The beginning of the New Year is a time for looking ahead, but it’s also a time for looking back, with year-end lists a big deal for many media outlets.
But in Tarrant restaurants, where many things happened in 2018, December was plenty busy enough for its own look back. So here’s our monthly rundown of what opened and closed in December.
Unquestionably the biggest opening in December in Tarrant was the Food Hall at Crockett Row, which was like a dozen restaurants and dessert places opening at once, many of them with Fort Worth connections: Pizza place Abe Froman’s of Fort Worth comes from longtime Fort Worth chef Victor Villarreal, whose background includes Grace, Sera Dining and Wine and more; offbeat sandwich shop Butlers Cabinet is inspired by the childhood memories of chef Joshua Harmon, another Grace alum who was also behind the now-departed Milk and Honey in Keller and Independent Bar + Kitchen in Dallas; barbecue-and-more place Not Just Q comes from former TCU football player David Hawthorne; acai bowl/smoothie spot Rollin’ and Bowlin’ comes from TCU grads Sophia Karbowsky and Austin Patry. Add to that Knife Burger from Dallas celebrity chef/”Top Chef” alum John Tesar (who also co-owns the Food Hall’s bar); Aina Poke Co.; elotes bar EB2; Mediterranean-food spot Shawarma Bar; seafood-sandwich place the Dock; and locations of Gigi’s Cupcakes, Press Waffle Co. (where you can get savory or sweet waffle concoctions) and Val’s Cheesecakes. All under one roof, and although we haven’t tried all the stands, everything we have tried has been good. The Food Hall is at 3000 Crockett St., Fort Worth, http://crockettrow.com/food-hall-crockett-row
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It was pretty easy to find the Lost Cajun on opening day of The Lost Cajun in Keller: Chain founder Raymond Griffin was on hand, greeting customers at the Dec. 3 grand opening. Originally from Barataria, Louisiana, Griffin and his late wife relocated to Colorado after Hurricane Katrina and other hurricanes and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In 2010, they opened a gumbo shop in Frisco, Colorado, and along with a friend who signed on in 2012, Griffin began to expand the chain. A Mansfield location that opened in early 2018 has been a hit, and the Keller one is the first of many planned for North Tarrant and southern Denton County. Griffin says there a lot of Louisiana transplants in DFW, and he expects this to be a good market for the chain. 721 Keller Parkway, Keller, 682-593-7555, https://thelostcajun.com
It was kind of under-the-radar for a lot of us, especially considering the location, but Thirsty Lion Gastropub & Grill opened Dec. 4 in Euless’ Glade Parks.. This is only the second Texas location for the Portland, Oregon-based chain (the first is in Toyota Music Factory in Las Colinas), which offers a sprawling, eclectic menu of starters, salads, sandwiches, burgers, “kitchen specialties” ranging from pork carnitas tacos to gochujang BBQ pork & crispy fried rice, grill items including ribeye and filet mignon, and more. Gluten-free and vegetarian items available. Plus three dozen draft beers and ciders (and more in bottles and cans), more than two dozen wines, a cocktail menu and two patios. 1220 Chisholm Trail Suite 100, Euless, 817-283-9000, https://www.thirstyliongastropub.com/texas
After Judge Beans closed in October in Keller, where it had been since 1992, Tio Carlos Mexican-Latin Grill was expected to take over the space — which it did quickly, with surprisingly little hoopla. The restaurant, which also has locations in Colleyville and Irving, has an extensive menu that goes beyond Tex-Mex to such South- and Central-American-inspired offerings as the Lomito Argentino (a large sandwich filled with grilled steak, fried eggs, jack cheese, ham, lettuce, tomatoes and salsa roja), pupusas, and yuca frita con chicharron (cassava boiled then fried and seasoned with garlic, and served with crispy pork cracklings and more). The restaurant opened in mid-December; we have yet to visit the Keller location (here’s a review of the Colleyville one), but social-media word of mouth has been good. 314 N Main St., Keller, 817-379-5872, https://www.tiocarlos.com
Two chain places with cult followings opened at almost opposite ends of the county. After a couple of false starts, Grimaldi’s Coal Brick-Oven Pizzeria finally opened a Fort Worth location, in the Shops at Clearfork in southwest Fort Worth. The chain is based in Arizona, but it’s origins are in Brooklyn (as the black-and-white photos on the wall remind you), and the pizza is thin-crust and thickly topped with tomato sauce, cheese and whatever else you choose to top it with. Salads were huge and easily shareable; pizza comes in 12-, 16-and 18-inch sizes. Should make for an interesting New York-style pizza duel when DFW-based Zoli’s NY Pizza opens a location not too far away on North Hulen Street in 2019.
