Updated: Apr 18, 2022
En-route Houston to go to a friend’s wedding and reckon’d that Fort Worth would be a good stopover - a perfect combination of cowboys and culture.
Crossed the city line southbound on State Highway 121 and was greeted by my first traffic jam in 19 months, most likely due to the “post” Covid back to the office push and construction caused by the insatiable Texas-sized demand for more highway infrastructure (I don’t know about you, but I think in a few years 12 lanes inbound might not be enough). 6:30 p.m. Dinner at Joe T. Garcia’s. I was hankerin’ for some authentic Texas vittles and immediately thought of Mexican (you can’t get more authentic than that). Since this place was mentioned in the NY Times’ rather unTexas-sized article "36 Hours in Forth Worth", I figured it was worthy of my consideration (that and the well-reviewed margs). The dinner menu is so simple you will not be offered one, as you only have two options: fajitas or enchiladas. Mrs. AAR and I split an order of delicious beef fajitas - which came with the best damn tortillas the Missus has ever eaten, all washed down by a grande marg and a Shiner Bock that was served in a frosty schooner cum chalice. It all started as a 16 seat joint in ‘35 but now has grown to a sprawling indoor/outdoor restaurant the size of a football field, capable of serving a thousand people at a time. Weather permitting sit outside and enjoy the verdant gardens (even if there is a line for outside seating, wait on it, as it will move pretty fast). On the way out explore the balance of the gardens. Then duck inside and review the photos on the wall: It was nice to know I now belong to a club whose membership includes both Tom Landry and a member of Kiss (though NOT a member of the original lineup). Note: While Joe T. takes his tortillas seriously, he doesn't take American Express . . . solamente efectivo.
The place reminded me of Pat O’Brien’s¹ in New Orleans, in its sprawl with nooks and crannies. And while Pat O’Brien’s may hold the record for alcohol served in a 24 hour period, there is little doubt that Joe T’s holds the tortilla chip record.
As soon as I parked the car outside Joe T’s (or as they say in Texas “vehicle”), I slipped on the Lucchese boots that I had bought a few years back when I lived in Houston. Two reasons: 1. To help this obvious Yankee blend. 2. As these cordovan gems are the most expensive shoes to ever envelop my feet, I was looking for any opportunity to get the amortization rate down to $50/day. 8:00 pm After putting down a little too much pico de gallo and tortilla chips, an after-dinner drink was in order and Ático was a mere two blocks away on the sixth floor of the SpringHill Suites. It is a gorgeous set up with comfortable chairs placed throughout the industrial-looking space, gathered into numerous sitting areas, most of which highlight the view of the Fort Worth skyline. One of the best rooftop bars I’ve ever visited.
10:00 a.m. Boot and Heel Shoe Repair: If you ever need to get new lifts put on your shoes prior to attending a wedding, then this is the place. 10:30 a.m. Texas One-Hour Cleaners: If you ever need to get your gown pressed prior to attending a wedding, then this is the place. Recommended by Brother Billie of Boot and Heel Shoe Repair. 11:30 a.m. It appears the latest trend in coffee is micro-roasting, which is either a technique to emphasize the freshness of carefully selected beans and precise roast profiles or the latest coffee marketing ploy. Either way the micro-roasted coffee at Avoca on Foch was hot and tasty - delivered in a shotgun shack storefront with comfortable seating. 12:30 p.m. The Modern Museum of Art is located in the aptly named Cultural District, set amongst four other museums, a planetarium, and the Will Rogers Memorial. A significant portion of the place was devoted to an exhibition of Sean Scully, who appears to have been "inspired" by Mark Rothko (a little too much if you ask me). Kind of interesting, but all the squares of all the different colors all became just a little too much.
I listened in on a children's tour guide, who was discussing a sculpture by Donald Judd (the guy who invented Marfa). She mentioned that Judd designed the specific piece that consisted of a number of metal and plastic boxes mounted to a wall, but others crafted it for him. I must admit I found this quite upsetting as I find much of modern art to be quite uninspiring, though I appreciate the craftsmanship of its construction. Now I realize that much of this craftsmanship may have been outsourced. It could make a viewer wonder if modern art is all just a scam/welfare program.
$16 general admission seemed a little steep, especially when I realized this place is lacking a Calder (which I thought was against the law).
