According to the Texas Historical Commission, Bankhead Highway, one of the United States’ first transcontinental highways, had its beginnings in 1916. It stretched from Washington, D.C., to San Diego, with a big chunk in Texas: 850 miles from Texarkana to El Paso.
The route roughly followed today’s U.S. 67 and U.S. 80, according to the commission. Few places still refer to it as Bankhead Highway or Bankhead Drive, according to a Star-Telegram story about the road’s centennial celebration last year. (In Fort Worth, it’s Lancaster Aveune and Camp Bowie Boulevard; in Arlington, it’s Division Street.)
The longest stretch still using the Bankhead name is in Parker County, Fort Worth’s Dan Smith, author of “The Bankhead Highway in Texas,” says in the story. And part of that stretch goes through Aledo, where, on a corner of the highway, you’ll find The Bankhead Bistro and Coffee Bar.
It’s both off the beaten path and easy to find: If you head there at lunchtime, just look for the blue house with the picket fence and all the cars parked out front.
About a year ago, Steve Zimmerman and a no-longer-involved partner took over ownership of a coffeeshop with plans to launch a “bistro” menu featuring artisan sandwiches and gourmet salads. The idea was to get diners to linger a while. During my two lunchtime visits, that intention has met with success: Both took place on pleasant days, and the house’s porch was packed, as was the interior of the cafe.
You order at the counter, and as is usually the case at a place like this, it’s a good idea to look at the menu online in advance if you can, to help you be a little more decisive. Even then, it’s a small place, and be prepared for items to sell out. One of the most intriguing-sounding starters, fresh ricotta with tomato jam, was unavailable when I tried to order it early one afternoon.
I opted instead for housemade pimento cheese ($4.40), mixed with sweet peppers and served in a widemouth canning jar with crostini and vegetables for dipping. The thick, chunky cheese had a pleasing texture and sharp flavor, although for some of us, it could stand to be a little more spicy.
Since it comes with coffee-crusted New York strip, the French dip sandwich ($11.90) seemed like a good choice at a coffee place — and it was. The beef is accompanied by provolone on a hoagie bun and served with a meaty-tasting au jus; it came to the table with the New York strip freshly smoked and richly textured, and dips in the au just made it even better.
The Cuban sandwich is listed on the menu as “The Cuban Sub” ($7.90), but it’s less like a submarine sandwich than a traditional Cuban, with ham, pork loin, mustard, pickles and Swiss cheese pressed panini-style between two slices of grilled bread. This isn’t a complaint, by the way: The traditional way beats a sub presentation. And the sandwich was good, but not quite as memorable as the French dip.
When you order at the counter, you’ll be tempted by the bakery case, but ask for the Mexican spiced brownie ($2), a large serving described on the menu as having “hints of coffee and cinnamon.” The cinnamon hinted more loudly, with a subtle bit of spicy heat following the chocolate (the spiciness was less pronounced in a similar mocha).
A cinnamon roll ($3), impulsively ordered from the bakery case, was more like a cinnamon mound, a pyramid of sticky goodness best eaten with a fork.
Bankhead Bistro, which is about 20 miles from downtown Fort Worth, also serves several brunch dishes daily: Intriguing items such as the Flying Elvis Panini, coffee-crusted hash and the Bankhead Benedict (served on an Asiago cheese bagel instead of an English muffin) have me planning a morning return visit. Of course, multiple coffee drinks are available, and if you’re in a hurry, you can get them at the drive-through.
It’s a charming place with a relaxed interior (you might even accidentally walk through part of the kitchen). It makes you not want to be in a hurry and just sit for a spell.