817-720-5483

Critic’s choice: Funky Picnic Brewery & Cafe, 401 Bryan Av, Ste 117, 817-708-2739

This place is great, anyway. From the delicious beer and the exceedingly vegan-friendly sandwiches to the lovely naturally lit space and awesome servers, Funky Picnic is a direct hit. What puts it over the top are the bathrooms, specifically the ladies’ retreat. What’s this? A biodegradable sack for used feminine hygiene products? What a novel concept. Every bar/restaurant bathroom should be carrying these things. Even better, Funky Picnic’s restrooms are always clean and afford you some well-deserved privacy.

Hotel Bar

Critic’s choice: WXYZ Bar at the Aloft Hotel, 334 W 3rd St, 866-912-1055

Fun and funky with a lively mix of colors popping out of the gray of polished concrete walls, Aloft offers a vibrant atmosphere and commensurately excited crowd. Where more traditional hotel bars go for the dark, leather-upholstered version of a luxury lounge, WXYZ’s vibe is designed to be visually stimulating. Paired with a cocktail menu brimming with tasty creations, plus live music and billiards, this hotel bar makes for a totally rad hang, even if you aren’t headed up the elevator to a suite at last call.

Craft Cocktail 

Readers’ choice: The Usual, 1408 W Magnolia Av, 817-810-0114

Critic’s choice: The Usual

If you thought this pioneering Prohibition-era cocktail lounge was resting on its reputation, you clearly haven’t visited in a while. The menu is ever-changing, incorporating the latest national trends, adventurous experiments, and cutting-edge ingredients. The West Magnolia staple serves a broad range of drinks, from tiki-inspired fruity concoctions to more traditional offerings. Everything is made with the best possible ingredients by careful, caring hands. We’ll toast to that.

Rooftop Patio

Readers’ choice: Reata Restaurant, 310 Houston St, 817-336-1009

Critic’s choice: Reata Restaurant

Although Reata is no longer the only game in town for downtown rooftop patios, the Sundance Square favorite boasts three levels, all with different views of the scenic skyscape.  And there are several areas of cover from the sun, which comes in handy when the Texas fall backtracks into summer over and over again.

Distillery

Readers’ choice: BlackEyed Distilling, 503 Bryan Av, 817-349-9977

Critic’s choice: BlackEyed Distilling

BlackEyed cofounders Scott Billings and Todd Gregory keep a watchful eye on their vodka, from the moment the black-eyed peas and other grains are grown until the final steps, when the mash is fermented and distilled 22 times. It’s a method called “farm to bottle,” and the painstaking quality control comes through in each silky-smooth sip. The founding duo has racked up some noteworthy hardware since opening two years ago, including double gold at both the 2019 Proof Awards and the 2017 Global Spirits Awards. Vodka still has a steep hill to climb to reach whiskey- and bourbon-levels of fame — this is TX Whiskey country, after all — but Fort Worth’s vodka game is a regional contender. Watch out, Tito’s. They’re coming for you.

Bar Bar

Readers’ choice: Chat Room Pub, 1263 W Magnolia Av, 817-922-8319

Critic’s choice: Tricia’s Rock House, 5137 Azle Av, 817-740-9799 

Tricia’s is set in a Texas stone house, all 1,000 square feet or thereabouts, turned one-room bar. Bud, Bud Light, and Ziegenbock are on tap with the usual domestic suspects in the fridge and setups. The eponymous Miss Tricia is an old-school host, working the room to ensure all her patrons are happy. This place offers karaoke without equal, emceed by honey-voiced Andrew. Tricia’s will feel like home but with great singers and the ability to get super drunk while being charmed by a southern belle.

Beer Selection

Critic’s choice: Bearded Lady, 300 S Main St, 817-349-9832

This newly reopened venue has clearly given careful consideration to its all-new beer selection. Local thirst-quenchers Rahr’s Adios Pantalones and Wild Acre’s Texas Blonde cuddle up with weightier offerings both local and national. Houston’s SpindleTap Heavy Hands is a noteworthy imperial at 8 percent ABV. The Avery White Rascal from Boulder, Colorado, is a crisp witbier worth checking out. The rotating beer selection is stocked with regional and seasonal variations.

