Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More Restaurants: the Mid-Price Range "Indies"

Fort Worth has a its share of large and independent restaurants, though not as many as we did 25 years ago. Some of them, like Joe T's, even have a state-wide reputation. I'll rate them, again, based on food quality and overall value.

Reata --- Actually, I'd put the Reata in the lower end of premium restaurants, but it is one of our more well known independents. The Reata was one of the original southwestern cuisine restaurants and still serves unusual dishes like quail and buffalo. It's an "experience" restaurant, big spaces, big a-typical menu, hundreds of people having a good time. But, it is very hard for a big restaurant to serve good food night after night, unless they have a limited menu. Mexican restaurants can do it because of that. To me it's best suited for a large- group business dinner or special occasion. If you go not expecting fine dining but casual dining with good food you'll be happy. Food quality and overall value: 7 of 10.

Joe T Garcias
Joe T's is the Fort Worth local restaurant. Saying anything bad about it brings the wrath of the local gods. It is a large restaurant and it has a very limited menu, but it's good. It's not great in my opinion, but it is good. I have never sat in the outdoors patio but I hear that is a great dining experience.
Food quality and overall value: 8 of 10.

Angelos Barbecue
Another restaurant has a long established tradition of good food. In my view, it's hard to distinguish the quality of our better barbecue restaurants. Angelos is good barbeque. But Fort Worth has a lot of good barbecue places. I prefer Railhouse. Angelo's is an old fashioned kind of place that you can feel comfortable bringing a bunch of friends, have some barbecue, and drink a few beers.
Food quality and overall value: 8 of 10.

Ruffino's Italian
In my opinion the best Italian food in town in the price range. But that's not saying much. Italian food is not our strongest cuisine.
Food quality and overall value: 8 of 10.

As I write this I scratch my head in search of more independent restaurants to write about and conclude that like every other enterprise, the family owned and operated restaurants have moved aside to big business establishments for the same reason that farming, automobile producing and retail shopping went the way of the national management, that is, lower prices and more consistent quality due to economy-of- scale purchasing and assembly line style cooking (watch the cooks "assemble" at Pappasitos). This is where Allen, over at The Whited Sepulchre, and I may part ways. I understand it, I defend it it to some extent, but I don't like it. It is a market-driven reality, but, we have lost something -- what we have lost is a discussion better had with a bottle of wine and some Charlies pizza.


Kevin said...

Ive been to reata and joe ts and agree that italian is not our best italian food. i actually grew up in dallas (and lived in hartford and washington, d.c.) and think some of the best restaurants, home restaraunts, in tarrant are not only in fort worth (you never mentioned "Ovation" but also in Arlington. I like your blog and will be stopping by from time to time.

Francis Shivone said...

Thanks kevin -- we Fort Worthians hate to admit that Arlington has a few better restaurants. Actually, the best Thai restaurant in the area is in Arlington. Stop by anytime.

Rambler said...

Well, they aren't really up to "mid-price range", but I'm fond of some of the local Mexican spots that aren't really chains, but have multiple locations. La Playa Maya on Hemphill has a decent lunch and I really like Mercado Juarez. The warm salsa is nice, although I liked it better when they served it in larger bowls.

Ok, here's the worst: I really enjoy the Mexican Inns (duck, run), mostly for the chips and salsa, which are different. The nachos I like, the enchiladas not so much. Their signature chicken and rice dish is good. The taco salad is ok. Mainly, the chips, salsa, and if you are lucky enough to get them fresh, the corn tortillas.

And I have eaten on the Joe T. patio. It's pleasant, but I don't care for the food enough to put up with the crowd.

Francis Shivone said...

Our version of the local family restaurant is Mexican and maybe barbecue as I have said before and will talk about next. I haven't been to Mexican Inn in 20 years, I'll take your word for it.

Jake Good said...

I would agree with everyone about Joe Ts... the Margaritas are tastey, the food is pretty good... the salsa is awesome...

I liked Aventino's just off of Camp Bowie... the Italian was fantastic (very simplistic recipes, but bold flavors), the staff was very personal... and the Tiramisu was made fresh that day...

Mexican Inn is pretty good... their chips are good, like home-made Fritos... but the only dish I ever get there is the Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice)...

You know, I know we're talking about chains here, but I really really have to mention Meli's Taqueria... it's about as authentic Mexican as you can get across the border... no tex mex here at all, pure pollo, chorizo, barbacoa, and jimon... tortas, gorditas, tacos, and burritos... mmmm....

Francis Shivone said...

Jake -- Have not been to Melis. Please give us some more detail. As a matter of fact email me the details and I'll post them (if you want). Actually, I was thinking about doing a "send in your favorite corner restaurant or taco truck."

Anonymous said...

Might I suggest: Old Neighborhood Grill in Fort Worth as a GREAT family owned site? It is not fancy or pretentious, just good home cooking.

Francis Shivone said...

You might. And would be right to do so. It is what a local restaurant should be, and should have been included by yours truly. Thanks.

beverly said...

remember all the hoop d' do over
Kincaids having to move a couple
months ago? well, it got me curious, having lived here in cowtown since 1967 and never been
there. sunday,5/18/2008 my son and
I went to the new location in southwest fort worth. Nice building. I was very disappointed
in the food. I ordered the regular
burger, mustard, loaded and fries.
no drink,just water, cuz the drinks were $1.50 each out of a soda fountain. my son ordered the
regular size burger with just ketchep,fries and soda. after waiting about 12 minutes for our order, and it wasn't busy, I got
my burger, it only had mustard on it. I took it back, wanting the loaded part added. It took 5 more
minutes. The buns were cold, the
meat was cold, the whole thing was
taste-less and dry as a bone. no
seasoning to enchance the big glob
of meat. thank goodness for the fries, frozen right out a bag though. the tab came to 15.00 plus
tax. we both left there disappointed and wished we'd gone to subway and gotten a foot long
on the $5.00 special going on now.
at least there, you get quality
veggies and warm soft bread and
good meat. we could of saved 6 bucks and got some desert somewhere. also, the soda fountain
area stank like a sewer, so we chose to sit clear across the room
from it. I also didn't appreciate
a woman employee sweeping the floor
all around and under me while I was
trying to choke down the burger.
never going back. can make a better
burger at home for half the cost.
we felt ripped off.

Francis Shivone said...

Beverly, I can't tell you how sorry I am to hear that. I visited Kinkaids 100 times on camp Bowie and can't think of a time I left disappointed. But --- the good name doesn't mean you get a good meal. Maybe something has happened to Kinkaids that I don't know about. I would be curious to hear from other readers. Thanks for the info.

Cesar Diaz said...

I agree with Francis. My experiences at Kincaid's on Camp Bowie have always been great. The food is fantastic. The burger is pricier than McDonalds or Subway, but you can't compare the quality of Kincaide's burgers to any fast food restaraunt. As for the drink, just about any dring around any place is between $1.50 and $2. Even a 20 ounce bottle goes for $1.50. As for making food at home, anyone can make food at home cheaper. The point of having a restaraunt is making a profit. I think Beverly probably needs to stick to home cooking or the dollar menu at McDonald's.

Cesar Diaz said...

I agree with Francis. My experiences at Kincaide's have always been excellent. An incredible burger. One of the best in the Fort Worth. I have never waited more than 5 to 10 minutes even when it was busy. You can always make a cheaper burger at home, but I'm not so sure it is that easy to make a better burger. As for the drinks, most drinks are $1.50 and $2. Even a 20 ounce drink is $1.50. I think Beverly might be happier ordering of the dollar menu at McDonlad's.