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Readers’ Choice: The Down ’n Out, 150 W Rosedale St, Fort Worth

Critic’s Choices (Top 5): All of our favorite holes in the wall just so happen to be located on the Near Southside, probably because the neighborhood is hip, chill, and, for the most part, safe. And while most of our choices aren’t walking distance from one another, let it be known that we have made the circuit numerous times in single evenings. (Thanks, Trinity Metro!) We’re not going to map a route for you — ain’t got that kinda time. Just know that these joints are fun to hit in any order, including, as it were, alphabetically.

The Boiled Owl Tavern (909 W Magnolia Av, Fort Worth, 817-920-9616) has that certain undefinable, lived-in quality that demands you surrender to it — and to a few Lone Stars. The shadowy, comfy space is warm and charming while at the same time electric. The Chat Room Pub (1263 W Magnolia Av, Fort Worth) may just be one big room and a slanted patio, but the excellent service, affordable hooch, and cool customers make this Magnolia pioneer Chat-tastic. Liberty Lounge (515 S Jennings Av, Fort Worth) is not just a queer-friendly escape. This shabby-chic spot is open to everyone, and everyone is welcome. Nickel City (212 S Main St, Ste 100, Fort Worth) deserves props for not only serving scrumptious Rust Belt comfort food (the fried bologna sandwich is so good) but also for boasting the most gorgeous vintage bar in North Texas, manned by a crack team of bartenders. Nearby Twilite Lounge (212 Lipscomb St, Fort Worth, 817-720-5483) is luxuriously cozy, perfect for either a date night or a stag outing. Or for an interview with a vampire.

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Bartender

Readers’ Choice: Jason McKay, Old Texas Brewing Company, 6333 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth, 817-386-0752

Critic’s Choice: Darrel Perkins, Sarah’s Place, 5223 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth, 817-731-7337

There are no bad bartenders at the Westside institution that is Sarah’s Place, but Darrel Perkins stands out. Not only will he remember what you like to drink, he specializes in small talk that doesn’t feel like small talk, more like real talk between real friends. Most importantly, he makes single women having a solo drink feel safe, secure, and welcome whether they’re unwinding after a day at the office or watching karaoke on a packed Saturday night.

Sarah’s Place bartender Darrel Perkins (left) is the best for a variety of reasons, including for making solo women feel safe.
Courtesy Facebook

 

Beer Selection

Readers’ Choice: The Bearded Lady, 300 S Main St, Fort Worth, 817-349-9832

Critic’s Choice: Southside Cellar, 125 S Main St, Fort Worth, 682-703-2184

Shawn Howell knows a thing or two about beer. The Southside Cellar owner loves getting heady about frothy brews. After two decades in the suds industry, he can tell you the minutiae of styles and the history of the breweries that fermented the craft delights. The staff is equally adept at guiding visitors toward craft-beer nirvana. Dozens of brews on tap go from lagers and stouts to more adventurous wild ales and hopped-up NEIPAs. An adjacent retail store can help you stock up on your favorite new brews while the backdoor cellar specializes in ultra-rare and ultra-boozy beers for that special night out or get-together.

 

Bloody Mary

Readers’ Choice: The Bearded Lady, 300 S Main St, Fort Worth, 817-349-9832

Critic’s Choice: Lola’s Fort Worth, 2000 W Berry St, Fort Worth

The outrageous accoutrements are fun, we admit, but sometimes when you just want to get the party started right, a no-nonsense Bloody Mary is called for, and they don’t come any no-nonsense-r (?) than the blood red-hued delight at our favorite venue of all time. Tasty, zesty, strong but not biting, and spiced to your level, Lola’s Bloody Mary is a must any morning but goes down especially smooth before kickoff on the big screen. Talk about seizing the day.

 

Brewery

Readers’ Choice: Neutral Ground Brewing Company, 2929 Race St,

Fort Worth, 682-499-6033

Critic’s Choice: Martin House Brewing Company, 220 S Sylvania Av, Fort Worth, 817-222-0177

Cheers to pioneering craft breweries like Anchor (R.I.P.), Sierra Nevada, and Rahr for introducing folks to better beer. Martin House is a modern brewery — part of the new wave — that serves delicious craft suds that are often only beer-adjacent. Martin House’s deep portfolio includes bold flavors such as hot dog, ranch dipping sauce, and *gulp* mayonnaise, all of which reminds us that there’s nothing wrong with making a damn pickle beer. Life can be hard. Beer shouldn’t be. So say the good folks at Martin House Brewing Company.

