JR Bentley's "Chain Restaurant Hell" could have easily described Arlington for ages. But with Cowboys Stadium, the Super Bowl and record admissions at UTA, it's finally got a few places with character. Well, OK, a lot of them are still chains, but not in the fast-food sense. If you want to head over early or stay after a Rangers game, we've put together a few solid options.
At J.R. Bentley's English Pub (406 W. Abram St.) the floors are sometimes sticky and it smells funny, but the dark wood and huge booths are comforting when you want to hide behind a cold beer. Each room in this old house has a TV and it's a fun place to watch a game. The menu has English pub fare and check their page for daily specials.
Grease Monkey's (1253 Main St.) probably has the best bar and patio in Central Arlington. Owned by some locals who went to high school and college together, it has a neighborhood-chill feel. There's a huge screen inside that plays only sports, and the bar, which takes up half the restaurant, opens up to a deck and an outdoor bar. They usually run a shuttle to games on weekends ($7 to ride), but always call in advance to confirm (817-665-5454).
Old School Pizza and Suds (603 W. Abram St.) opened last year and is owned by a couple ex-Marines. In a converted old house, it has some charm, the pizza is thick and gooey, the beer is cold and they have more than 35 different flavors to choose from. There's a cool patio in back, and they draw in a mix of college kids and a neighborhood crowd.
At Flying Fish (300 E. Abram St.), the walls are lined with photos of random customers showing off red fish and trout they snagged down at the bay along the Texas coastline. It conjures mixed emotions for me: jealousy and pride. They offer up some pretty strong 'ritas in addition to beer and the patio is about as big as the dining room inside.
Twisted Root (310 E. Abram St., next door to the Flying Fish). This particular location has a trailer-park theme, with an entire (small) '70s RV serving as a backdrop for the bar. Coolers make up a lot of the seating and the "adult" shakes are pretty awesome (they'll make anything you can come up with). The garage-style retractable doors open up to a patio area, which, again, are great when the weather is pleasant.
Hooligan's (310 E. Abram St., behind Twisted Root) just opened a new spot -- the original is on Cooper. It's decked out in dark wood and stone and it feels like you're walking into a cave, but in a this-cave-has-style sort of way. Small outside area for chilling.
Babe's Chicken Dinner House (230 N. Center St.) is always packed and if you don't mind waiting and feel the need to eat your weight in mashed potatoes and biscuits, this is your spot. BYOB.
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Mellow Mushroom (200 N. Center St.) is two doors down from Babe's. People have reported that it lacks the same vibe as the other Mellow Mushrooms around the country, or even state. It has more of a hipster-hippie weird thing going. Their mixtape can be all over the place, but they have a lot of seating (for crowds) a big bar and decent patio with TVs everywhere.
BoomerJack's Grill is in the Lincoln Square complex at Collins Street and Interstate 30. The cool thing about this place, besides countless TVs and drinks, is that you can catch the red trolley over to the game.
The Fishbone Grill, is a small, easy-to-miss spot at 816 N. Collins St. in the shadow of Jerry's World. The Mexican-influenced seafood is usually fresh, spicy and pretty affordable. Service is quick and friendly, as well.
It would be remiss not to mention The Prince Lebanese Grill (502 W. Randol Mill Road). BYOB and, hands down, some of the best food in Arlington in a funky converted Sonic. Family-run, read more about it here or see it's turn on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives a few years ago.