Food & Drink

Eats Beat: More than games at Varsity Tavern

A Philly from the quick-grab line at Varsity Tavern.
A Philly from the quick-grab line at Varsity Tavern. Varsity Tavern

Here’s the basic rule for judging a bar-and-grill:

If the ads only brag about the drinks, not the food, there’s probably a reason.

Some new bar-and-grills only serve food to fit city zoning. They have a host stand, menus and salt shakers but only promote exotic drinks and shots.

The new Varsity Tavern seemed that way at first. When the opening announcement misspelled the chef’s name and mentioned “concession favorites,” I didn’t expect much.

But surprise: Varsity has a large menu of salads, burgers and platters, including a steak. A weekend brunch menu covers everything from migas to bananas Foster waffles.

Chef Brian Franzman, a partner in the Austin bar J. Black’s, is credited with the menu for the $2 million sports bar. It’s heavy on guy food (chips, dips, quesadillas) but with a few surprises.

A chicken migas platter with home fries Sunday at midday was above-average brunch fare, although it’s tough not to choose the barbecue pulled-pork Benedict-like “stack” on cheddar cornbread with jalapeño cream gravy.

The showpiece of the weekday menu is the “Phast Philly,” Philly cheesesteaks served at a counter. But there are entrees in the $8-$12 range, with the rib-eye going for $22.

The food does not compare to that at Mash’d or Social House, maybe not even Pour House. But in the big world of West 7th-area sports bars, it’s a new option with plenty to choose from.

Varsity Tavern is open for lunch and dinner daily at 1005 Norwood St., near other bars one block east of University Drive; 817-882-6699.

Nearby, a related pizza restaurant and bar named The American Pub (TAP), is expected to open by early next month at 2800 Bledsoe St.

Prime rib and pasta

Mancuso’s Italian was already known for its Italian fried fish platter.

Now, Mancuso’s and nearby Billy’s Oak Acres BBQ are teaming up to offer smoked prime rib dinners.

Mancuso’s, beginning its 30th year since Cathy Mancuso opened it on White Settlement Road at what was then the western edge of Fort Worth, is serving smoked prime rib Fridays along with a choice of sides, including pasta or the restaurant’s old-school lasagna.

The prime rib comes from Billy’s, a barbecue-and-beer roadhouse on North Las Vegas Trail a couple of exits north.

The Oak Acres realm now extends across county lines. The prime rib is also served Saturdays at Fish Creek Restaurant and Bar in Willow Park, and Billy’s brisket is served in enchiladas at Enchiladas Olé.

(Work continues on a new Billy’s location at 205 N. Vacek St.)

Mancuso’s comes from the Italian-American legacy of pasta-and-rich-sauce Italian restaurants now often called “red-sauce Italian.” It’s a welcome throwback to the days before ubiquitous strip-center pizza-and-pasta cafes.

It’s open for lunch and dinner daily at 9500 White Settlement Road, a half-block west of Loop 820; 817-246-7041,

Start the Press

The new Press Cafe is open at the Trailhead in Clearfork, bringing burgers, salads, affordable platters and patio dining to a handsome cafe on the Clear Fork hike-bike trail.

The Press is the newest venture by The Tavern and Pacific Table chef Felipe Armenta, but it’s more casual. Like those restaurants, it has a full weekend brunch menu.

It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily at 4801 Edwards Ranch Road, No. 105, off Clearfork Main Street between South Hulen Street and Bryant Irvin Road; 817-570-6002,

A new Rock

A new location of the Washington-based The Rock Wood Fired Kitchen chain has opened in Arlington, replacing a steakhouse at 2300 E. Lamar Blvd.;

The first local Rock, a pizza-and-burger chain with an oldies-rock theme, opened last year in Alliance Town Center.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538,, @EatsBeat. His column appears Wednesdays in Life & Arts and Fridays in