BEST OF: Thursday, September 19, 2002
People & Places

Thing Tarrant County Needs:

Readers’ choice: Better roads

Staff choice: A commitment by Fort Worth city leaders not to waste the current burst of redevelopment going on all around downtown. How? In part, by making sure apartment zoning prevents developers from turning parts of stable neighborhoods into overly dense future ghettos. And generally by protecting stable neighborhoods from the effects of greed.

Thing to Happen Locally in Last

12 Months

Readers’ choice: Trinity Railway Express

Staff choice: Actually, the best thing about the last year was something that didn’t happen. It’s been a year and 8 days since 9-11, and blessedly there hasn’t been another terrorist attack here or elsewhere in the country (at least not by press time). Cowtown’s twin towers, the glimmering City Center skyscrapers downtown, and their squat brothers on Summit Boulevard, remain intact. Long may they wave.

Place to Pretend You’re Someone Important

Readers’ choice: Del Frisco’s, 812 Main St, FW

Staff choice: Central Market, 4651 W Freeway, FW

You can go in your casual attire, put on a studious expression, and spout some nonsense about organic vegetables or Gruyère cheese or wolf fish and come off as an expert instead of an unbearable food snob.

Place to Meet Someone of the Opposite Sex

Readers’ choice: 8.0, 111 E 3rd St, FW

Staff choice: The Library, 611 Houston St, FW

The interior of The Library is basically a square space with a square bar in the middle and the entrance in one corner. Walking into this establishment is akin to walking down the red carpet on Oscar night: All eyes are on you. Some of the best-dressed people in town make The Library their place for one-stop sexual healing. You probably won’t run into any hunky, gloriously disheveled, frustrated poets or gals built like swimsuit models who pass their time deconstructing Foucault. What you will find is a gathering of body-image-crazed folks to whom the question, “What color’s your daddy’s Beamer?” actually functions as a pick-up line.

Place to Meet Someone of the Same Sex

Readers’ choice: Magnolia Station, 600 W. Magnolia St, FW

Staff choice: Downtown YMCA

Some people don’t even bother to work up a sweat in the gym before hitting the showers.

Place to Break Up

Readers’ choice: No winner

Staff choice: District court

We liked this suggestion from a reader, for many reasons. Bailiffs are nearby to damp down really bad reactions on the part of the jilted. Wooden benches don’t encourage endless “but why?” conversations. Loud sobbing is discouraged. Other people around you are probably just as miserable, for their own reasons. No one is playing love songs in the background. Saves money that would have been spent by breaking up over dinner. And no one has to avoid an otherwise great place in the future because of old breakup vibes.

Urban digs

Readers’ choice: No winner

Staff choice: Hillside Apartments, 300 Crump St, FW

These beautiful duplexes and triplexes stay rented up most of the time, and for good reason. Built with the help of major downtown powers in a public-private venture, they receive tax credits that allow them to offer below-market rents to many moderate-income residents, and a few Section 8 renters who meet certain guidelines. The 172 units, built to resemble a neighborhood of 1950s homes, replaced most of the residences in the deteriorating Rock Island neighborhood, while the area’s churches and some other significant buildings were saved. Old-fashioned lampposts, modern conveniences, trees, green space, a fitness room, and pool make this an attractive address, especially for downtown workers who can walk to the office. Another “quaint” feature — the sounds of nearby trains — is a plus for some, and a minus for others.

Example of Suburban Sprawl

Readers’ choice: Mansfield

Staff choice: Bryant Irvin and Interstate 20

What’s really funny about this strip of real estate near Cityview is that in front of the mall here there’s actually a sidewalk next to the street. As if someone would, like, walk across this patch of concrete, and — what? — take his life in his hands? Speeding cars are zipping by across six lanes of asphalt a mere 10 feet away. No matter how restrictive Fort Worth’s zoning ordinances may be, it appears there will always be a developer willing to bend the rules to suit his greed. But with no effective public transportation available to suburban residents and with so much terrain to cover, sprawl — and the traffic and infrastructure problems it brings — will remain the wave of the future.