Trivia Night

Readers’ choice: World of Beer, 3252 W 7th St, 682-708-7021

Critic’s choice: The Ginger Man, Town Square, 1512 E Southlake Blvd, Southlake, 817-778-8846

On Wednesdays at 7:30pm, this Ginger Man hosts a themed trivia night that’ll challenge your nerd knowledge. Recent competitions have included Harry Potter and Stranger Things. Hostess Sarah Greenstein will keep you guessing with original questions (no boxed trivia cards here), and the waitstaff will keep the IPAs flowing while you duke it out.

Gentlemen’s Club 

Readers’ choice: Bucks Cabaret, 2345 Meacham Blvd, 817-740-0026

Critic’s choice: Bucks Cabaret

Bucks is the gold standard for cleanliness and comfort at a strip joint. The place is classy without feeling stuffy, the bartenders and cocktail waitresses are polite and prompt, the amply portioned food really is good, and the place’s gorgeous ladies are all accommodating but never pushy. For a nudie bar, the drinks are actually reasonably priced, especially at happy hour.

Exotic Dancer

Critic’s choice: Lynn at Rick’s Cabaret, 7101 Calmont Av, 817-732-0000

The lovely, longhaired, dimpled Lynn works most Friday nights at Rick’s and gives customers the girlfriend experience, meaning she makes you feel loved and exclusive for a little while. If you return a week or two later, she will most likely remember you and make you feel special all over again.

Get the girlfriend experience with Lynn at Rick’s Cabaret. Photo by Ryan Burger

New Bar

Readers’ choice: Yellow Rose Saloon, 2813 S Cherry Ln, 682-224-1694

Critic’s choice: Punch Bowl Social, 1100 Foch St, 817-769-8109

Lots of bowling alleys serve pizza and beer. This one serves duck confit and La Quercia prosciutto, plus a wide array of both classic and newly invented cocktails and even microbrewed sodas and juices for the health-conscious. All this, plus you can watch the big game on TVs over the bar and play games of every stripe. Say hello to the new cool hangout spot in the West 7th corridor.

Pub

Readers’ choice: Conlon’s Pub, 2528 White Settlement Rd, 817-698-9777

Critic’s choice: Oscar’s Pub, 6323 Camp Bowie Blvd, Ste 125, 817-732-3833

This is an American pub in the best sense of the term. Clean and well-lighted, Oscar’s also features crack bartenders, bargain basement-cheap drinks, and a popcorn machine. And don’t forget the excellent all-you-can-eat brunch with mimosas on Sundays. While that may slightly undermine the definition of “pub,” it’s a nice touch that wins us over every time.

Cheap Buzz

Critic’s choices:

 If you’re clinging to the weekend, Sunday nights at Off the Record (715 W Magnolia Av) features karaoke and $3 Espolon tequila, Deep Eddy vodkas, and Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey. Chase away your case of the Mondays at the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium (111 E 3rd St, 817-336-7470), when all drafts are a mere $4. On Tuesdays, have some Arlingfun at the Sunshine Bar (902 W Division St, 817-277-6252), where wells drinks are $1.50 and well shots are $2.50. Wednesday evening brewery tours at Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. (701 Galveston Av, 817-810-9266) offers you three pints for $15 –– and you get to keep your glass. Finally, Tequila Thursdays at Buffalo Bros. (3015 S University Dr, 817-386-9601) are home to half-price frozen drinks, $4 shots of any tequila, $5 ’ritas on the rocks, and $6 margs made with Patrón.

Bouncer 

Critic’s choice: Cesar Gonzalez, Chat Room Pub, 1263 W Magnolia Av, 817-922-8319

It takes a special breed of bouncer to maintain order at this wheels-off West Magnolia watering hole, but Cesar Gonzales possesses the right demeanor to tame all those riled-up Chat Rats after they’ve tossed back a few. He’s a picture of professional, polite calmness –– even when he’s breaking up an argument over the jukebox or escorting a troublemaking hipster to the curb. The Chat doesn’t need a bouncer on most nights, but you’ll be glad he’s there on the rare occasion someone loses their cool.  

Club DJ

Critic’s choice: DJ Databass (Mike Agilo)

Wherever DJ Databass sets up, a party breaks out. Specializing in old-school hip-hop, R&B, and soul, this wizard of wax spins tunes engineered to get your hips moving. If you feel like working up a sweat on the dance floor, find out where Agilo is spinning and go loosen your caboose.

