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For the Love of Forth Worth

where to eat

Angeluna 215 E. Fourth St.; 817/334-0080; dinner for two $70. Across the street from the Bass Performance Hall and its 48-foot-tall angels (hence the restaurant's name). A "contemporary global" menu means inventive dishes: roasted basil shrimp with mascarpone mashed potatoes, pork tenderloin with cheddar polenta and green apples.

Reata 500 Throckmorton St.; 817/336-1009; dinner for two $70. Named after the ranch in Giant, Reata has three dining rooms sprawling across the 35th floor of the Bank One Tower. Don't let the views distract you from Grady Spears's Southwestern cooking, such as the chicken chiles rellenos with goat cheese and corn-chowder sauce or the mesquite-grilled T-bone steak with cheese enchiladas.

Mi Cocina 509 Main St.; 817/877-3600; dinner for two $35. Tex-Mex, Southwestern-Mex, and real-Mex food are served in high-design rooms (granite tables, purple neon lighting) and on an enclosed patio.

Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House 812 Main St.; 817/877-3999; dinner for two $80. There is no shortage of steak joints in Fort Worth, but this is the best. The beef is prime and the surroundings— dark woods, alabaster light fixtures— are handsome. Have a drink at the oak bar before settling down to a 24-ounce porterhouse.

Michaels 3413 W. Seventh St.; 817/877-3413; dinner for two $60. "Contemporary ranch cuisine"— quail with grilled-orange jalapeño sauce, crab cakes with ancho chili cream sauce— meets a sleek interior with a complete series of Warhol's Cowboys and Indians prints.

La Piazza 1600 S. University Dr.; 817/334-0000; dinner for two $65. Excellent Italian food in a semiformal setting (no red-and-white checked tablecloths here). Try the seafood risotto prepared with white wine and cognac or the fettuccine all'amatriciana, with pancetta, tomato sauce, and chilies.

Water Street Seafood Co. 1540 S. University Dr.; 817/877-3474; dinner for two $50. In landlocked Fort Worth, this is the place for fresh seafood, much of which comes from the Gulf of Mexico. The mural above the bar says it all— it's an homage to Remington with cowboys riding sailfish instead of broncos.

Bistro Louise 2900 S. Hulen St., Suite 40; 817/922-9244; lunch for two $20. A Mediterranean spin on New American food, with fusion elements from Asia and Mexico thrown in. Especially popular for after-work tapas.


Angelo's Barbeque 2533 White Settlement Rd.; 817/332-0357; lunch for two $12, no credit cards. Don't choose between the beef brisket and the pork ribs; have both.

Railhead Smokehouse 2900 Montgomery St.; 817/738-9808; lunch for two $12. Love the sign above the door that advises, please adjust clothing before leaving.

Sammie's Bar-B-Q 3801 E. Belknap St.; 817/834-1822; lunch for two $12. Natives swear by the ribs cooked over oak. On Sundays, it's all-you-can-eat for $6.95.

Riscky's Barbeque 140 E. Exchange Ave.; 817/626-7777; lunch for two $12. This is Riscky's beachhead in the Stockyards; on the same street is Riscky's Steak House, Riscky's Catch (seafood), and Riscky Rita (Tex-Mex). Stick with the basic mesquite-smoked barbecue.

Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse 2621 N. Main St.; 817/626-7191; lunch for two $12. The Dallas fave now has four locations in Tarrant County, including one in downtown Fort Worth (150 Throckmorton St; 817/878-2424) and this outpost in the Stockyards.

my left feet

I knew I was in the right place when I looked up and saw, not a disco ball, but a mirrored saddle suspended above the dance floor. You see, I had come to Billy Bob's Texas ("the World's Largest Honky Tonk") for line-dancing lessons. Some people sneer at the popularity of this dance form— C&W tunes like "Achy Breaky Heart" don't help— but I was withholding judgment.

The appeal lies in the fact that you have no partner: it is a social activity, but has none of the pressures associated with ballroom dancing. You don't have to worry about asking someone to dance and being turned down.

Still, I was nervous when instructor Wendell Nelson, a characteristically tall Texan, summoned our group of 30 to the dance floor. Nelson welcomed us, said we would be starting with the Catwalk, and explained a few basics: you dance with just your legs and feet; you keep your hands still, except for an occasional clap, holding them behind your back or on your belt buckle.