In Southlake, Shake Shack opened its first Tarrant County location on Dec. 23; at this writing, there was still construction material outside and the patio — which should double the size of the seating area — was still under construction and expected to open in mid-January. The New York-based chain has a fairly small and straightforward burger menu, although the Southlake location and other DFW locations offer North Texas exclusives such as the Link Burger, a cheeseburger with a patty topped by a Pecan Lodge link sausage. We were bigger fans of the “shake” part of Shake Shack: A concrete called the Pie Oh My had some of the silkiest frozen custard we’ve ever had, mixed with pieces of a seasonal pie (in this case Merry Berry) from Dallas’ Emporium Pies. A Fort Worth location is expected to open in 2019 in the Stockyards. Grimaldi’s: 5276 Monahans Ave. Suite J-200, Fort Worth, 817-377-0642, https://www.grimaldispizzeria.com; Shake Shack: 125 Central Ave., Southlake (across from Trader Joe’s in Southlake Town Square), 817-809-8545, https://www.shakeshack.com
It’s technically not a December opening, but by the time you read this, Zero Degrees Fort Worth is expected to be in soft-opening mode, with a grand opening the weekend of Jan. 5-6. The “Asian-Hispanic fusion” chain, which has two popular Arlington locations, had originally set a June target date for the So7 development, which had its share of troubles in 2018 (see “What Closed” below). The chain considers mangonadas to be its signature drunk, but it also offers such items as an ube milkshake topped with marshmallow and sour candy, Vietnamese-style coffee, Hot Cheetos elotes and much more. 2421 W. 7th St. No. B11, next door to Fort Worth Running Co. in So7, @zerofortworth on Facebook.
Also: Aina Poke Co. in the Food Hall at Crockett Row wasn’t the only poke spot to open in Fort Worth in December; Poke-Poke, a small chain with locations in Austin and Venice, California, opened its only other Texas location in December in the former Bentley’s Hot Dogs spot at 1515 W Magnolia Ave. ... A new location of Salata Salad Kitchen had its grand opening Dec. 13 at 3161 E. Broad St. Ste. 103 in Mansfield. Salata also has locations in Fort Worth, Arlington, Southlake and elsewhere in DFW. ... The iffily named Cartel Taco Bar, from Greasemonkey Burger Shop and Social House owner Greg Gardner, opened Dec. 18 at 506 E Division St. Suite 150 in downtown Arlington. Street tacos (on 4-inch corn or flour tortillas) and larger tacos (on 6-inch tortillas or lettuce wraps) are available, as well as bowls, salads and appetizers; also beer (including some Arlington and Fort Worth brews), cocktails and tequila. .... A long-awaited location of Houston-based Shipley’s Do-Nuts soft-opened in late December at 8201 N. Beach St. (just south of North Tarrant Parkway) in far north Fort Worth; it’s related to a longer-running store on U.S. 377 in Watauga. Soft opening continues Jan. 3-18, according to the Watauga store’s Facebook page.
As mentioned above, the So7 complex just off of West 7th in Fort Worth saw its share of turnover in the past year or so, with a location of Mudsmith coffee not lasting long there, and then with Max’s Wine Dive closing in early September. In December, Dallas-based restaurant/bar/retro arcade Barcadia called it quits, throwing itself a going-away party on Dec. 9. The Fort Worth Barcadia had been open since 2011, but So7 didn’t turn out to be the “entertainment destination” that Barcadia thought it would be (that turned out to be a few blocks west). Barcadia says it hasn’t given up on Fort Worth yet; locations are still open in Dallas, New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Barcadia was at 816 Matisse Drive in Fort Worth.
Theaters where you can get dinner and a movie at the same time are now pretty common, but they weren’t when Ridgmar Movie Tavern opened in 2001. In early December, the Star-Telegram’s Bill Hanna reported that the west Fort Worth location had closed, without much explanation: a note on the box-office window said “permanently closed,” the Facebook page directed moviegoers to the Hulen Movie Tavern location, and Movie Tavern officials did not respond to a request for comment. The six-screen Ridgmar Movie Tavern was the first in the Movie Tavern chain, which now has about two dozen theaters in 10 states. The Ridgmar location was at 6801 Ridgmar Meadow Road in Fort Worth.
Oliver’s Fine Foods, a grocery-store restaurant that had been in Mansfield for about 10 years, closed Dec. 15, about a year and a half after closing a shorter-lived downtown Fort Worth location. The Mansfield location opened in 2008; according to Star-Telegram archives, it was founded by chef and Culinary Institute of America grad Todd Bush (whose middle name is Oliver) and his wife Clarissa. The store had an in-house butcher shop, a deli menu, prepared foods and a selection of beer and wine. The original Oliver’s was at 2751 E. Broad St. No. 109 in Mansfield.
