If any American city can truly claim to be the Nacho Capital of the World, it must be Arlington.
The dish was invented in 1943 in Coahuila. But Arlington has refined it, both with the cultural breakthrough in 1976 of “ballpark nachos” and the 1980 arrival of potato-skin “Irish nachos.”
In Arlington, diners don’t ask where to get corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day. They ask for Irish nachos, potato skins topped with cheese, jalapeños and pico de gallo as originated at J. Gilligan’s Bar & Grill, ground zero every March 17 for green beer and fun.
True, Irish nachos aren’t exactly Irish. But there’s history behind the fusion: Irish settlers in South Texas’ San Patricio County sided with Mexico in the Revolution.
“We’ve been serving these for years, but every time one of these shows comes around, it brings in more people,” said Randy Ford, an original 1979 partner in the restaurant with the late UT Arlington basketball player John Gilligan.
J. Gilligan’s is hosting its 38th annual St. Patrick’s Day block party beginning at 11 a.m. Friday, featuring country singer Deryl Dodd at 8 p.m., bagpipers and green Coors Light.
J. Gilligan’s has added outdoor seating on the Abram Street side along with a patio-service bar, with a folding window to brighten a new dining area.
Ford said he originally worried about dining competition as downtown Arlington developed.
“But you know what? It seems like it’s made Arlington more of a destination,” he said.
He pointed out new restaurants and nightclubs planned nearby.
“We get all these people now who come to Arlington and wind up here for dinner or a drink later,” he said.
Shopping and brunch
The new Neiman Marcus NM Cafe lives up to its billing.
It’s not as formal as the old Zodiac or Hedges restaurants inside past stores. But it has the same menu, down to the consommé and popovers with strawberry butter.
The NM Cafe now serves a brunch special Sundays. For example, this week it was blueberry pancakes with bacon and fruit.
The daily lunch menu ranges from a simple soup-and-sandwich sampler ($16.50) or turkey-apple-pecan bistro salad ($19) to a burger, rosemary chicken, grilled salmon or a New York strip ($25).
Planned or rumored to be coming to the Shops at Clearfork: a Pinstripes bistro-bowling alley, a Rise nº3 location of the Rise nº1 soufflé restaurant from Dallas, a Florida-based Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen, a Malai Kitchen Thai-Vietamese restaurant from Dallas and a B&B Butchers & Restaurant steakhouse-butcher shop from Houston.
Veg out on Tex-Mex
Los Vaqueros Restaurant, always a reliable Tex-Mex mainstay in the Stockyards, has added more vegetarian dishes to a “plant slant” menu approved by the Fort Worth Blue Zones Project.
The new choices include avocado or spinach-mushroom enchiladas, served with hominy-corn relish and vegetarian black beans ($10.95-$11.95).
The top special is a pecan-squash chile relleno with lemon salsa, rosemary potatoes and salad ($15.95). There’s also a fruit option for dessert ($6.95) and migas, huevos rancheros or a yogurt parfait at brunch.
Onion burgers arrive
New in the Stockyards: Hookers Grill, 213 W. Exchange Ave., serves onion-fried burgers like those popular in El Reno, Okla.
Former El Reno restaurateur Otis Bruce helped Hookers get started. If you’ve never tried an El Reno burger, it’s cooked with onions grilled into the beef.