Restaurants

November restaurant rewind: BBQ faves reopen, a Tex-Mex chain says adios, and more

The Tarrant County restaurant scene has a lot of turnover, but November seemed unusually active, especially in its final week — some restaurants that closed appeared to have waited till after Thanksgiving to hang it up.

And then there was the Tex-Mex chain that once was all over North Texas but just closed its last DFW location and appears to have one location left ... in New Jersey.

But first, the good news — the openings.

WHAT OPENED

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OMG Tacos is opening on Bledsoe Street across from the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art. Handout photo

OMG Tacos opened Nov. 3 in the West 7th area, in the same building as Ampersand, Coyote Ugly and Zenna Thai & Japanese. It’s one of those step-by-step places: choose your meat (which includes lengua and pastor as well as “OMG” steak, pork and chicken toppings; a vegetarian option is available), choose your tortilla, choose your toppings (the 10 options include Flamin’ Hot Cheetos). Along with tacos, OMG serves quesadillas, tortas, burritos, nachos, loaded fries and OMG Elotes: creamy corn and cotija cheese topped with, you guessed it, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Party atmosphere at night — it’s open till 3 a.m. nightly — and even, in a way, at lunch: unedited rap songs were playing during our daytime visit. 3011 Bledsoe St., Fort Worth, 817-882-6472, http://www.omgtacos.com

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A combination plate at the newly reopened Sammies BBQ in Fort Worth. Bud Kennedy bud@star-telegram.com

In a Nov. 3 “Eats Beat” column, our Bud Kennedy reported double the barbecue news, with the reopenings of Sammie’s BBQ in Fort Worth and BBQ on the Brazos in Cresson, both of which occurred the week of Nov. 5. “The new Sammie’s .... is combining that legacy restaurant’s sour coleslaw and vinegary barbecue sauce with the meats and sauce from [owner Sam] Gibbins former Smoke Pits BBQ nearby, which closed” (not only did it close, it has already been demolished, to make way for a condo building). BBQ on the Brazos, which closed its original location in July after a lease dispute, moved to a house-trailer “dining room” nearby on the MotorSport Ranch in Cresson, uphill behind its old location off U.S. 377. (It can be tricky to find, so take the turn to the motorsport track.) Owner John Sanford is offering a motorsport track special called a “Lambo combo”” a sandwich, a drink and a drive in any sports car for $229. It’s a lot cheaper without the car part. Sammie’s: 3801 E. Belknap St., Fort Worth, 817-834-1822, @sammiesbbqfw on Facebook; BBQ on the Brazos: 9012 Performance Court, Cresson, 817-396-4758, https://www.bbqonthebrazoscressontx.com; BBQ on the Brazos currently open only 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

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The Spanish Harlem sandwich at Stacks Biscuit House has refried beans, house pork chorizo, sunny side egg, crisp tortilla strips, peppers, onions, cheddar cheese, & bacon jalapeno gravy on a jalapeno cheddar biscuit. Courtesy photo

After a long wait, Stacks Biscuit House officially opened Nov. 12 in Roanoke. Lots of biscuit sandwiches, from the simple (“The Boss,” a buttermilk biscuit with egg, cheddar cheese and house pork sausage) to the over-the-top (“Shebop Shebop,” with buttermilk biscuit, country-fried steak, mashed potatoes, spinach and Texas Hill Country yellow gravy), plus biscuit Benedicts, desserty biscuit concoctions and such a la care offerings as biscuit nuggets with a gravy flight (your choice of four gravies). There’s also a big build-your-own section of the menu, including lots of gravy choices. The restaurant is related to Craft & Vine, upstairs in the same building, which also includes the Wharf Steak and Seafood. 310 S. Oak St., Roanoke, 817-464-8188, stacksbiscuits.com

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The Shoyu Ramen at Wabi House: Chicken broth with pork, egg, bamboo shoots, enoki mushrooms and scallions Courtney Dabney Special to the Star-Telegram