Dance Club

Critic’s choice: Studio Eighty, 500 Taylor St, 817-332-4833

With two dance floors, a VIP area, an outdoor patio, live DJs, and a fashion room, Fort Worth’s only all-’80s dance club feels like a chic New York discotheque from the Reagan years. The crowds are huge, the tunes are bumping, and everyone is ready to party in this fun, electrifying atmosphere where everyone is welcome. 

Karaoke

Readers’ choice: Sarah’s Place, 5223 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-731-7337

Critic’s choice: Sam’s Saloon, 2456 N Houston St, 817-378-8956

From its rundown nuclear shelter exterior surrounded by trucks on uneven ground to the mind-melting shambles of its decor, Sam’s promises exactly what it delivers: a let-it-all-hang-out, come-as-you-are party room of live singers, buckets of beers, and boozy setups. This is a hard-drinking, love-singing, you’ll-have-forgotten-most-of-it-by-morning kind of place that can’t be beat.

Country Music Bar

Critic’s choice: Lil’ Red’s Longhorn Saloon, 121 W Exchange Av, 817-740-0078

Lil’ Red’s is a classic dancehall-style bar that hosts live bands on the weekends, playing a range of country classics for boot scooting. At the bar, there is a wide selection of bottled and canned beers and a decent array of liquor. The focus is in and around the dance floor, where table service means you’ll never miss a tune.

Biker Bar

Critic’s choice: Fuel 2.0, 2616 E Belknap St, 817-831-3835

This large biker-friendly bar is most often about half full of legit bikers wearing some combination of biker gear. The well-stocked bar serves unconscionably strong mixed drinks from the well and shelf. Weekends boast themed karaoke, including pirate and cowboy versions. Regulars and drop-ins belt out tunes ranging from Sabbath all the way to Ozzy. Occasionally, someone commits the rookie error of singing a ballad or country tune. Most folks take this as an opportunity to pop out for a cigarette. Bar staff are super friendly and always open for the craic and another stiff pour.

Brewery

Readers’ choice: Martin House Brewing Company, 220 S Sylvania Av, Ste 209, 817-222-0177

Critic’s choice: HopFusion Ale Works, 200 E Broadway Av, 682-841-1721

One million. That’s how many cans of Feisty Blonde have been sold since Hop Fusion opened three years ago. Cofounders Matt Hill and Macy Moore deserve kudos, not just for their superlative beers but for the chill, family-friendly brewery space they’ve built and managed. The Near Southside brewery regularly hosts meet-ups, dog-friendly events, karaoke nights, beer yoga, and other fun themed events. HopFusion also recently launched Hop2Go, an indoor growler fill station that sells sixers, growlers, and large recyclable plastic kegs to-go. 

Taproom Tour

Critic’s choice: Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., 701 Galveston Av, 817-810-9266

Rahr was doing taproom tours long before they were a thing in North Texas. The tours are low-key day parties that feature live music, food trucks, and lots of beer. The Near Southside events feature one-off custom pint glasses, a rotating selection of fun and quirky themes, and charitable giving. The taproom tours are largely manned by volunteers. Every dollar that goes into their tip jar goes directly into the coffers of a needy charity. Rahr’s tours are held on Saturdays (1-3pm) and Wednesdays (5-7:30pm). 

 Craft Beer

Readers’ choice: Martin House Brewing Company, 220 S Sylvania Av, Ste 209, 817-222-0177

Critic’s choice: Martin House Brewing Company’s Parker County Peach

The first year Martin House released Parker County Peach, the fruit beer sold out across shelves within a few weeks. Martin House scores a lot of homeruns with its extensive list of seasonals and micro-seasonal releases. (We hear the Martin House Best Maid Pickle Beer is a big dill.) Several factors make Parker County Peach a standout success, though. First, the ale plays well to Fort Worth’s base. We love our neighbor county’s annual peach festival. While some fruit beers go too sweet or too bland, Martin House’s version strikes a balance. The wheat base imparts a flavor backbone that’s akin to a mild hefeweizen, and there’s just the perfect tinge of bitterness, thanks to a dusting of Columbus hops. If there was ever a perfect beer, this just might be it. Grab a can and see what all the fuzz, er, buzz is about.