 

Comedy Club

Readers’ Choice: Hyena’s Comedy Night Club, 425 Commerce St,

Fort Worth, 817-877-5233

Critic’s Choice: Hyena’s

Even after all these years, Fort Worth’s longest-running comedy club is still the place for popular working comedians like Greg Fitzsimmons, on-the-rise talent like Rene Vaca, and the best of the local scene, many of whom come up through the regular Thursday night open-mic in Hyena’s Red Room.

 

Comedy Open-Mic Night

Readers’ Choice: Claws Out Comedy, ClawsOutComedy.com/OpenMics, multiple locations

Critic’s Choice: STFU, Twilite Lounge, 212 Lipscomb St, Fort Worth, 817-720-5483

Hosted every Wednesday night by Claws Out Comedy’s Monna, STFU is the best entry point into the local standup comedy scene, where local funny folk can woodshed new material and learn the ropes in front of a regular audience of fellow up-and-comers and people who enjoy watching beginning chuckleheads wiggle their way through a not-so-tight 5 while waiting for the night’s featured comic to take the stage. Laughing? Cringing? A little of both? That’s the point.

 

Craft Cocktail

Readers’ Choice: Thompson’s Bookstore, 900 Houston St, Fort Worth, 817-882-8003

Critic’s Choices (Top 5): Blackland Distillery (2616 Weisenberger St, Fort Worth, 682-268-5333) mixes one helluva martini. Their Texpresso Yourself, a lovely amalgam of Blackland’s popular Texas Pecan Brown Sugar Bourbon, cold-brew coffee, and house-made coffee liqueur, leaves a lingering hint of pecan pie. Branch & Bird (Frost Bank Building, 640 Taylor St, Fort Worth, 682-785-8888) serves a perfectly balanced Kahlua-based delight steeped in java goodness. This espresso martini offshoot is mildly sweet, boozy, and delicious. On the lighter (but by no means less well-crafted) side, the Milwaukee Spritz at Jackie O’s (609 S Jennings Av, Fort Worth) is a blue-collar blend of High Life, Aperol, and fresh lemon juice. The trifecta results in a light and refreshing sipper that’s the perfect opener or closer to pretty much any day of the week. Lovely, dark, and deep, the Black Manhattan at Musume is a quiet storm of rose, orange, and pure bourbon heaven. Along with the piped-in trance music and the sushi here (Sandman Signature Fort Worth Downtown Hotel, 810 Houston St, Fort Worth, 682-842-9355), Musume’s special libations are a treat for the senses. Rusty Nickel IceHouse (2836 Stanley Av, Fort Worth, 817-528-1682) whips up a lovely variant of the trending caffeinated ’tini, this one mixed from espresso and Licor 43, the cinnamon-, anise-, and vanilla-tinged Latin liqueur increasingly appearing on local bar shelves due to popular demand.

 

Dance Club

Readers’ Choice: Halo’s Bar & Grill ft. Rainbow 2.0, 3500 Alta Mesa Dr,

Fort Worth, 682-250-2923

Critic’s Choice: Old School Texas, 2528 Jacksboro Hwy, Fort Worth,

817-349-8030

From country and cumbia to reggaeton and classic pop, the Northside’s Old School Texas is always a party. Put your workweek hassles to the side to make room for Old School’s cheap drinks, loud music, and a fit and fashionable crowd that’s always down for a good time.

Northside’s Old School Texas is always a party.
Courtesy OldSchoolTexas.com/Fort-Worth

 

Distillery

Readers’ Choice: Blackland Distilling, 2616 Weisenberger St, Fort Worth, 682-268-5333

Critic’s Choice: Blackland Distilling

Markus Kypreos has built an enviable portfolio of fine spirits. As the owner of Foundry District-based Blackland, Krypreos, along with head distiller Ezra Cox, have gifted the region the choicest vodkas, gins, bourbons, and whiskeys — all distilled from grain grown on the Blackland Prairie that covers much of North Texas. Blackland also boasts one of the swankiest tasting rooms in the area, where classic and original cocktails feature generous use of Blackland spirits.

 

Dog-Friendly Patio

Readers’ Choice: The Bearded Lady, 300 S Main St, Fort Worth, 817-349-9832

Critic’s Choice: Fort Brewery, 2737 Tillar St, Fort Worth, 817-923-8000

Not only are dogs welcome on the patio at Fort Brewery, but they have their own special Mutt Menu. Options range from the Basic Woofer for $6 (chicken and brown rice) to the Spoiled Rex bone-in ribeye dinner for $65. There’s even a Yappy Hour 3pm-6pm Wed-Fri with 50% off the Mutt Menu, plus a dollar off beers and 50% off select appetizers for “pawrents.” Sounds like the best doggone deal in town!