Already a hit in Dallas, Wabi House added a Fort Worth location on 8th Avenue, with a Nov. 17 grand opening on the second floor of a building that houses locations of Super Chix and Potbelly Sandwich Shop. The menu is a mix of ramen, small plates, cocktails, sake and other beverages. The restaurant comes from Kenzo Tran, owner of Piranha Killer Sushi and Arlington’s Piranha Killer Ramen. Popular small-plate items making the transition from the Dallas location include crisp pork ear and sweet corn fritters; the Fort Worth Wabi also has yakitori (grilled meats and vegetables) section that includes lamb chop, beef tenderloin and more exotic items such as hatsu (chicken hearts). Vegetarian options available, including a ramen with a vegetable base. 1229 8th Ave., 817-720-3100, www.wabihouse.com

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Robert Philpot rphilpot@star-telegram.com

Ashim’s Hibachi Grill opened Nov. 18 in downtown Fort Worth, in an area that also includes Asian restaurants Hoya Korean Kitchen, Piranha Killer Sushi and P.F. Chang’s, all within a block or so of one another and a few blocks away from Sundance Square Plaza and its Christmas tree. Ashim’s is a fast-casual spot that looks small but has an extensive selection of sushi and sashimi, as well as poke bowls, and, as the name indicates, hibachi entrees ranging from grilled chicken ($8.95) to Texas ribeye ($23.95). The three flavors of Thai rolled ice cream are a bonus, and the restaurant shows a flair for art and design that goes beyond the typical fast-casual atmosphere. Friendly service, too, and it’s open till midnight. 424 Taylor St., Fort Worth, 214-283-9122., https://www.ashimshibachi.com

Falafel Haus opened in mid-November on North Tarrant Parkway in North Richland Hills. It’s a small but popular place — we had to wait briefly for a table on a weekend lunchtime visit — with a quality-over-quantity fast-casual menu: choose your style (wrap or bowl), choose your protein (falafel or chicken), choose your spread/sauce/vegetables and other garnishes. Salads, sides, and a couple of desserts (baklava and mamoul) are also available. There are no fountain drinks, but soft drinks, ice tea and a small selection of local craft beer are available in bottles and cans, and there’s an intriguing grocery-shelf section with a range of packaged and jarred sweet and savory items. 8850 N. Tarrant Parkway Suite 701 (just west of Davis Boulevard), North Richland Hills, 817-576-2630, https://www.falafelhaustx.com

Axiom Coffee opened Nov. 26 in Keller. It’s a pretty straightforward coffee bar, with a menu that doesn’t get much fancier than a vanilla latte, part of a lineup that also includes cappucino, Americano, mocha, espresso and a selection of tea, nonalcoholic cider and hot chocolate. But it’s a coffee bar with a mission: Its organically crown coffee beans come from a mountainous region outside Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and are roasted by Green Hands Coffee Roaster. According to a Facebook message, the coffee “is nurtured and grown on Mount Ebeneezer by World Gospel Outreach,” which employs single mothers to harvest the beans and houses a community of neglected and abused children, employing Americans and Hondurans to provide bilingual education, comprehensive medical care and counseling for the children. Axiom Coffee is WGO’s largest contributor. It’s also in a surprisingly large (3,000 square feet), comfortable space, with outdoor seating and a relaxed atmosphere. 4005 Golden Triangle Blvd., Keller, @AxiomCoffeeHouse on Facebook; open 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; closed Sunday.

More coffee: Crude Craft Coffee Bar opened on the last day of November in Fort Worth’s South Main Village. It’s officially in soft-opening mode till Dec. 6 and will have its grand opening Dec. 7, but on a Sunday afternoon visit, it already felt up to speed, with a good crowd, house-made pastries and, to go along with the regular menu, an interesting fall-winter specialty-drinks menu that includes a pear spice latte, Mexican hot chocolate, the Texas Spirit (milk, espresso and house-made TX Whiskey reduction) and “The Cranberries”: grenadine, cranberry juice and cold-brew concentrate, topped with root beer and served over ice, garnished with cranberries and a rosemary sprig.  804 S. Main St. No 120, Fort Worth (next to the long-running Jesus Family Restaurant), 682-224-5541, https://www.crudecoffeebar.com or @CrudeSouthMain on Facebook.