Overall Drinking Establishment

Critic’s choice: Lola’s Trailer Park, 2735 W 5th St, 817-759-9100

This indoor-outdoor bar and concert venue is the ideal place to sit back and enjoy domestic and craft beers or a mixed drink poured by the place’s stable of able barkeeps. Summer Wednesdays bring free live country gigs, there is karaoke all year round on Thursdays, and the stage hosts an eclectic lineup of bands most Friday evenings and all day and night on Saturdays. Come for the cool hangout vibe. Stay for the great service.

Martini

Readers’ choice: Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar, 5289 Marathon Av, 817-764-0025

Critic’s choice: Blue Sushi, 3131 W 7th St, 817-332-2583

There are a baker’s dozen martinis on the menu at Blue Sushi. You’ll find everything from classic gin or vodka martinis decorated with blue cheese-stuffed olives to cutesy options like the key lime pie ’tini. And because this is a sushi joint, there are a couple of sake martinis for good measure. Best of all, during the generous happy hour – all day Sunday, early and late weeknights – the signature drinks are just $7.50 a pop.

Cocktail Lounge

Readers’ choice: The Usual, 1408 W Magnolia Av, 817-810-0114

Critic’s choice: Blackland Distillery, 2616 Weisenberger St, 682-268-5333

The only thing more refined than the interior of Blackland Distillery is the cocktails. Bar manager Jeremy Olivier works with Blackland spirits to push Fort Worth’s cocktail palate with apéritifs, cordials, botanical infusions, and anise liquor, among others. The dimly lit space is a trifecta of posh, swanky, and classy. 

Bartender

Readers’ choice: Erin Botts

Critic’s choice: David “Catfish” Flores, several locations

Catfish is the party. As a fixture at a number of Near Southside bars over the past few years, he boasts a reputation as a legendary raconteur who is way more than just everyone’s new best friend. ’Fish mixes a great drink, whether you are looking for his signature paloma or michelada or something special. Catch him at Upper 90 on Magnolia Mondays and at his new weekend home at Corporate Image.  

“Catfish” does more than just open beer bottles. Photo by Kasi Daine

Sports Bar

Readers’ choice: Buffalo Bros., multiple locations

Critic’s choice: Flips Patio Grill, 6613 Fossil Bluff Dr, Ste 6580, 817-847-4424

The food and service are always on point, and with two full bars and about a million TVs, Flips is ideal for a Sunday afternoon during football season or a summer night when your fightin’ Texas Rangers are on. In an era when nearly every bar thinks it’s a sports bar because of the miracle of television, Flips reminds you that rah-rah spirit isn’t just a state of mind but an overall experience.

Bar Games

Readers’ choice: Kung Fu Saloon, 2818 Morton St, 817-873-8900

Critic’s choice: Game Theory, 804 S Main St, 817-203-4217

Tough to choose between this spot and Punch Bowl Social, which is great fun. However, we give the edge to Game Theory because it’s locally owned instead of being part of a national chain, as well as for the sheer number of board games that they have on offer – we guarantee that you haven’t heard of some of their games, let alone played them. The analog vibe of this place and its range of bespoke cocktails add to its charm.

Margarita

Readers’ choice: Joe T. Garcia’s, 2201 N Commerce St, 817-626-4356

Critic’s choice: Esperanza’s, 1601 Park Place Av, 817-923-1961

This is a thorny subject, right? Do you want a craft marg mixed from scratch for north of $12? That’s your inalienable right. This year’s award goes to a marg of the people – a $7.95 gangbusters blend of Cazadores Reposado and house mix served frozen or on the rocks in a chunky smoked glass. Two of these delicious diablos will blow your huaraches clean off. After all, that is surely what margaritas are all about.

BYOB Venue

Critic’s choice: Office Bar, 2804 E Belknap St, Ste 4127, 817-831-9806

The Office is as unassuming and lacking in promise from without as it is full of surprises within. The joint has a reverse TARDIS effect, being smaller inside than it appears from the street. Bring liquor, belly up to the bar or a high table, and settle in as the warming embrace of alcohol meets the atmosphere of a friendly local pub where regular folks are chatting and laughing at the end of their workweek.  