Not only are they welcome on the patio at Fort Brewery, but dogs like Tucker here have their own special Mutt Menu.
Courtesy Facebook

 

Drag Show

Readers’ Choice: Patrick Mikyles, Drag With Me The Show

Critic’s Choice: Thirsty Thursday, 1851 Club, 931 W Division St, Arlington, 817-642-5554

Featuring local favorites like Kiana Lee, Candi Carroll, and Nia Courtland, Thirsty Thursday is open to all talents, so even if you’re new and your sass needs work, there’s a place for you at 1851 every week, as well as shot specials, should your act require a little more courage.

Featuring local favorites like Kiana Lee (pictured), Candi Carroll, and Nia Courtland, Thirsty Thursday at 1851 Club is open to all talents.
Courtesy Facebook

 

Happy Hour

Readers’ Choice: Halo’s Bar & Grill ft. Rainbow 2.0, 3500 Alta Mesa Dr,

Fort Worth, 682-250-2923

Critics’ Choice: Blue Sushi Sake Grill, 3131 W 7th St, Fort Worth, 817-332-2583

Although one could argue that any hour spent stuffing one’s face with really good sushi is a happy one, Blue Sushi generously discounts most beverages every day. Monday through Saturday, mosey into the bar from 2pm ’til 5:30 for the special pricing. Sundays, it’s $6 house lime margaritas, $4 house wines, and $8 martinis all day. From noon to 9pm, but who’s splitting hairs. Also included in these happiest of hours –– delightful appetizers, shared plates, sashimi, maki, and dessert, all at discounted prices.

 

Hotel Bar

Readers’ Choice: The Lobby Bar, Hotel Dryce, 3621 Byers Av, Fort Worth, 844-289-1224

Critic’s Choice: The Lobby Bar

One of Funkytown’s funkiest spots, the boutique Hotel Dryce with its  spectacular view of the Cultural District, has the funkiest lobby bar –– and we mean that in the best way possible. There’s always something going on. Between the bring-your-own-records for Community Vinyl Night (10% off your tab if you arrive with your favorite platter), the occasional sunset yoga night (10% off the tab for those who flow), guest DJs, and even a strong mocktail menu –– $2 off your dry(ce) cocktail, anyone? –– you could spend hours here soaking up the scene and feeling a lot cooler than you actually may be.

If you happen to be at Hotel Dryce on a Wednesday, enjoy Sunset Yoga on the patio at 7:15pm.
Courtesy Facebook

 

Karaoke Night

Readers’ Choice: Yupp’s Karaoke Bar, 4111 Wedgway Dr, Fort Worth, 817-346-2449

Critic’s Choice: Sarah’s Place, 5223 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth,

817-731-7337

Whether your go-to song is classic country or ’90s alternative, you’ll have the crowd’s support every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday at Sarah’s Place, your favorite bartender’s favorite bar and nearly perennial Readers’ Choice for karaoke. No matter how popular Sarah’s gets (and trust us, the secret is out), the bar’s friendly neighborhood vibe persists, service is prompt, and a double-tall of your favorite spirit is as affordable as ever. At the end of the night, don’t be surprised to find yourself with your arms around a couple of strangers as you belt out one last tune before Karaoke Dave unplugs the microphone. Actually, you’d be hard-pressed to find a stranger at Sarah’s Place.

 

Late-Night Food

Readers’ Choice: Nickel City, 212 S Main St, Ste 100, Fort Worth

Critic’s Choice: Zalat Pizza, 843 Foch St, Ft Worth, 817-780-0420

Ignore the fact that this West 7th-area joint is open ’til 4am Fri-Sat, a period of time prime for Dumpster Dining, which is when you’ve had more than enough to drink and would eat a piece of cardboard if you had to. Zalat’s slices could never be confused with just about anything. Chewy, zesty, and gooey, they’re delectable anytime — even and perhaps especially at 4 in the morning after a long day-into-night of absolutely nuking your liver and lungs.