Also: Babe’s Chicken Dinner House finally opened its long-awaited North Richland Hills location (its 10th in North Texas the closest yet to Fort Worth) in early November at 6711 N.E. Loop 820, just east of Rufe Snow Drive. ... Social House, a hit in Fort Worth’s Crockett Row at West 7th, opened its first Arlington location Nov. 20 (after a brief soft opening) at 1705 N. Collins St. No. 101 in the Champions Park development. ... Four Sisters — Taste of Vietnam, which was in soft-opening mode with limited hours at the end of October, is now open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday at 1001 S. Main St. Suite 151 in Fort Worth’s South Main Village.

WHAT CHANGED

Americado, which began as a Mexican-food dining hall with a confusing ordering system (it was divided into stations, but you couldn’t order fish tacos from the chicken station), then went to a system where you could order from all the stations, then went to table service, has revamped again — as a dining hall, but with an eclectic lineup this time. Among the vendors are the already much-praised (but only at the hall on weekends) Brix Barbecue; a ramen stand, Shin’ Ya Ramen; a taqueria, Chilangos; and cocktails and coffees from Americado’s Magnolia Avenue siblings Hotel Madrid and Saint Sofia. Americado is in a you-can’t-miss-it building at 2000 W. Berry St., @americadofw on Facebook.

WHAT CLOSED

For those of us who were around in the ‘90s, it hardly seems possible that there is no longer a Don Pablo’s in Tarrant County — or, as far as we can tell, DFW. The once-ubiquitous Tex-Mex chain has been closing restaurants nationwide: according to NJ.com, there’s only one left in New Jersey, which, curiously, is the only one listed on the Don Pablo’s website. A Ridgmar Mall-area location closed this fall, and the one at 5121 Rufe Snow Drive closed in November. In 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported that the owner of the chain filed for bankruptcy protection (H/T NJ.com), “blaming the downturn in the casual-dining business and increased competiton from ‘fast-casual’ Mexican brands” such as Chipotle.

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A file photo of Shiner steamed clams at the Dive Oyster Bar in Fort Worth, which announced on Facebook this week that is has closed. Star-Telegram archives

Dive Oyster Bar, an acclaimed west Fort Worth seafood restaurant that was also known for its burger and its Tex-Mex, put up a big CLOSED sign on its Facebook page on Nov. 5, and it’s still there. Dive opened in late 2015 as a concept from seafood chef Josh Rangel and the owners of Oscar’s Pub, another west Fort Worth establishment (according to an Oscar’s Pub Facebook post, you can still get Dive clam chowder at Oscar’s). Rangel had worked in the kitchen at Waters, Fort Worth chef Jon Bonnell’s upscale seafood restaurant. Rangel left later in the year to join La Perla, a downtown Fort Worth restaurant that closed in 2017. The Dive was at 3620 Alta Mere Drive, in a building that once housed the original location of Salsa Fuego (Salsa Fuego’s descendant, Fuego Burger, is just down the road at 4400 Benbrook Hwy No. 108), as well as a satellite location of Charley’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers and, before that, a Kentucky Fried Chicken.

“Eats Beat” columnist Bud Kennedy noted in a Nov. 1 tweet that the Mansfield location of Mellow Mushroom had closed, but a corporate representative of the pizza chain later told us that the closure is only temporary, for “construction renovation.” She did confirm, however, that a Southlake location has closed permanently, and that comes in the wake of a Dallas location closing last year. Fort Worth, Arlington, Denton and McKinney locations remain open (for specifics, go to https://mellowmushroom.com/locations) and the Mansfield location is still on the website. The Southlake location was at 2820 E. Southlake Blvd.

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Eggplant rollatini at Bravo! Cucina Italia in Fort Worth Courtesy of Bravo! Cucina Italia

Bravo! Cucina Italiana closed its lone Fort Worth location Nov. 11, part of a wave of closings nationwide. The Fort Worth location opened in 2013 in the Trinity Commons shopping center on South Hulen Street. (An Arlington location closed years ago.).Corporate cousin Brio Tuscan Grille remains open in Southlake Town Square. Bravo was at 3010 S. Hulen St. in Fort Worth., in a building that previously housed Fresh Choice buffet and then became the Covey Brewpub.