A couple of chain pizza places closed in November in Southlake and in Arlington, but we didn’t find out about them till December: Spin! Neapolitan Pizza, which opened in Southlake in 2015, closed Nov. 16, according to Southlake Style magazine (talk about abrupt; the Facebook page is still up, and the last post was Nov. 15). Not a lot of details beyond that. Spin! lasted a lot longer than the Urban Bricks location that opened in February and closed in November in Arlington’s Champions Park. “Restaurant sites that might have seemed ideal when first opened can become less desirable locations, due to changes in traffic flow, nearby construction or even a shift in the primary commercial area,” a lengthy statement from the San Antonio-based company said in part, but none of those factors changed all that dramatically in Champions Park during 2018, although the high-profile opening of Texas Live! across I-30 — not to mention a ton of other restaurants in and near Champions Park — probably didn’t help things. Spin! was at 1586 E Southlake Blvd.; Urban Bricks was at 1707 N. Collins St. Suite 101.
The burger gods giveth and the burger gods taketh away: The same month that Southlake Town Square got a new Shake Shack, it lost a long-running location of Snuffer’s Restaurant and Bar, the Dallas-based chain known for its burgers and its cheddar fries. A company statement said that the closure of the 12-year-old location “was necessary to the continued success of our higher-performing locations.” An Arlington location closed earlier in 2018, leaving one location in Tarrant, at 4717 Colleyville Blvd. in Colleyville. Last year was quite a ride for the Southlake burger world: Locations of Hopdoddy Burger Bar and Everest Burgers opened, and long-running hometown favorite Johnny B’s closed. The Town Square alone is home to Five Guys as well as Hopdoddy and Shake Shack — all different enough and far enough from one another to survive.
One of Tarrant County’s more unusual restaurant concepts closed at the end of December when Frito-pie place Petro’s Chili & Chips shut down on Dec. 30. According to a Facebook post, co-owner Jim Harris’ health problems led to a decision to sell. If you’re interested in buying, visit their Facebook page. the restaurant was at 2128 Harwood Road in Bedford.
Before there were Melt Ice Creams or Gypsy Scoops, there was Milwaukee Joe’s, which was a big deal on the Tarrant ice-cream scene in the ‘90s and beyond. It’s now down to one Tarrant store: According to Community Impact Newspaper, a long-running Colleyville store closed at the beginning of December. The owner told the Community Impact that the building had been sold and that the new owner decided not to renew the lease. A Southlake Town Square location that tends to get out-the-door lines (partly because it’s kinda small as well as very popular) remains open. Long ago, Milwaukee Joe’s also had Bedford and Fort Worth locations; now, it’s down to Southlake and Flower Mound, although Community Impact reports that an Irving location is due in spring 2019.
Trouble in chain-taco land: Taco Bueno and Taco Cabana both closed several locations in December, according to multiple reports. The Dallas Morning News reported that Taco Bueno closed 20 stores in December, including 14 in North Texas (four on Dec. 10 and 10 on Dec. 17). In November, the chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection; according to the DMN, it has closed a total of 25 North Texas restaurants since September, including six locations in Fort Worth, three in Arlington, and individual locations in Cleburne, Granbury, Hurst, Keller, Mansfield, Roanoke and Southlake. According to CultureMap Fort Worth, Taco Cabana closed nine locations in Texas, including two in Fort Worth and one in Weatherford. Multiple locations of both remain open in DFW, and of course there are many other taco options in North Texas, but chains do develop passionate followings and some fans are going to have to drive farther to get their Bueno or Cabana fixes. (Footnote: Sometime in the past couple of months, West Texas-based Taco Villa closed its location on North Beach Street in far north Fort Worth, leaving DFW without a Taco Villa.)
WHAT CHANGED (OR IS CHANGING)
Popular Argyle joint 407 BBQ is temporarily closed, and is expected to open in a brick-and-mortar location just west of I-35W (less than a mile away) in a few weeks. ... Gardens Restaurant says on its Facebook page that it is closed for lunch during January (catering still available) while it moves from its long-running Fort Worth Botanic Garden spot to a new Burleson location, where it will be known as Garden Oaks. The new location, at 13765 Southern Oaks Drive in Burleson, has a Feb. 1 target date and will be at the Southern Oaks Golf Course. ... Long-running Fort Worth caterer Z’s Cafe is now providing the food for the tea room at the Woman’s Club of Fort Worth, 1316 Pennsylvania Ave.