Not many Keller restaurants claim to have been around since the ‘90s. Most of the restaurant growth in the North Tarrant city has come within the past five or 10 years, so there’s a lot more new than old there.
Now there’s even less “old”: Saturday, Judge Beans Restaurant & Cantina, which had been in Keller for 26 years, announced on Facebook that Saturday was its last day of business.
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In response to a query sent via Facebook Messenger, the Star-Telegram was told that the restaurant was sold this month and that the new owner is Carlos Benitez, who owns Tio Carlos Mexican-Latin Grill, which has locations in Colleyville and Irving. We have a query out to Benitez regarding his plans for the Keller space.
On North Main Street north of Golden Triangle Boulevard, Judge Beans felt like a stalwart restaurant separate from the mostly newer action in Old Town just south of Golden Triangle, where several restaurants have opened during the past few years.
Like those restaurants, Judge Beans offered live music; its menu was a mix of Tex-Mex, steaks, chicken, pork chops, chicken-fried steaks and chicken-fried chicken, burgers and sandwiches, and breakfasts.
It’s believed to have been the oldest restaurant in Keller, having opened in 1992 as part of a small chain that expanded from an original Dallas location to Irving, Fort Worth and Keller. The Keller location, which appears to have been the last one left, had a loyal following, and owner Bill Mena was big on giving back to the community.
“‘Judge Beans will always hold a special place in the hearts of so many folks in the community that dined and celebrated there,” Cary Moon, the Fort Worth city councilman who owns co-owns Keller Tavern and Texas Bleu Steakhouse in Old Town Keller, said in an email.
“For years, Judge Beans was the only option in Keller; albeit a great option. It’s always hard to beat a good steak and baked potato with a cold glass of tea from Judge Beans.”
According to a story in the Star-Telegram archives, after Judge Beans first opened in Keller, five of the original employees signed some of the first earned dollar bills and hung them on a wall. The began a tradition of customers also pinning bills to the money wall, which overflowed into other parts of the restaurant. After the 9-11 attacks, the money was cleared to provide a donation to victims of the attacks; in 2013, it was cleared again to provide money to the International Rett Syndrome Foundation.
The idea came from a frequent customer whose daughter was diagnosed with Rett syndrome — a genetic neurologicial disorder that leads to lifelong impairments including lost speech, seizures, scoliosis and irregular breathing patterns — when she was a child.
It’s unclear whether Judge Beans will be replaced by another Tio Carlos Latin-Mexican Cuisine or by a new concept, and whether any changes will be made to the Keller building, which looked rustic before people were putting the word “hipster” in front of “rustic.”
Tio Carlos has its own long (in restaurant years, anyway) North Texas history, with a Las Colinas location that’s been around for more than 20 years. In 2017, it added a second location in Colleyville at the north end of a shopping center anchored by a Whole Foods Market.
The key word in the restaurant’s name is “Latin”: Along with the usual fajitas, enchiladas, taco plates, burritos and rellenos, the large menu features a más al sur section that skews a little more Caribbean and Central and South American, with such items as a pupusa plate and a Lomito Argentino, described on the menu as a “Large Argentine style sandwich filled with grilled steak, fried eggs, jack cheese, ham, lettuce, tomatoes and salsa rosa.”
Judge Beans was at 314 N. Main St. in Keller. We will update when we get a clearer answer on what the plans are for the space.
This report includes material from Star-Telegram archives.