Meso Maya Kress exteriror

It may have a big billboard off of I-35W at this writing, but Meso Maya “Kress” in downtown Fort Worth is closed, we’re told temporarily. The other Fort Worth location of the Dallas-based upscale Mexican-food, Meso Maya “Tanglewood” on South Hulen Street, remains open in the Trinity Commons shopping center. The downtown location was named for its home in the 82-year-old Kress Building at 604 Main St.; visibility, parking and competition from similar downtown restaurants have all been issues.

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Boulevard Scoops has a colorful new location on Texas 199. Bud Kennedy bud@star-telegram.com

Boulevard Scoops, which went from being a small, half-hidden ice-cream shop on River Oaks Boulevard to being a slightly larger burger grill/soda shop/dessert spot on Texas 199 in Sansom Park, closed about Nov. 18 — two days after tweeting about half-off specials on its food. : Bud tweets about Boulevard Scoops, two days after posting on social media about half-off food. A Facebook page has been taken down. The menu of burgers, hot dogs and especailly State Fair-like desserts (such as 10 flavors of funnel cakes) will be missed. The most recent incarnation was at 5426 Jacksboro Highway.

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Chicken-fried steak at Chef Blythe’s Southern Bistro in North Richland Hills. Max Faulkner mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

Late November brought news of two fairly significant North Tarrant closings, of Chef Blythe’s Southern Bistro in North Richland Hills and The Rock Wood Fired Kitchen in Alliance Town Center in far north Fort Worth. In a Nov. 28 Facebook post, Blythe Bridges, the chef behind Chef Blythe’s, said that “after many disagreements with the landlords, we have decided to close Chef Blythe’s Southern Bistro.” The comfort-food restaurant, at 9160 North Tarrant Parkway near the NRH-Colleyville line, had been in business for four years. Don’t count out Bridges, though; the 20-year service-industry vet says “you will be seeing me again soon.” We haven’t tracked down the reason for the Rock’s closing, but the restaurant, known for its pizza, burgers, over-the-top drinks (some served in buckets) and classic-rock theme (you could often hear the music blasted into the parking lot of the nearby Kroger, giving songs like “Highway to Hell” a whole new context), also made the announcement on Facebook. Open since 2013, it had a highly visible location but was also separate from the bulk of ATC restaurants, which provide a ton of competition. An Arlington location of the Tacoma-based Rock WFK remains open at 2300 E. Lamar Blvd.

Also: The Catch, a popular Tyler-based seafood chain, closed its 6314 Camp Bowie Blvd. location but is looking for another location in west Fort Worth. Locations remain open at 5636 North Tarrant Parkway Suite 120 in far north Fort Worth, at 5809 W. Interstate 20 in Arlington, and at 1505 SW Wilshire Blvd. Suite 610 in Burleson. ... Cafe 1187, an acclaimed restaurant on the cusp of Fort Worth and Benbrook at 8780 FM 1187, announced that its chef, Michele Tezak, has decided to semi-retire and that it will no longer be open for regular lunch or dinner. But it will be open for private events — and a monthly supper club. The restaurant has been going (with the occasional interruption) for 23 years. For updates on the monthly supper club, follow @Cafe1187 on Facebook. .... Bug Tub Seafood Kitchen, a cult favorite in waaaay north Fort Worth, like north of downtown Saginaw, announced on Facebook Nov. 27 that it has permanently closed. The 2-year-old restaurant was “created by a couple of passionate crawfish lovers” who called their food “Texacajun.” Also on the Facebook page: a notice that the restaurant is for sale. If you’re interested, go to @bugtubdfw on Facebook for details. Bug Tub was at 12509 Business Highway 287 No. 104, very near where Business 287 reunites with plain old U.S. 287.

Star-Telegram staff writer Bud Kennedy and correspondents Celestina Blok and Courtney Dabney contributed to this report.

Robert Philpot has been a features reporter for the Star-Telegram since October 1992, and currently covers the Tarrant County (and sometimes more) restaurant scene. He also writes general-entertainment stories and features about DFW TV and radio personalities.
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