Saturday, April 19, 2014

Best of Fort Worth, Texas, 2014.

It's been a few years since I have done a "Best of." Three to be exact. A lot has changed. Honestly, Marian and I don't go out as much as we once did and I'm not always going to be able to say with any kind of authority that restaurant X is better than restaurant Y because I may not have been to restaurant Y.

But here's what I like best in Fort Worth right now -- and of course we'll start with the hamburgers.

1. The better than fast-food burger and fries: I like 5 Guys when I'm going for a good hamburger. I know there are lots of options now in Fort Worth, Dutchs, Jakes, Smashburger, M&O, Kincaid's, the Chop House in Arlington, but when decision time comes it's tough to beat the burger-fry combination at Five Guys downtown.

2. Fast-food burger and fries: Whataburger and In-and-Out. I like them both for different reasons. There's something about the efficiency of In N Out that I like but I probably choose Whataburger more often.

3. Beef Fajitas: still number 1 with no competition is Pappasitos. Their Tuesday night 2 for 1 special on Fajitas is a great deal and enough food for two meals for two people.

4. Coffee: you might not like this but I still say a fresh cup of Starbucks dark roast is as good as you can get in the city. And thankfully they've stopped hawking Pikes Place which in my view is just god-awful. I tried the special brewed coffee at Starbucks a couple weeks ago and thought it bitter and over-priced. I think it was $3.25 a cup.

5. Steaks and finer dining: I haven't been to any of the newer steak restaurants at least at the Fort Worth locations. I had been to Bob's in Dallas and the Capital Grille in Washington and Philadelphia which I liked. Marian and I did go to Eddie V's for our anniversary and I liked it with some reservation.The twice-baked potato was very ordinary and the steak was not what I had hoped for but everyone says good things about Eddie V's and they're probably right. I'm going to go back and try again. I still miss the Swiss House on University: mandatory coat and tie, piano, beef-Oscar.

6. Mexican. In Fort Worth I still think Mi Cocina is very good. For family run restaurants I like Benitos on Magnolia. I think La Familia has gone down in quality in the last couple years. Marian and I really like Lupe's in Lincoln Square in Arlington. It's real food, cooked with some care and their brisket tacos are as good as you'll get.

7. Retail disappointment of the year. The loss of Barnes and Noble at University Park. I have nowhere to go now when the wife is shopping down there and I just hate to see bookstores closing everywhere.

8. Pizza. The best pizza is probably Il Cane Rosso, new on Magnolia.

9. Thai: Spice on Magnolia

10. Best new development in the planning: 34 acre Left Bank development on the Trinity at 7th. "Centergy’s plan calls for about 1.5 million square feet of construction, 1,500-1,700 residential units, 100,000-120,000 square feet of retail space including a 50,000-square-foot grocer, and a 150-200 room hotel on the river levee." Fort Worth Business Press 

11. Favorite new spot for a night out dinner: Bird Cafe'

12. Most changed area in the last three years: Magnolia, 7th, or Sundance. Pick one.

13. Best new development: Sundance Square

14. Most unexpected outdoor venue: Panther Island Pavilion

15. Sounds good I need to go: Coyote Drive In movie theater and Melt ice cream cones, on Rosedale.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Bird Cafe' Sundance Square

If you have traveled much and been the decision maker on all things travel related: hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, or the gas station most likely to have clean restrooms, you know you get some right and you get some wrong. I hope to bat about .700, 7 out of 10 is a good guessing-right record.

One of the things I do to improve the odds is to make rules, rules that I have developed through observation, and failure. They work sometimes and sometimes they don't. Like gas stations, "dirty on the outside, dirty on the inside," works most of the time.

One axiom I keep fairly strictly is to never eat at a restaurant that caters to customers who are there for reasons other than the food. A restaurant overlooking the Grand Canyon sort of thing. There going to be busy whether the food and service is good or not and it usually isn't. The San Antonio Riverwalk comes to mind. Parts of center-city Philadelphia come to mind. The Vatican Museum cafeteria comes to mind because it was the only bad meal I have ever had in Italy. There are exceptions: Thrashers french-fries at the beach is one.

Sundance Square could become such a place, not on the scale of the examples mentioned above of course, but the convention business is growing and downtown is attracting more and more visitors. If you went to the Main Street Arts Festival on Saturday night you know what I mean. You could not move on Main Street it was that crowded. We're all happy about it but will the restaurants go all touristy on us?

That's a way too long introduction to our visit to the Bird Cafe'. So if you've read enough and are looking for an opinion, here it is: I loved it.

The food is very good and I'm picky. Marian had the fish and chips and with her being British she should know the good from the bad, and she loved it. I had an assortment of tapas-type things including hummus which was very good. The pita bread was a little stale, a fresh, warm baguette with the hummus would have been perfect, but all in all mine was a good meal. too.

And, though a simple pleasure, something I particularly liked was the bottle of carbonated water for $2 refilled at no additional cost.

All that and great outdoor seating; inside seating with slightly more formal settings if you like.

