Where the Locals Drink**
Arlington’s newness means that sometimes it’s hard to find dive bars with street cred. Caves Lounge is the real deal. Nestled gently in a less-than-gentrified part of town, among upstanding car lots and collision centers, Caves is one of the city’s true hidden gems. It draws an eclectic, laid-back group of hipsters, rockers and folks who just love a well-made drink on the back patio. 900 W. Division St., (817) 460-5510
Fort Worth: The Usual
If your idea of Fort Worth is strictly Cowtown, think again. A great example of its cosmopolitan leanings is the Usual, in the hot Near Southside district on Magnolia Avenue (just down from Ellerbe, in fact). Its main draws are the Prohibition-era cocktails (Old Fashioned, Manhattan) and a sleek, cool setting. 1408 W. Magnolia Ave., (817) 810-0114, www.theusualbar.com
Dallas: Al Biernat’s
This is not a frat-boy hangout. It’s a place for grown-ups — but not stuffy ones. It’s a great locally owned steakhouse, but the bar is where you want to go for a stiff pour of bourbon before you begin your evening. It’s the neighborhood hangout for some of Dallas’ most well-known and well-heeled celebs — Troy Aikman is a regular — but the great staff, led by Al himself, never lets you feel like you’re an outsider. 4217 Oak Lawn Ave., (214) 219-2201, www.albiernats.com
**And, because we love to drink, too, we also have a few more bar suggestions:
3716 Camp Bowie Blvd., (817) 886-2327, www.ftworth.gingermanpub.com
A great patio, 70 beers on draft and more than 100 varieties of bottled beer — it’s like our dream journal come to life.
Dallas, for great beer: MEDDLESOME MOTH
1621 Oak Lawn Ave., (214) 628-7900, www.mothinthe.net
Beer guru Keith Schlabs (who’s also an owner) has fantastic rare beers on tap and wonderful food in the nascent hipness of the Design District, just northwest of downtown.
Where You Will Want to Watch the Game if You Aren’t There
The ESPN broadcast team will set up shop outdoors in Sundance Square after the NFL Conference Championship games, and downtown Fort Worth is a great place to camp out no matter what day of the week it is. It’s like a real city: You park, you walk to shops and restaurants and bars and concert halls, and you can choose whichever TV screen feels right as the place where you land for the game. Plus, how fun will it be to try to get on-screen when they throw it back to the crew for postgame analysis? Hang with me and find out. www.sundancesquare.com
Where You Need to Be After MidnightFort Worth: West 7th Street Corridor
During the week, this area between downtown and the Cultural District skews hipster with cool bars like 7th Haven (try the late-night taco truck behind it) and music venues such as Lola’s Saloon; for burgers, don’t miss Fred’s Texas Cafe. On weekends, it skews TCU folk and townies. Either way, the median age (28) gives the urban district a shot of adrenaline that shows why some feel Fort Worth does the urban-living thing better than a certain city 35 miles east.
Running from I-75 Central Expressway to Ross Avenue, this bustling street is filled every evening with folks who are cruising to one of a dozen great places to eat and drink (Barcadia, Capitol Pub, Victor Tangos, Veritas and Neighborhood Services Tavern, among plenty of others). Late night, be sure to try the great combination of Old Monk and its across-the-street kin at Vickery Park. These are pubs that Dallasites are rightly proud of, and we want to show them off.