Gather Cafe & Coffee: casual about gathering, serious about food

The wild mushroom barley risotto at Gather Cafe & Coffee in far north Fort Worth.
The wild mushroom barley risotto at Gather Cafe & Coffee in far north Fort Worth.

In the past few months, two restaurants with in-house coffee bars have opened in the far north Fort Worth/Keller area. But while Seven Mile Cafe in Old Town Keller feels like a restaurant with a coffee bar in it, Gather Cafe and Coffee, in the Villages of Woodland Springs subdivision, feels more like a coffee bar with a restaurant inside it.

The differences are subtle, but they’re there: Seven Mile is full-service; Gather is counter service. Seven Mile is part of a restaurant row on busy Main Street/U.S. 377; Gather is part of an also busy but neighborhoody intersection that’s also home to several other “mom and pop” restaurants.

Gather is well-named: We’ve run into book clubs and children’s birthday parties there, a sign that husband-and-wife co-owners Scott and Morgan Gonzales are accomplishing their mission of designing a community-oriented coffee bar that also offers scratch-made food.

Despite the suburban surroundings, Gather feels like something off of Magnolia Avenue, Fort Worth’s strongest concentration of independent restaurants. According to an Indulge magazine story, Scott Gonzales and his team spent six 35-hour weeks learning about coffee with staff from Magnolia-based Avoca Coffee Roasters (Gonzales will even suggest coffee pairings for Gather’s dishes).

And Gather feels like it has captured the middle ground between the bring-your-laptop businesslike atmosphere of Avoca and the your-grandmother’s-furniture-is-hip-again whimsy of Brewed, the coffee-forward Magnolia restaurant (check out the bird cages hanging from Gather’s ceiling, or the fan blades sprouting from one wall). Avoca Coffee is available at Gather, and for another Magnolia touch, pastries from Stir Crazy Baked Goods were on display at the counter on our visits.

As you walk toward the counter at Gather, you can grab a food menu and discover that this place has much more on its mind than artful lattes. Entrees include such offbeat-for-a-coffee-place items as wild boar schnitzel and roasted Bandera quail; among the soups listed on the online menu are vichyssoise and pho. Gather may look like a coffee spot, but it’s pretty serious about the “Cafe” part of its name.

We’ve made three visits — breakfast, lunch and dinner — and we will be back. The “full breakfast” ($13, an over-easy egg accompanied by cherrywood-smoked bacon, a large link of smoked wild boar sausage, caramelized wild mushrooms, roasted cherry tomatoes and brioche toast) provides a pretty good overview of the savory side of breakfast.

The egg managed to not get lost in all that — the salt and pepper hit the right notes so well that each grain seemed to have been placed on the egg by hand — and the mushrooms were a delicately salty standout. Everything else was good, although the sausage might have been just a little too chewy. Note: I like my eggs runny, and this one was; if you don’t like them that way, you might want to note that at the counter.

Avocado toast ($9) consisted of slices of avocado (instead of a spread), chevre and tomato jam on brioche toast, blanketed by one of those runny eggs. My wife, a big avocado fan, enjoyed the toast and appreciated the full slices, although she found that the egg overpowered the other ingredients just a little bit.

During our dinner visit, we tried the coffee-braised chuck ($13) and the wild mushroom barley risotto ($9), along with an appetizer of black-eyed pea hummus ($10). The hummus had a nice presentation, with a couple of roasted garlic cloves rising from a dip drizzled with chili oil, with celery as the main utensil. A good start, with just enough garlic punch and chili-oil heat to give the dip a tiny kick.

If there can be such a thing as a mini-monolith, that’s what the coffee-braised chuck’s hunks of beef, rising from an island of whipped mashed potatoes swimming in coffee jus, called to mind. Hints of coffee flavor came through, the potatoes were buttery, and the meat was flavorful and tender. The barley risotto had a pleasantly nutty flavor with just a little earthiness from the mushrooms and a dash of saltiness from the shaved Pecorino Romano resting atop.

At lunch, we brought our recently adopted, year-old Great Pyrenees, Oliver, who we’ve been taking to dog-friendly restaurants. Gather does not allow dogs on its attractive, enclosed patio, but does allow them at the handful of sidewalk tables just outside the restaurant (this happened to be the day of the children’s birthday party, so Oliver got a lot of extra attention).

I had a Cuban sandwich ($13) and my wife a vegetarian banh mi ($9; omnivores can order it with pork); both came on baguettes, which threatened to dwarf the ingredients, especially the onion-carrot-daikon-cucumber mixture in the banh mi. The Cuban’s turkey, pork and Gruyere stood up to the bread better, but it was tough to detect any dill pickle — a crucial ingredient in a Cuban. That nitpick aside, it was a substantial, tasty sandwich.

At first glance, the Gather menu (which will change seasonally) looks small, but just about every item calls us back — the lattes and iced chai we tried, both good, barely scratch the surface of the drink menu, and we’ve yet to try the desserts, which include espresso ice cream and bread pudding.

But what really makes us want to return is the laid-back, welcoming atmosphere the Gonzaleses have created for the place.

This is an area of Fort Worth that’s a long, traffic-filled drive from some of the city’s most popular restaurant districts, and Gather is the type of place that’s all about getting away from any I-35W-induced stress.

Gather Cafe & Coffee

  • 12420 Timberland Blvd., Fort Worth
  • 817-379-2915
  • Hours: 6:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday