Linking downtown Fort Worth to the city's cultural district -- where works by Donald Judd and Andy Warhol hang a stone's throw from the competition grounds of prized goats and Texas Longhorns -- West 7th Street is the portal to all of Cowtown's endearing (sometimes) contradictions. The development springing up west of Trinity Park is reconciling the cowboy personality of Fort Worth with its emerging urban pose, using an style that employs refreshing invention.
Curious potential residents and thrill-seekers wouldn't be made aware of what's opened by visiting the Web site devoted to promoting a pedestrian-friendly strip of So7, the area's tag. Its name becomes more palatable, and its value more obvious, after a drive through the larger patch of new restaurants and shops.
Our Saturday trip to So7 started where the buzz began: at Tim Love's Love Shack So7. Deborah Ferguson introduced the famous chef's new satellite burger joint in the summer, when the cozy geo-concrete meets light-wash-wooden patio was the prime spot for a nighttime beer. But General Manager David Kraus and company have stocked the place with leopard-print Snuggies to warm revelers who've come for comfort food and can't fit inside the small indoor sit-down area. There's even a half-off special contengent upon the cold -- half-off on food if it's 40 degrees after 5 p.m.
The food is unapologetically decadent and less than vegetarian-friendly -- avoid the beans if you don't eat bacon -- but it's clear that isn't the point. There is the Boom Boom Burger with portabello mushroom subbed for the prime tenderloin/prime brisket patties, and the hearty Love Fish satisfies if you're set on an alternative. Most single sandwiches are less than $5. The hit at our table was the Love Sauce, described by one comrade to the group's agreement as "a mix of mayonaisse and Thousand Island dressing." We assumed the Snuggie-clad, burger-stuffed subjects of Polaroids plastered in the corner by the pick-up counter were friends of the proprieters. But no, Kraus pointed out, the photos are snapped almost daily, and they mostly feature random patrons like one toddler captured that day who quite enjoyed the the Love Sauce.
Next, we had to revisit the spot Tillman's Roadhouse sits -- the most conspicuous part of the budding development, with open retail space and a mixed-use flavor. We dined at the Roadhouse just after it opened in December. The food is, as patrons of the Oak Cliff location will expect, fantastic, but the real surprise is in the women's restroom. Colorful prize ribbons covering the walls of the loo, representing pie competitions and livestock shows, break the stark beige gun-slinging minimalism of the modern-rustic design everywhere else in the restaurant.
Across from the nuevo-steakhouse is a branch of Flirt, also located in Uptown Dallas and Allen, aptly named for its stock of cheerful party dresses. There's no shortage of silky nightlife tops here, but the digs are more appropriate for a cocktail night at The Modern than a romp at Billy Bob's. Owner Liz Albert tells us DFW-based label Karlie has been one of the best-selling brands since the shop opened in November. Along with most of the pieces sold at Flirt, a Karlie dress will cost you less than $100 -- a limit that bodes well for the place, which dodges the frills of most Southern-gal boutiques and sells clothes that look more ethnic-inspired and generally cooler.
Albert noticed clued us in on another So7 shop opening this week: Heritage Boot, the most literal representation of this pocket of retail. Boots in colors like baby blue with vines and hearts, flamboyant patterns borrowing Santa Fe's name and hippie-chic butterflies covering the shins of one black pair use vintage taste with a look-at-me fire that will always be native to a city we know of.
Stops to make:
817 Matisse St.
2933 Crockett St.
2592 Crockett St.
2592 Crockett St.