Place To Take

Someone from Dallas

Readers’ choice: The Kimbell Art Museum, 3333 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW (Other entertaining nominees: the morgue and the bottom of the Trinity River)

Staff choice: Home.

Their home. Take ’em to the Amtrak station, buy ’em a ticket on the TRE, and send ’em packing. Who wants a bunch of snoots eating our BBQ, gawking at our paintings, or clicking their heels down Main Street, and then bitching about blisters in their barely-worn ropers? Screw ’em.


Readers’ choice: Coffee Haus, by a landslide

Staff choice: Coffee Haus, 404 Houston St, FW

One of the challenges of more urban living is finding new ways to fulfill the old needs and urges. We like the adaptation at the Coffee Haus, which folks from the surrounding condos, lofts, and apartments seem to use as their own personal living room. Stop in any evening, and folks are playing chess, reading the paper, schmoozing with friends, working on laptops — and enjoying the coffee and pastries. Lines can be a little long, and they put too much danged whipped cream on everything, but the staff is friendly, the cups huge, and the place stays open late — until 1am Fridays and Saturdays, 11pm other nights.

Day Trip

Readers’ choice: Granbury

Staff choice: Glen Rose

Actually, you can lose yourself in Glen Rose and its surrounding countryside for a lot longer, but one day will do for starters. Get on the road early enough to stake out a shady table at Dinosaur Valley State Park. Wade around in the Paluxy River and look at Dino’s tracks. Climb the trail on the bluff on the other side, taking time midway to stretch out on a big flat rock and pretend for a moment that you’re the only human in the county. Head back to town in time to hit the Inn on the River. Pull out that thermos full of cocktails you made before you left the house (no liquor license here), claim an Adirondack chair or just a piece of the grassy bank, and watch another piece of the Paluxy flow by until it’s time to claim your reserved-in-advance table at the Inn’s knock-your-socks-off restaurant.

Green Space

Readers’ choice: Botanic Gardens

Staff choice: Oakland Lake Park, 1645 Lakeshore Dr in Meadowbrook

This small, hilly park on Fort Worth’s East Side is an under-appreciated gem. Its centerpiece is a peaceful lake rimmed with a mile of concrete walking/jogging/biking trails that wind under oak and elm trees. It’s a birdwatcher’s delight. A gaggle of honking Canadian geese will all but stop you in your tracks begging for food (regulars know to bring a bag of bread crumbs). Flocks of mallards and other ducks live here year-round, and cranes regularly fish for meals. A sprawling rock shelter shading two big picnic tables is a popular place for birthday parties. But the small baseball field, tennis courts, and a playground are underused. Maybe if Fort Worth’s parks department did a better job of maintaining the place (like they do with parks on the West Side) more people would discover it.

Place To Enjoy

The Water

Readers’ choice: Eagle Mountain Lake

Staff choice: NRH2O, 9001 Grapevine Hwy, North Richland Hills

A major problem with enjoying the water is that, for so much of the year, you also have to “enjoy” the sun. So make your outdoor excursions as Vitamin-D-free as possible at NRH2O, a quaint and thankfully stress-free water park with lots of shaded areas in North Richland Hills. Featuring a lazy river, kid’s area, and water slides of all sizes — including North Texas’ only uphill water coaster, The Green Extreme — NRH2O offers areas where you can wade in the pool or chill beneath a canopy as the brave and energetic horse around.

Place to Take First Date

Readers’ choice: Tie between Italian Inn Ridglea, 6323 Camp Bowie Blvd, and Sardines Ristorante Italiano, 509 University Dr, both FW

Staff choice: Fort Worth Botanic Garden, 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd, FW

It’s bucolic, it’s non-threatening, it’s free (unless you absolutely can’t stand to pass up the rainforest exhibit or the Japanese Gardens, and then it’s merely inexpensive), it’s the best place in the city to spend an afternoon having a quiet talk and getting acquainted with that new person. You can stroll around the grounds, huddle on a bench, or sprawl on a blanket in the grass, and watch all the other couples. Although you might want to avoid that fountain where brides-to-be are always having their pictures made.

