Eats Beat

Here’s how to beat the GrapeFest crowd: brunch at Esparza’s

Joe T. Garcia’s from above: drone footage of Fort Worth’s famous patio

The 81-year-old family restaurant on Fort Worth's north side is best known for its lush, hacienda-style patio, where diners line up for hours to sit near the pool and drink margaritas and enjoy classic Mexican dishes.
Up Next
The 81-year-old family restaurant on Fort Worth's north side is best known for its lush, hacienda-style patio, where diners line up for hours to sit near the pool and drink margaritas and enjoy classic Mexican dishes.

At least once each week, there’s no line to dine at 32-year Grapevine landmark Esparza’s Restaurante Mexicano.

But that’s at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, when Esparza’s doesn’t officially open for brunch until 11.

Even a half-hour before opening time, diners and families are showing up early for Esparza’s migas or margaritas. The staff lets customers choose patio tables, and takes early orders to start another day at one of the busiest restaurants of any kind between Fort Worth and Dallas.

Before there was a GrapeFest wine festival, there was Esparza’s. It opened at the height of the fajitas-and-margaritas rage, and owner Steve Brown says that’s never ended.

This week of GrapeFest is his busiest of the year, and Saturday will be the busiest of all.

“It’s like being at the State Fair,” Brown said the other day.

It’s a perfect weekend to visit Grapevine, mingle and sample wines with 300,000 of your closest friends.

“Grapevine’s actually a tourist town now,” Brown said.

“Last year was a record year for us. We’ve just tried to grow with the city.”

When visitors get weary of street food from restaurants such as Bartley’s BBQ, Main Street Bread or Mesa Grapevine, they head to Esparza’s for fajitas, puffed tacos (inspired by those at Ojeda’s in Dallas) and the “Big Daddy” 20-ounce margaritas or swirls.

Esparza’s sells $1 million a year in margaritas alone, Brown said.

During GrapeFest this week, Esparza’s will run a limited menu Friday and Saturday. But the full menu comes back Sunday, including Tex-Mex platters, grilled chicken dishes and specialties such as a stuffed and fried avocado.

Brisket enchiladas, tacos and quesadillas are big sellers, Brown said.

“Anything with brisket sells like gangbusters,” he said.

“And we have a gluten-free menu these days. But we will always be a Tex-Mex and margaritas place.”

The best time to visit might be early Saturday or Sunday, when Esparza’s is serving a brunch menu with some unusual choices.

Most Tex-Mex restaurants serve migas — scrambled eggs cooked with tortillas and bits of various ingredients such as tomato, onion, cheese and jalapeños.

But few restaurants serve a “migas enchilada” — topped with queso — or a migas-stuffed chile relleno.

The huevos “divorciados” — divorced — are separated on the plate, one with ranchero sauce and the other with green salsa.

A tableside guacamole adds roasted peppers and tequila.

Esparza’s is open for lunch and dinner daily at 124 E. Worth St.; 817-481-4668,

A second location in Coppell is also open daily: 817 S. MacArthur Blvd., 972-304-8101.

Another West 7th story

Yes, Brown is one of the restaurant owners who tried their luck in the Crockett Row shops in west Fort Worth.

But his Brewster’s burger grill wasn’t like Esparza’s. And it wasn’t quite like nearby popular burger grills.

So it closed.

“The biggest problem I had was parking,” Brown said. Owners switched the rules from two hours free, to requiring tickets, to issuing employee stickers.

“I’d feel bad about closing if I wasn’t in such good company,” he said.

Ready to Rise

The ribbon will be cut Thursday to open the new Shops at Clearfork center in Fort Worth, but no major restaurant will be open.

One very important opening comes Monday. Rise n°3 is expected to open then at 5135 Monahans Ave., bringing Fort Worth a taste of French souffles in either savory (chicken, salmon, veggie) or sweet (chocolate, praline pecan, Grand Marnier).

The tony French cafe from Dallas’ Inwood Village is a favorite of President George W. and Laura Bush, among others.

When it opened in Dallas, the Star-Telegram described it as “utterly charming,” like “a chic but casual salon somewhere in the French countryside.”

The prices aren’t what you’d expect. A salad nicoise or a ham-Gruyere sandwich cost less than $20, sides cost $8-$11 and the entree souffles cost $17-$20.

Rise is open daily for lunch and dinner on Monahans Avenue at the corner of Gage Avenue, near Neiman Marcus.

Reservations are only available via;

The NM Cafe and a Starbucks Coffee location will open Thursday along with the Shops at Clearfork.

A location of Malai Kitchen, a contemporary Thai-Vietnamese restaurant, will open within a couple of weeks, followed by Dallas-based Crú Food & Wine Bar, Washington-based Twigs Bistro, Houston-based B&B Butchers & Restaurant, Florida-based Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen and Chicago-based City Works Eatery.

Torchy’s joins Champions

A new taqueria isn’t big news anymore.

Unless it’s a new Torchy’s Tacos.

The Austin-based chain with fiery tacos and a fun-loving spirit has opened its second Arlington location, this one in the Champions Park shopping center on North Collins Street.

Torchy’s joins Florida-based BurgerFi and Colorado-based Tokyo Joe’s in the center, with a Social House expected.

Torchy’s taco of the month is the Thai “Tuk Tuk,” with “Thai-style fajitas,” Sriracha, peanuts, chopped mint and pickled vegetables.

The new location is open for breakfast through dinner daily at 1805 N. Collins St., 682-808-5596,

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, @EatsBeat.