First bite: City Works works better than you might expect

Cheese curds at City Works
Cheese curds at City Works Special to the Star-Telegram

City Works Eatery and Pour House is the latest sports bar seemingly made for people who don’t like sports bars.

We’ve seen a lot of these places over the past several years: Food goes beyond the norm of nachos and wings; beers include a multitude of crafts and drafts; and the atmosphere is upbeat and couples-friendly, not dark and dank and populated only by well-testosteroned dudes and bros.

Newly opened in the Shops at Clearfork, the first Fort Worth location of this national chain (a branch also opened in Frisco this year) happily goes along with this new sports-bar ideology — so well, in fact, that you’ll forget you’re at a sports bar; the only reminder is the wall of TVs, each showing a different game.

The vibe: Decor is simple yet nice. In the open and spacious dining room, you sit in handsome booths — or on snug pub stools — at attractive copper-top tables. The shotgun bar, too, is lined in copper. Surprisingly, during one of my visits, when the Cowboys were playing, the noise level wasn’t insufferable, as it can be at other like-minded places. Didn’t matter if the Cowboys scored a touchdown; you could still carry on a conversation without needing a bullhorn.

The patio is still a work in progress; a manager said it would be open before year’s end.

The food: Overseen by executive chef Andrew Ehrmantraut (last seen at Bread Winners), the menu features burgers, salads, sandwiches, several shareable appetizers and a half-dozen entrees. While the menu itself didn’t offer much in the way of surprises, the quality of the food was continually surprising. Dishes were attractively presented and tricked-out with little touches that made them stand apart from typical bar food.

A meal here should definitely start with the restaurant’s rendition of cheese curds ($7). Instead of the usual curdled milk, the kitchen uses white cheddar cheese, bite-size bits of which were flash-fried in an airy, light, slightly sweet cornmeal batter that reminded me of funnel cake. A smoked tomato sauce came on the side for dipping but I don’t think I dunked even once; the sauce wasn’t necessary.

From the selection of six burgers, I chose the peppercorn burger ($14), topped with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic aioli, baby arugula and small chunks of blue cheese. The thick patty could have used more seasoning — Can I get some peppercorn on my peppercorn burger? — but it was perfectly cooked medium rare, brandishing a good sear and a warm, pink interior. Included in the price was a side of thick-cut fries, sprinkled in olive oil and parsley.

Those terrific fries also starred in the restaurant’s rendition of fish and chips ($15). Accompanying them were three able-bodied planks of cod, each wearing a light sheath of golden-brown beer batter. Dusted onto each was something I’d never heard of: malt-vinegar powder. I’d like to know where I can buy this so I can use it on every single thing I ever eat.

The menu did offer a few offbeat choices, including duck confit nachos ($15), a shareable app that would make a fine meal. I loved the presentation. Instead of the ingredients being dumped on top of a pile of chips, each of the crisp wonton chips was layered with pulled duck, navy beans, melted pepper jack and bright green jalapeños, then stacked on one another, three levels high.

I wasn’t crazy about the pedestrian navy beans, but the pulled duck’s sweetness meshed well with the spicy tint of the pepper jack. Wonton chips were a refreshing change of pace from the usual corn tortilla chips. Some crumbled under the weight of their toppings; keep your fork on standby.

The service: A little tentative and unsure — servers had to check with others before answering some food-related questions. But otherwise, they were friendly and attentive, good with small talk and quick to refill drinks.

The verdict: Not destination dining but not a bad option for good American food, a healthy beer selection — nearly 100 on tap — and, almost forgot, watching a game.

City Works Eatery and Pour House

5288 Monahans Ave.

Fort Worth


Hours: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m.–midnight Friday; 10:30 a.m.-midnight Saturday; 10:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Sunday.