Rufe Snow Drive isn’t what most people think of when they hear the words “restaurant row,” but there are a lot of restaurants on it, on a stretch that goes from Loop 820 all the way into Keller. Many of them are chains, but independents are well-represented.
About two years ago, Kareem Lawton and Pablo Resendez teamed to open one of those independents, Campfire Grill Texas Kitchen. It’s not the easiest thing to spot: If you’re going northbound on Rufe Snow, it might catch your eye as it rests in the corner of a strip shopping center anchored by a gas station. If you’re southbound, you might miss it entirely.
But people have been finding it: Fort Worth magazine dubbed it “Best Comfort Food” in 2016, and on our two late-lunch visits, there was a respectable, if not overwhelming, number of diners in it. We got the sense that many are regulars. We also got the sense that we might want to become regulars ourselves.
Lawton and Resendez’s philosophy is to bring different Texas-cuisine influences together, according to the website. So there’s a Gulf Coast section of the menu that focuses on catfish, shrimp and tilapia, and a “Texican” section with fajita and taco plates.
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But, to be honest, we were drawn to the “Southern Comfort” section of the menu. We’d heard this place has a great chicken-fried steak, and it does.
There’s nothing fancy about the dish, which costs a modest $9.99, and it is not so large that it flops over the sides of the plate. It’s just a classic rendition: peppery cream gravy, crunchy-salty crust and flavorful meat, resting on a serving of mashed potatoes that we almost missed at first. If you’re looking for comfort food, this is it, and the slow-cooked green beans that came with it were just as tasty and almost nostalgia-inducing.
A 12-ounce, bone-in pork chop — the most expensive thing on the menu at $11.99 — was also good. Service is order-at-the-counter, a little unusual for a diner, and we were warned that the pork chop would take 15 minutes. But it was worth the wait, a thick cut with a nice char on both sides, and lightly seasoned, moist and flavorful meat. A generous side salad accompanied it (and helped take up the wait time), as did more buttery, soft mashed potatoes.
Another thing Campfire Grill is known for is Auntie Nicole’s Banana Puddin’ ($4.99). We were told at the counter that it’s life-changing. Although I’m not sure I would go that far, it was pretty darned good banana pudding, old-school style with lots of vanilla wafers, whipped vanilla cream cheese and rich, and chunky banana flavor. Although I was the only one who ordered dessert, saying nothing about sharing, the serving brought to the table was big enough for me and a friend to split.
The only minor disappointment on that visit was the Texas Tumbleweeds appetizer ($4.99), potato tots stuffed with cheese and chorizo and served with “moonshine BBQ.” And when I say minor disappointment, I mean minor: The tots had a good, hashbrown-esque texture and the sauce had a bright tanginess to it. They were good, but the chorizo was underperforming and there wasn’t much spice.
That wasn’t a problem when I returned to try the chorizo burger ($9.49) from the “All-American” section of the menu. It was served open-faced, showing off a buttery, toasted bun, and more than a half-dozen fresh jalapeño slices that rested atop an over-easy egg that covered a chorizo/ground-beef patty accompanied by ghost-pepper cheese. The heat level of this was just about perfect, spicy without being palate-blowing, and the patty avoided the dryness that can sometimes come with a chorizo blend, helped by an egg that was just runny enough to provide some juiciness without making a mess. Accompanying fries were stellar on all counts.
Another sign of Campfire’s unpretentiousness is the s’mores cinnamon graham crackers dessert ($4.99). You can find restaurants doing tableside s’mores with multiflavored, housemade marshmallows; you can find ones doing s’mores pies; you can even find a s’mores pizza. But as befits a restaurant called Campfire Grill, these were, you know, s’mores, delicately charred marshmallows and melted chocolate between two graham crackers. I was scraping every last bit of the goo off my plate.
One extra touch at Campfire Grill is the “giving wall”: a half-dozen buckets hang on the wall, each representing a local charity. Diners are encouraged to put their receipt into one of the buckets. At the end of every month, the receipts are totaled, and the organization with the highest total receives a donation of 10 percent of that month’s total from the restaurant.
It’s another way of providing comfort — and if the rest of the food on the menu is as good as what we tried, Campfire Grill has plenty of other ways, too.