Party Patio

Readers’ choice: Joe T. Garcia’s, 2201 N Commerce St, 817-626-4356

Critic’s choice: America Gardens, 2833 Morton St, 817-439-9660

Live oaks keep their leaves year-round, meaning there is usually a welcome slice of shade to relax under while visiting this large party patio nestled securely inside the West 7th area. Throw in some socially interactive outdoor games, booze, and abundant members of the opposite (or same) sex milling around, and this is the patio to beat.  

Open-Mic Night

Critic’s choice: Excursions on a Wobbly Rail with Cameron Smith, MASS, 1002 S Main St, 682-707-7774

Cameron Smith (Sur Duda, War Party) hosts an atypical open-mic night that begins at 9:30pm on Tuesdays. Not every hack with a guitar and a dream is awarded an opportunity to play. Instead, Smith invites musician friends he knows to play a few tunes during the first hour of the evening and then allows a special guest to perform an entire set during the second hour. Smith refers to the weekly event as “door ajar mic” rather than “open-mic” night. We applaud the quality control.

Comedy Night 

Readers’ choice: Laugh Your MASS Off, MASS, 1002 S Main St, 682-707-7774

Critic’s choice: Arlington Improv pen-mic night, 309 Curtis Mathes Way, Ste 147, Arl, 817-635-5555

Every Tuesday night, aspiring comics gather at the Arlington Highlands for Arlington Improv’s open-mic night. The result: clubgoers enjoy a fun night out, happy hour drink specials, and a good laugh in the Improv’s laidback atmosphere. You might even get to see the next big name in comedy while you’re there. The show starts at 7pm.

Comedy Club

Readers’ choice: Hyena’s Comedy Club, 425 Commerce St, 817-877-5233

Critic’s choice: MASS, 1002 S Main St, 682-707-7774

Yes, MASS is mainly a music venue, but ask mid-level touring comics where they like to land when they’re cruising through North Texas, and they’ll likely mention the vault-like venue next to the milk factory in South Main Village. Thanks in no small part to local comedian Brian Breckenridge and his Laugh Your MASS Off comedy nights, MASS has become a major stop on the local standup circuit.

Concert of Last 12 Months

Readers’ choice: Fortress Festival

Critic’s choice: Valhalla Festival at Lola’s Saloon, 2736 W 6th St, 817-877-0666

It’s incredibly tragic that the best concert of the year came out of the untimely passing of Dove Hunter frontman Jayson Wortham, but Valhalla Festival honored the late, great songwriter with a massive lineup of some of North Texas’ most legendary and revered bands. The show was co-headlined by dearly missed Doosu and rarely appearing Sub Oslo, both of whom delivered thrilling, hypnotic, high-volume sets. The performances were white-hot and emotionally charged, and the rapport between the bands and the audience was so tight, you could practically call it telepathic communion. 

Loud Band

Critic’s choice: Duell

What’s the point of having three guitarists in a band if they don’t bring the heavy artillery? Duell’s triple-axe attack comes roaring out of a wall of full-stacks dialed up to earth-shaking levels, drowning audiences in a glorious tsunami of high-gain hard rock riffage.

Dressed Band

Critic’s choice: Meach Pango

Meach Pango wants you to party. To drive home that point, the band pairs its brand of hooky power-pop with onstage attire that’s as loud and captivating as their choruses. Each member dresses in a chromatic succession of color. If you’re partying hard enough, you might get the impression that a pack of markers has come alive and learned to play instruments, but even if you’re sober, the visual pop of their live-show sartorialism guarantees you won’t forget them.

Place to … 

Catch Live Music

Readers’ choice: Lola’s Trailer Park, 2735 W 5th St, 817-759-9100

Critic’s choice: Scat Jazz Lounge, 111 W 4th St, Ste 11, 817-870-9100

Scat is the place to be if you’re a jazz or blues lover in Fort Worth. The atmosphere alone is worth the trip – dim lighting, candlelit tables, live music, and an amazing sound system. To find this trendy venue in Sundance Square, go down the alley off 4th Street to the flashing neon light that looks like something out of a film noir. Take the elevator down, and you’ll suddenly find yourself in an old-school New York-style club. You won’t find obnoxious beer brand signs or rowdy frat guys at Scat, making this a fun spot for the discerning music lover.