Which brings me back to my original point: people will be frequenting the restaurants around the Square if only for the setting. And that's like gravity pulling the owners to decrease costs and increase profit. I hope I'm wrong, I like it down there as it is.

The Bird Cafe is at the old Flying Saucer location on the Square. And it's good.

Bird Cafe website.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Who's On First?

Today, Wednesday, I was in a part of town that I don't get to often and I thought I'd try a local Mexican place for tacos to go. The restaurant signage for this fine establishment read Today's Lunch Special: Tacos $4.98.

My attempt at placing an order went something like this:

ME at the counter (italics) : I'll take the special advertised on the sign outside.

-- OK sir, will that be ground beef or fajita meat

Whatever the special is, probably ground beef

-- OK sir Today's Special, anything to drink?

Diet Coke

-- Sorry we only have Diet Dr. Pepper.

How about an unsweetened iced tea?

-- OK sir, let's see (cash register starts) that's 6.98 for the special and 1.75 for the iced tea.

I thought today's special was 4.98?

-- No, that's Monday's special.

But the sign says today's special . . . 

-- I guess the owner forgot to change the sign, do you want me to get him?

No, I'll just pay it and maybe you can remind him.

MEAL ARRIVES, I pay and go to the car, open the container and its a cheese enchilada. I GO BACK.

Ma'am I ordered the tacos.

-- No, you said you wanted today's special which is the cheese enchilada.

But the sign says tacos. Today's Lunch Special: Tacos.

-- I know sir but like I said that's Monday's sign, today's special is enchiladas.

But I don't want an enchilada I want tacos.

-- OK sir we'll get you the tacos, let me see how much they are.

I don't care keep the 6.98 just please can I have tacos?

-- But the tacos aren't a lunch special and the enchilada was a lunch special price  . . .

: \

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What's New on Magnolia Avenue (East): Spice, Brewed, and Il Cane Rosso

Fort Worth is changing before the very eye. And Magnolia Avenue, my favorite boulevard in Fort Worth, is changing faster than most. To wit: the restaurants in the title SPICE, BREWED, and IL CANE ROSSO, are all new and all on Magnolia.

I can't say I know much about Thai food or any of the Asian cuisines or American versions of Asian cuisine. I like some of it but most of it leaves me with a "ok, now what." Thai food is a slight exception because of the use of hot spices which I like. I say this to say that I don't know how SPICE compares to the best Thai food but I think it's pretty darn good.  In fact, Marian and I like it enough that we'll stop by for a to-go order. If you don't agree tell me, I'd like to know.

Brewed is a mix of living-room-style coffee shop, craft beer bar, and restaurant and it all kind of works together in that Magnolia kind of way. I stopped by for a coffee and to do a little work the other morning and decided to stay for lunch. The coffee, frankly, was not so great but I got there late morning and maybe it was the end of the pot. For lunch I had the Brewed burger with duck fat fries and it was excellent. I like the place and it seems to be settling in well with the locals. The bar serves Texas-made beers, on-tap and bottled, and wine as well. I think there is some church affiliation but I can't swear to it.

Everyone who starts a restaurant hopes to have an opening week like Il Cane Rosso had. I think even they were surprised. Marian and I tried to get a seat on the second night of opening and the wait was an hour thirty minutes which is ok if you're planning on spending some time at the bar but we weren't so decided to return another time. I've reviewed Cane Rosso's pizza from the days they were at Times Ten (see Il-Cane-Rosso ) and it's good Neopolitan pizza. Cane Rosso has an assortment of entrees besides the signature pizza. It's getting very good reviews and it is very busy. Like I say, every restauranteur hopes to start like this.

All three of these restaurants are new and within steps of each other and I predict all will do well. Magnolia is busier now than it has ever been on a Friday and Saturday night and is a great place to find a new restaurant and to stroll down the boulevard afterward. We even stopped for an ice cream cone the other night.



SPICE: No website that I could find

Friday, January 10, 2014

Uh-Oh. I can relate.

From the Onion:

Vacationing Man Excited To Try Fast Food Franchise Not Found In Hometown


VIRGINIA BEACH, VA—Having driven to Virginia Beach to visit his sister for a brief vacation, fast food consumer and Pennsylvania native Don Turnbee expressed his interest Friday in eating at Carl’s Jr., a fast food chain not readily available in his hometown. “I’ve seen commercials for it on TV, but there isn’t one where I live, so I haven’t tried it before,” Turnbee said of the establishment, which he said is supposed to be better than Sonic but not as good as Jack in the Box. “The closest one is five hours away, and I’m not going to drive that far just to eat there.”

“The one near my sister’s is pretty close, so that’s better,” Turnbee added. “It’s as far as the Burger King is from my house in Erie. So like a 10-minute drive.”

While Turnbee told reporters he is looking forward to trying the restaurant, he said he doesn’t quite know what to expect, adding that he’s unsure if Carl’s Jr. fries are “any good,” whether or not they do chicken nuggets or chicken tenders, or if it is the type of fast food restaurant that... (Full text here:  Onion) . .