On one hand, the West End is a historic district slag heap, a once-bustling entertainment district reduced to has-been diversion rubble by obsolescence and maybe a few things named Victory, West Village and The Shops at Legacy. The last strands of has-been evidence you can count on a few fingers: the demise of the West End Marketplace, Brinker International's plug-pulling on one of the first links in the On the Border Tex-Mex chain at the beginning of the year after almost 20 years on North Lamar Street, the Joe's Crab Shack croak and the recent double demise of the nightclubs Honky Tonk Heaven and Froggy Bottoms inside Market Street Square—stunted efforts to revive Dallas Alley's nightclub glory days.
Yet there are revival rumblings afoot, as pathetic as they might seem in the spangled sightlines of the W and the Mandarin Oriental skeleton. Tony Street, owner of Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse on Ross Avenue, is taking over the remains of Tony Roma's Ribs, fattening his ranch to 8,000 square feet. Former Landry's regional managers Jay Khan and Ronald Von Hatten, who opened R.J. Mexican Cuisine in the former Lombardi 311 space a year ago, just purchased the Butcher Shop Steakhouse—the West End spot where diners can grill their own steaks—from owner Richard Leggett, though Leggett retains the Butcher Shop opened last July in the former Morton's The Steakhouse location in Addison. There they plan a gradual renovation of the 397-seat restaurant and menu, stiffening the steak offerings with prime cuts. This is in addition to Landmark Seafood & Steak, the new restaurant Khan and Von Hatten plan to open in the On the Border shell this April. "You have to remember we have faith in the West End," insists Khan. "I believe in this area. I've seen all the ups and downs...We want to make sure we're giving 100 percent attention to the things we're doing. We don't want to fail. It's really easy to do that." Honky Tonk Heaven down the street, after all, died and went there.
Sapore Restaurant, the multi-level bistro burrowed in a 100-year-old-plus downtown Fort Worth building that was once Randall's, is finished, though founding chef Erick Boyle still operates Sapore Catering and Cheesecake. Stuck in Sapore's place, owner Jerrett Joslin inserted the nightclub Bent Lounge, which is dedicated to "the pursuit of adding depth to Fort Worth nightlife." In the service of this pursuit, Bent is accessorized with a bar and bathrooms on each floor, liquor bottle service and two lofts overlooking the first floor. But of this pursuit of adding nightlife depth to Fort Worth, chef Boyle cares nothing. "It's open," he says. "I don't care. I don't give a shit one way or another."