The Kimball Art Museum is directly across the street and contains an edited collection of premodern art, all housed in a masterfully modest, Louis Kahn designed modern building. In this case, less is more. Paintings of European Old Masters, interestingly intermixed with ancient sculptures from Egypt, India, Peru, etc. The kicker!? Free admission. 5:00 p.m. Picked up gown. 5:30 p.m.
A few weeks back I ate one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time at The Antler Room in Kansas City. It made me realize that many of the best meals I’ve had in recent memory have been small plates (Girl and Goat in Chicago and Mabel Gray in Detroit, immediately come to mind). So I decided to seek out the best small plates in Forth Worth and came up with Lili’s Bistro. Apparently, this place serves Texas-sized small plates, which means that the four plates I ordered could feed eight people. The quail wrapped in bacon was outstanding, and it was resting on what may be the best coleslaw I ever tasted (Chef‘s secret is a little bbq sauce in a parsimonious application of dressing). The rest of the small plates were fine, but all came on a bed of the exact same coleslaw. The thing is, the world‘s greatest slaw can only do so much and it got a little played after the second plate. All and all solid, but if I were you I’d hold out for something better. 8:00 pm Was hoping to hit the #1 Rooftop bar in Cowtown, the rooftop at the Sinclair Hotel but upon arrival, the valet informed me that it’s only open on Fri & Sat. I remembered the NY Times mentioned getting a drink at the bar off the Stockyards Hotel lobby, so I figur’d it would be an adequate alternate - I was wrong. The H3 Ranch is more of a faux saloon that is up to here with tourists. We had come so far, so I decided to settle in at the bar, knock back a Lonestar and call it a night. Every third stool at the bar had a saddle on it, which depending on the state you’re visiting from, either makes for good Covid separation or a photo op for a youngin’. Thursday
11:35 a.m. Swung by the Fort Worth Stockyards on the way back out of town to literally catch the ass end of the daily cattle drive, which I’m quite sure no one will confuse with the one in Rawhide. It was all a little kitschy, like visiting Times Square in New York City (you know you shouldn’t, but you go there anyhow).
Then a Pig in a Blanket, washed down by a scaldingly hot cup of coffee, right down the street at The Rail Car. My 21-year-old barista had recently moved to Texas from California ("I read about you on the internet" I said). She mentioned that because California had been essentially shut down, she had trouble getting a job, so she moved to Texas where “there’s not much COVID around here” and then got a job two weeks later. While I wasn't impressed by her epidemiological analysis, I was with her youthful spirit, which in a way is a large part of what makes America . . . America.
1:50 p.m. It turns out I have a personal connection with the United States’ first real conspiracy theory, JFK’s assassination, so I thought I’d visit the scene of the crime to investigate further. 2:15 p.m.
Exited the Metroplex³ via I-35 listening to Dulce Amor by Shelly Lares featuring Ruben Ramos.
Lodgings: When I studied booking.com, I noticed the well-reviewed 7th Avenue Apartments by Barsala, which was located in the Medical Arts District, conveniently located near the aforementioned museums. It was disturbingly cheaper than any other accommodation. So much so that when I trepidatiously clicked the "Final Step" button I felt like I was cutting the red wire on a time bomb. I knew the check-in process would be onerous after receiving seven emails providing detailed check-in instructions that included numerous photos, codes, and steps. It appeared so complex that my wife created a check-in guide that summarized the process. And I’m glad she did, as I felt like Maxwell Smart entering C.O.N.T.R.OL. headquarters.
It was all worth it though as this place was the best accommodation I’ve stayed at since the Ritz-Carlton in Isle Verde, PR. A spacious and scrupulously clean studio with a balcony and covered parking, all for $65/night.
Endnotes: I wanted to provide some very specific details which while vaguely interesting did not contribute to the overall narrative. Perhaps just wait until the end to read.
¹ I'm not a fan of Pat O’Brien’s Bar as it has all become a little too touristy - that and a few years back after inhaling a Hurricane, my good friend Francis became projectilely ill in Pat’s bathroom (which is what really might have ruined it for me).
² The Broad in question was asked if she would rather be called "The Woman". When she answered that both were equally offensive, I decided to go with The Broad as it’s more alliterative and has a Frank Sinatra vibe (ring a ding ding baby!)
³ The Metroplex⁴ is the nickname of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, which is a conurbation of 11 adjoining counties.
⁴ Besides The Metroplex, Forth Worth goes by more than a few nicknames: Cowtown, Panther City, Where the West Begins, and my personal favorite Fort Crunk (it’s a southern hip-hop thing).