Get Sidetracked

Critic’s choice: Fred’s Texas Cafe, 915 Currie St, 817-332-0083

Though we heard we’re just a “liberal rag” at this venerated institution (the truth hurts, we suppose), we run into lots of great distractions here. Wiping off the remains of a scrumptious Fredburger with cheese, we are delighted on certain days and nights by either the performer or band (of a folky, country bent mostly) onstage on the patio or the regulars and servers. Or both. In the sea of Dallas-birthed bars, clubs, and restaurants which is the West 7th corridor, Fred’s still bears the Funkytown standard proudly and excellently. Long may it reign.

Have a Conversation

Critic’s choice: Avoca Coffee Roasters, 1311 W Magnolia Av, 817-924-1514

Inside, you can sit at a table with other folks and work on your laptop while gabbing and sipping fresh-brewed joe. Or you can flop on the couches or plush chairs and feel right at home while getting to know a friendly stranger. But our favorite place to sit, sip, and chat is at the wooden picnic tables in the front parking lot that provide a pleasant view of the slow-moving traffic along Magnolia, one of the prettiest retail strips in town.  

Meet Someone of the Opposite Sex 

Critic’s choice: MUTTS Canine Cantina, 5317 Clearfork Main St, 817-377-0151

You might be too shy to talk to him or her, but your pooch isn’t. Let your labradoodle do the walkin’ while you nervously initiate the talkin’ at this Clearfork watering hole. The dog park/restaurant/cantina offers ample conversation starters, like, “What’s your dog’s name?” and “Why, that’s a nice dog you have there.” We encourage you to think of better icebreakers, but if you’re interested in taking a break from the singles market, schnauzer chance. 

Play a different kind of fetch at Mutt’s. Photo by Crystal Wise

Meet Someone of the Same Sex

Critic’s choice: Club Reflection, 604 S Jennings Av, 817-870-8867

Reflection is all party all the time. With drag shows, a packed dance floor, plenty of hangout space, and a party-pumping soundtrack, if you can’t find someone DTF, or at least to swap numbers, you might well be doing it wrong.

Break Up

Critic’s choice: Fort Worth Botanic Garden, 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd, 817-392-5510

The standard idea for breaking up with a lover is to do it in a loud place with lots of booze and plenty of potential instant rebound partners. That certainly works better than breaking up at a firing range, for instance. But then you realize that this partner whom you are dumping gave you some wonderful times, so what better place to do the deed than in the beauty of the Botanic Garden. Sneak in a bottle of champagne and take a walk around the Japanese Garden, and then tell them how much they meant to you and that you will always love them, even if from afar. And if that doesn’t work, take them to a loud bar and move on to being friends with benefits.

Take a First Date (to Impress)

Readers’ choice: Fort Worth Axe Factory, 220 S Sylvania Av, Unit 110, 682-499-6639

Critic’s choice: Thompson’s Bookstore, 900 Houston St, 817-882-8003

This cocktail joint located in the historic Vybek building downtown features an elegant Prohibition-era vibe that can’t be beat. Drinks are strong, which makes the high price tag understandable. Do your research before heading out, and you might find the password that gets you into the hidden speakeasy downstairs –– but you didn’t hear that from us.

Take a First Date (to Go Crazy)

Readers’ choice: Fort Worth Axe Factory, 220 S Sylvania Av, Unit 110, 682-499-6639

Critic’s choice: Metroplex Wrestling, 510 Harwood Rd, Bedford, 682-422-9452

What better way to see if your date is capable of wilding out than while watching amateur wrestling characters insult and pummel each other in the heart of the Mid-Cities. At Metroplex Wrestling, the quality of the show is directly proportional to how loud the crowd roars, making it a perfect spot for you and the object of your affections to go nucking futs.

Drink with Locals

Readers’ choice: Chat Room Pub, 1263 W Magnolia Av, 817-922-8319

Critic’s choice: Malone’s Pub, 1303 Calhoun St, 817-332-5330

If you don’t love Malone’s, you’re probably not from Fort Worth. All walks of life mingle at this cozy pub nestled on an unassuming corner on the outskirts of downtown. The bartenders are fast and friendly, the drinks are cheap, the jukebox is non-electronic, and you can actually hear enough to hold a conversation. If you want to eschew schmaltzy Texas-themed decor, TCU rah-rah, Near Southside hipsters, West 7th dude-bros, and downtown tourists, check out this place where regular locals come to keep it real. 