Place to Eavesdrop

Readers’ choice: D/FW International Airport

Staff choice: Coffee Haus, 404 Houston St, FW

On any weekend night, you can park yourself at one of the sidewalk tables at the Coffee Haus and watch the Sundance Square parade of life flow by, listen in on passing strangers’ conversations, or catch part of an animated philosophical discussion between your fellow patrons. While it seems as though the obnoxious-asshole quotient downtown has been higher lately than in days gone by, we can hope that the Coffee Haus will remain a haven for the rest of us.

Place to Shoot Pool

Readers’ choice: Fox & Hound, two locations

Sign of the Apocalypse

Readers’ choice: American Idol hype

Staff choice: Replacing Matisse’s ethereal and lovely female “Backs” with the leaning tower of “Man with a Briefcase”

Can Judgment Day be far behind when a city weeps not a tear over the loss of its choicest piece of public art — those four graceful Henri Matisse copper bas reliefs of nude female backs? They floated delicately in a shaded corner of Burk Burnett Park until Fort Worth’s philanthropist from hell decided to move them to the Kimbell Museum in November 2000. In their corner now stands a 50-foot shaft of aluminum with a cutout of a 1950s-era businessman. This deification of commerce could be more complete only if the Briefcase Man had been made of solid gold. But give him wide berth, he’s already leaning. The goddess of us all may yet topple this graven image.

Underrated Pro Athlete

Readers’ choice: Tie, golfer Mark Brooks and cyclist Lance Armstrong

Staff choice: Jason Arnott, Dallas Stars

The hockey fans around here only know him as the guy who came here toward the end of last season in trade for Joe Nieuwendyk and Jamie Langenbrunner. Once Arnott gets a full season with the team, however, Stars fans will learn what New York hockey fans already know: The big Ontario-born center can be a dominating, point-per-game player. Caveat: First, the team must settle its line combinations, where they have three centers for two top lines. Arnott may be moved to winger, where he’s less effective, or traded.

Athlete (Almost) Worth His/Her Salary

Readers’ choice: Alex Rodriguez, Texas Rangers

Staff choice: Russell Maryland, Dallas Cowboys

The NFL’s top draft pick in 1991, defensive tackle Russell Maryland helped the Cowboys win three Super Bowls in five years. Then, of course, he chased free-agent dollars to Oakland and Green Bay and never came close to reliving the successes he had in Dallas. Maryland wanted to end his career as a Cowboy, so Dallas re-signed him and placed him on the reserve/retired list — a common ploy to allow old players to retire as members of their favorite former teams. His salary is $0, which is what he is worth in our minds after joining the mass exodus of players who turned their backs on the Cowboys after the team’s mid-1990s successes. Free agency is part of the business, but that doesn’t mean we have to like the system or the players who focus solely on money and show no loyalty to teams, teammates, or fans.

Public Golf Course

Readers’ choice: Pecan Valley, 6400 Pecan Valley Dr, FW



Readers’ choice: Big Brothers/ Big Sisters

Staff choice: American Civil Liberties Union, Fort Worth Chapter

This local troop of pro-bono legal eagles and cheerleaders for the First Amendment are the Constitutional protectors of us all — from marching Ku Klux Klanners to gun-totin’ New Black Panthers; from the Jewish kid forced to listen to Jesus prayers at his school’s football game to the Jehovah’s Witness first-grader who won’t pledge allegiance to the flag; from the crazy neighbor with butt-ugly protest signs in her yard to the Muslim prisoner force-fed Christian fundamentalism at the county jail. With George II running roughshod over the Constitution in these dark and dangerous days, this group’s telephone number ought to be kept handy — and they could probably use a check, too.

Bargain Sporting Event

Readers’ choice: Fort Worth Cats

Staff choice: Texas Tornado

The Fort Worth Brahmas and the Fort Worth Cats deserve their loyal followings, but it’s the junior hockey team in North Richland Hills that not only contends for league championships every year, but also shows its fans what a great time non-major-league sports can be.

Freeway To Avoid

Readers’ choice: Interstate 35, by a large margin

Staff choice: Interstate 35

Residents who left Fort Worth in the early 1990s for Haslet, Roanoke, Justin, and other rural areas have grown to hate I-35 in recent years. Urban sprawl and development

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