First we would learn the steps without music. He demonstrated the first half of an eight-count sequence— right, two, three; left, two, three; right, two, three; left, two, three. We followed suit; so far, so good. He reversed the pattern and we returned to our starting position. Then he added music ("Cat Walk" by Lee Roy Parnell), which made the process easier, and we repeated the complete pattern. I get this, I thought. It's fun. But there were almost 50 minutes left in the lesson, and I realized we would eventually have to do something besides go forward and backward. To the basic eight-step combination, Nelson added shuffle steps, cross steps, clockwise and counterclockwise turns, rocking steps, a stomp, and a hip-roll I can only call provocative.

More than once, I spun left when I should have gone right. (Given the nature of line dancing, missteps are glaringly obvious, as are attempts at recovery.) I consider it a miracle that I did not step on or collide with anyone— thank God, because a Tush Push gone awry is a recipe for disaster.

Billy Bob's Texas 2520 Rodeo Plaza; 817/626-7117. Dance lessons: Thursday, 7 p.m.‚8 p.m., included in $3 admission; Saturday, 2:30 p.m.‚3:30 p.m., $3 in addition to $1 admission.

the lion sleeps tonight (the kids do, too)

"Wow! That fish is as big as my dad!" said the towheaded seven-year-old boy. Not quite. Then again, maybe it was: the South American pirarucu can grow to 15 feet.

The aquarium was the first stop on the Fort Worth Zoo's overnight program, "Roar, Snore & Animal Lore." We began with an orientation at the education center, where we deposited sleeping bags, then had a pizza dinner at one of the open-air restaurants. Despite their formidable zoological knowledge, our three young guides— Harold, Staci, and Stacey— were part-time staffers and had various professions (doctor, teacher, modern dancer).

While at the aquarium, we investigated one of the newest exhibits, Penguin Island. Penguins in Texas?Yep: the African version is one of three species of penguin that live in temperate climates. Children (and adults) were absorbed in watching the birds' aquatic antics. From there we proceeded to see the prehistoric-looking Komodo dragons; a captivating temporary exhibit of albino alligators; and the zoo's Texas section (which featured some shy but beautiful red and Mexican gray wolves hiding in tall grass). At one point, we passed a modest corral full of goats, most of them craning their necks over the rail. One lone goat stood distant from the others with his hind end to us— in what a kid on the tour called "the time-out corner."

In the African Savannah, we stepped along boardwalks over various animal environments, including the one for cheetahs. We were 16 feet above them but it sure seemed like less. Occasionally, one would take notice of us and become very still, hypnotic in its gaze. "A six-year-old child," Stacey whispered to me, "is about the size of a cheetah's natural prey."

By now, it was dark and time to return to the education center for a snack. Before we called it a night, Harold brought out three animals: a Louisiana pine snake, a tenrec (which looks like a hedgehog), and a small American alligator that inspired oohs and aahs from the children and caused some parents to take a step back. Although it was between two and three years old, the gator was only 18 inches long. Harold encouraged the children to touch the reptile with their pinkie ("the touching finger"), but only on the tail.

After breakfast, the counselors brought in more animals, including a penguin. The African variety is also known as the jackass penguin because of its loud, donkey-like bray, which Harold, down on the floor at penguin level, was successful in eliciting. Then we went out into the pleasant coolness of the early morning, retracing part of our itinerary in order to observe the critters' activity in full daylight. Soon it was mid-morning and time to go. For 16 hours, though, we had had the place to ourselves— give or take another 776 animal species.

Fort Worth Zoo 1989 Colonial Pkwy.; 817/871-7050. Roar, Snore & Animal Lore, 817/871-7055; $30 for each person ages six and older, including meals.

more family fun

Six Flags Over Texas 2201 Road to Six Flags; 817/640-8900. Now part of Premier Parks, this original is the best of the group, with more than 100 attractions. Best ride: the 14-story Texas Giant roller coaster.

Ballpark in Arlington 1000 Ballpark Way; 817/273-5100. Home to the Texas Rangers, the Ballpark opened in 1994 as a baseball-only stadium. It also has a 17,000-square-foot museum devoted to America's national pastime.

Texas Motor Speedway 3601 Hwy. 114; 817/215-8500. Rising from the prairies 22 miles north of Fort Worth like a modern-day Colosseum, the mammoth TMS, with more than 150,000 seats, represents the state of the art in car racing. (If you're lucky, Sparky the spark plug, shown at right, will make an appearance.) The second-largest sports facility in the country, it also stages big-time pop concerts.


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