 

LGBTQIA+ Bar

Readers’ Choice: (tie) Halo’s Bar & Grill ft. Rainbow 2.0, 3500 Alta Mesa Dr, Fort Worth, 682-250-2923; Liberty Lounge 515 S Jennings Av, Fort Worth, @Liberty.Lounge.FW

Critic’s Choice: Jackie O’s, 609 S Jennings Av, Fort Worth

It’s a quirky mishmash. Portraits of Jackie Kennedy Onassis hang near a mystery sex-toy vending machine and amid late-’50s decor and mounted TVs. Somehow, Jackie O’s pulls it off. The trending bar is the newest addition to Fort Worth’s scrappy gayborhood within the broader, queer-embracing Near Southside. Nearby Liberty Lounge and Club Reflection create a triumvirate of LGBTQ-friendly socializing, drinking, dancing, and, yes, more drinking. At Jackie O’s, grab an espresso martini (vodka, cold brew, coffee liqueur) for a caffeinated-meets-intoxicated experience or snag a Milwaukee Spritz (High Life, Aperol, and fresh lemon juice) before hitting the patio to mix and mingle.

Everyone is welcome at Liberty Lounge, a shabby-chic spot near South Main Village that’s cozy and fabulous.
Courtesy Facebook

 

Margarita

Readers’ Choice: Muy Frio Margaritas, 3613 W Vickery Blvd, Ste 109, Fort Worth, 817-238-3386

Critic’s Choices (Top 5): Looking for a nice marg at a nice price? You can’t go wrong with Chimy’s Tex-Mex (1053 Foch St, Fort Worth, 817-348-8888). This classic is pretty much perfect. If you want a strong one, pilot ye olde wagon to Esperanza’s Restaurant & Bakery (1601 Park Pl, Fort Worth, 817-923-1961), where you can enjoy the same famously fuerte margarita served at Esperanza’s sister eatery, Joe T. Garcia’s, with a much speedier seating time. If you’re a big-spending, YOLO kind of drinker, the Billionaire (with Avión Reserva 44 tequila and Grand Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire) at Reata Restaurant (310 Houston St, Fort Worth, 817-336-1009) should top your list of “definitely worth the price tag” cocktails, and why stick to just one of the frozen, flavored margs at Rio Mambo (6125 SW Loop 820, Fort Worth, 817-423-3124) when you can soar with a mixed-and-matched flight of four? For a ’rita that’s fresh and fun, head to Tinie’s (113 S Main St, Fort Worth, 682-255-5425) for their Tres Amigos, made with jalapeño-, Fresno-, and serrano-infused tequila and a splash of pineapple juice.

 

Martini

Readers’ Choice: Lucile’s Stateside Bistro, 4700 Camp Bowie Blvd,

Fort Worth, 817-738-4761

Critics’ Choice: Maiden Fine Plants and Spirits, 1216 6th Av, Fort Worth, 817-953-8327.

Take exotic vodka, distilled from Greek olives. Add a little Dolin dry vermouth, a little more olive juice because what the heck. Stir, don’t shake. Top the gorgeous cut-crystal glass with three skewered vegan blue cheese-stuffed olives. And voila! It isn’t the most inexpensive martini in town, but it’s properly prepared and beautifully presented for you to enjoy at the sumptuous bar at Maiden.

 

Mixologist

Readers’ Choice: (tie) Kalan Garza, The Urban Cowboy Saloon, 2620 E Lancaster Av, Fort Worth, 682-707-5663; Fern Orozco, Nickel City, 212 S Main St, Ste 100, Fort Worth

Critic’s Choice: Kellen Hamrah, From Scratch Hospitality

If you’ve had a drink at Clay Pigeon, Piattello, Provender Hall, or Walloon’s, you’ve probably had one of Kellen Hamrah’s creations. While his main title is Director of Operations for local restaurant development group From Scratch, he’s known throughout Fort Worth’s service industry as a thoughtful, intuitive mixologist with a knack for crafting truly captivating cocktails. His beverage programs at the aforementioned establishments lead to libations for every taste, and every one of his drinks is something you’ll want to write down should you get fuzzy on the details.

If you’ve had a drink at Clay Pigeon, Piattello, Provender Hall, or Walloon’s, you’ve probably had one of best mixologist Kellen Hamrah’s creations.
Courtesy Facebook

 

Patio

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

Critic’s Choice: (tie) Birdie’s Social Club, 2736 W 6th St, Fort Worth,

817-888-8914; Reata Restaurant, 310 Houston St, Fort Worth, 817-336-1009

Birdie’s patio is huge and covered, and it offers a nice vibe, a great happy hour, plenty of Instagrammable walls, and a large screen for sportsball watching. For sipping a drink in a shaded outdoor atmosphere, Birdie’s is your place to roost. … There’s a country music song that tells us, “You gotta live it while you got it.” Grammar aside, there is no argument that the three distinct patios at Reata, all with different perspectives of downtown vistas, offer the best views in the city. Sadly, by the time next year’s Best Of edition rolls around, Reata and its home in Sundance Square may have parted ways. While the view may stay the same, it’s sad that this landmark might saddle up and giddy-up away.