Drink with Celebs

Critic’s choice:  Grace, 777 Main St, 817-877-3388

Harrison Ford loves this place. Han Fucking Solo. Why wouldn’t he? The food is amazing, the drinks are spectacular, and the environs are swanky. If it’s good enough for Indiana Jones, maybe you should check it out and wait for him to come back. We hear he’s really nice. Just don’t bother him while he’s eating.

Day Drink

Readers’ choice: Chat Room Pub, 1263 W Magnolia Av, 817-922-8319

Critic’s choice: Funky Picnic Brewery & Cafe, 401 Bryan Av, Ste 117, 817-708-2739

We’re not in some cool, old city where dive bars open at 9am and stay open ’til last call, where you can roll out of bed, grab a stool, sit in peace with maybe two or three other barflies, and try to keep yourself from watching the horrible daytime TV overhead. We live in a thriving, semi-healthy contemporary city where the best you can hope for is a cool bartender around lunchtime. And maybe some healthy snacks. Enter: Funky Picnic. The South Main brewery serves not only delicious brews but also some tasty eats. Grab a stool at the L-shaped bar and get your day-drink on with some friendly regulars and off-duty staffers. Funky Picnic is open 11am-10pm Wed-Sat and 10am-8pm Sun.

Drink Alone

Critic’s choice: Malone’s Pub, 1303 Calhoun St, 817-332-5330

It’s dark, and while they don’t serve food, they deliver excellent pints and pour a good shot. This downtown staple boasts a great wooden bar, it’s laid back, and it’s not too heavy on the television screens –– just the right place when you want a couple of drinks and a little time to think without a lot of distractions.

Watch a Movie

Readers’ choice: Coyote Drive-In, 223 NE 4th St, 817-717-7767

Critic’s choice: Alamo Drafthouse, 3220 Town Center Tr, Denton, 940-220-4900

In the past 12 months, the Austin movie chain has placed two locations in our area, and what an addition they’ve been. Both of them boast a well-stocked bar and servers who bring food (superior to every other dine-in theater’s fare) to every seat in the house. The one in Denton gets the nod over the one in Richland Hills because it was one of the few places locally showing Suspiria and Mandy. Did we mention pre-show entertainment that’s tailored to the film that it precedes? A supercut of Nicolas Cage cackling for five straight minutes is oddly fun.

Have an Eye Opener

Critic’s choice: Fixture Kitchen and Social Lounge, 401 W Magnolia Av, 817-708-2663

Opening at 11am on weekdays and 10am on weekends, Fixture offers the hair of the dog or the start of an epic session. Choose from a half-dozen craft beers on tap, a range of well-mixed cocktail classics and inventions, and a thorough list of West Coast wine varietals to start a buzz or wash down any of the kitchen’s delicious food offerings. Any day you start at this West Magnolia eatery is bound to be great.

Have a Nightcap

Critic’s choice: The Basement Lounge, 6323 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-932-9877

Nestled behind Oscar’s Pub and down a flight of stairs, the Basement Lounge’s off-the-radar location and 21st century-modern atmosphere is an inviting stop when you’re winding down the night –– even more so when you sip on one of the bar’s inventive hand-crafted cocktails.

Nurse a Hangover 

Critic’s choice: Magnolia Motor Lounge, 3005 Morton St, 817-332-3344

When you’ve come down with a case of the Irish flu, the best thing you can do for your body is ply it with mimosas, Bloody Marys, waffle sandwiches, and/or honey butter biscuits with chicken. With its combination of nurturing booze and energy-restoring brunch fare, MML will allow you to forget the night you can’t remember and start it all over again.

Shoot Pool

Critic’s choice: Puckett’s Pool Hall, 5707 Crowley Rd, St A, 817-293-8286

Don’t let the ramshackle strip-mall exterior fool you. Walking into this pool hall is a bit like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia. The space is open, vast, and clean. The drinks are cheap, the service is great, the cues are straight, and there are plenty of well-maintained tables for sharks and novices alike. The place also hosts karaoke night and offers other non-pool-related fun for everyone.

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