While the lovely view may live on, it might not be by Reata Restaurant anymore. Enjoy it while you can.
Wyatt Newquist

 

Restaurant Bar

Readers’ Choice: Bobby V’s Sports Gallery Cafe, 4301 S Bowen Rd, Arlington, 817-467-9922

Critics’ Choice: Little Red Wasp Kitchen + Bar, 808 Main St, Fort Worth, 817-877-3111

Little Red Wasp is one of the most underrated spots in town. The second restaurant from restaurateur Adam Jones and Chef Blaine Staniford has a cocktail menu that touches all the bases — highlights include the Wasp’s Knees with Blackland gin and a raspberry-habanero honey and a lovely strawberry and basil lemonade mocktail. The beer menu covers all relevant points in North Texas. You’ll find Guinness, Stella Artois, and Dos Equis but no macrobrews. Getcher Kurrs Laht elsewhere. And the wine menu is based on the lovingly curated and extensive list at sister restaurant Grace. Whether you end up at the bar on a staycation downtown or are waiting for a reservation at one of the nearby steakhouses, the bar at Little Red Wasp is a great way to sample some of the best of the Fort.

 

Shot List

Readers’ Choice: Shot Cellar, 931 Foch St, Fort Worth, 817-386-3561

Critic’s Choice: Shot Cellar

Could there be any other winner? This place’s menu has more than 300 shots on it! There’s even a Shot Cellar app. If you’ve ever heard of a shot or did one a long time ago that was tasty but now exists right outside your memory, you can probably order it here. Hopefully, you’ll be able to tell the bartender what color it was and what it tasted like.

 

Sports Bar

Readers’ Choice: Buffalo Bros TCU, 3015 S University Dr, Fort Worth,

817-386-9601

Critic’s Choice: BoomerJack’s Grill, Montgomery Plaza, 2600 W 7th St, Fort Worth, 817-810-2666

Any ol’ place can hang a few TVs on the wall and tune them to sportsball, but very few deliver the quality of food and crack service that have made this particular BoomerJack’s of several around town an ideal spot for rooting on the local teams.

 

Wine Bar

Readers’ Choice: Magnolia Wine Bar, 1101 Magnolia Av, Fort Worth,

817-632-6070

Critic’s Choice: Magnolia Wine Bar

With its high ceiling and an aesthetic that allows plenty of light to brighten the darker hues in the brick-and-wood interior, Magnolia Wine Bar exudes class, and the highly knowledgeable staffers know what to pour for your taste and budget. Of course, this is also a great place to splurge, and the wine selection offers plenty of exquisite vintages. Whether you’re a seasoned oenophile or saw Sideways a long time ago and want to know if you can still order a merlot, Magnolia Wine Bar is perfect. They also have beer and shareable plates.

 

Critic’s Choices Only

 

Funky Cocktail

Critic’s Choice: High Priestess of Funk, Tarantula Tiki Lounge, 117 S Main St, Fort Worth

Built on Funky Jamaican Rum and vodka, Tarantula’s High Priestess of Funk is mighty powerful but not as boozy as, say, a Zombie or Jet Pilot. With a pleasant texture from coconut cream and pineapple juice plus kisses of citrus and passion fruit, this goddess with its lavender hue and orchid garnish is the belle of the tiki ball.

 

Michelada

Critic’s Choice: Don Artemio, 3268 W 7th St, Fort Worth, 817-470-1439

Don Artemio’s take is far from over the top. Here, there are no skewers with bits of waffles or cured meats for show. The Don’s smooth and easily drinkable michelada is a lovely blend of Mexican lager, Bloody Mary mix, fresh lime juice, and Tabasco. Served with a half-bottle of cerveza to keep your libation topped off and fizzy, it’s the perfect beverage for brunch or dinner if you aren’t trying to get too tipsy, and there’s no overabundance of salt and spices to leave you reaching for the antacids.

 

To see who won Best Of 2023 awards in the Sounds of the City section, click here.

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