Eats Beat

At Cardona’s factory-cafe, it’s already time to talk tamales

A combination plate with a tamal, a green chicken enchilada and a taco at Cardona Foods Cafe.
A combination plate with a tamal, a green chicken enchilada and a taco at Cardona Foods Cafe. bud@star-telegram.com

Tamale season is coming.

“Oh, believe me — we’re already getting calls,” said Gloria Cardona at Cardona Foods Cafe, the north Fort Worth factory serving fresh weekday lunches and Sunday breakfasts in four converted factory offices.

Fort Worth can’t get enough holiday tamales. And 85-year-old Cardona leads the market in far north Tarrant County.

If you like the chips and tortillas sold in Whole Foods and other stores under the brand name “Gloria’s,” try them fresh from the factory with a Tex-Mex combination lunch plate or breakfast.

Cardona’s started in the 1930s as a north-side bakery. Then the family moved the company to Meacham Boulevard west of Interstate 35W near Blue Mound Road (Texas 156) and built a tortilla factory.

But diners wanted a good Tex-Mex restaurant in the growing northern neighborhoods. So the Cardonas started serving a short lunch menu in the reception area.

Now, the menu has grown to more than 30 platters served in four converted offices, with lunch crowds dining even as trucks outside load cases of chips and tortillas.

Cardona serves a full menu of classic Tex-Mex. But it also has new menu items include enchiladas montadas (stacked with two eggs, $8.95), tilapia Veracruz and grilled tilapia or chicken.

The fajitas now come on platters or as a “bowl,” or in a Texas-sized burrito made on a foot-wide tortilla.

For the holidays, Cardona will sell beef, chicken and jalapeño-cheese tamales along with the original pork tamales ($11.95 per dozen).

The factory also sells fresh chips (including red-and-green chips), flour and corn tortillas, guacamole, fresh salsas and enchiladas by the dozen.

Cardona serves lunch until 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and both breakfast and lunch from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Sunday. (It’s closed Saturday.)

For the week leading up to Dec. 22, Cardona will stay open for sales until 7 p.m. Last call for tamales is Dec. 23, when Cardona is open until 3 p.m.

It’s at 850 Meacham Blvd.; 817-625-6477, facebook.com/cardonafoods.

Other good local stops for old-school tamales: Rodriguez Foods, Esperanza’s Bakery & Cafe or Pulido’s Restaurants in Fort Worth, plus Marquez Bakery & Tortilla Factory in Arlington.

Mariposa’s Latin Kitchen in Fort Worth and Hot Damn, Tamales! sell updated tamales with various fillings.

LightCatcher still pouring, waiting for a buyer

If you haven’t seen Fort Worth’s new Whiskey Ranch distillery and events facility, go see it.

But if you’ve never gone to LightCatcher Winery & Bistro, go see the Texas “wine ranch” northwest of Fort Worth before it’s sold.

LightCatcher remains open and is serving both food and wine Friday nights, all day Saturdays and at lunch Sundays.

“I can’t seem to get the ambitious cook out of my system,” chef-vinter Caris Turpen said the other day.

LightCatcher continues to host parties and events, even as Turpen has converted part of the barrel room to an art studio.

Recent dishes have included scallops, duck, ahi tuna and rib-eyes along with pizzas, sandwiches, burgers and appetizers, and desserts such as glazed-doughnut bread pudding with salted-caramel sauce.

“It’s the only way I know how to live,” Turpen said.

LightCatcher went up for sale earlier this year after a 15-year run as one of Texas’ first wineries and tasting rooms.

Turpen, an artist and Emmy-winning cinematographer, chose a hilly backroad west of Lakeside to launch a winery.

The Texas Kiss Merlot Rose might be its most familiar wine. About a year’s worth of wine has been bottled and remains for sale, Turpen said.

LightCatcher’s kitchen is open from 5 p.m. Friday, noon Saturday and Sunday at 6925 Confederate Park Road (Farm Road 1886), Lakeside; 817-237-2626, lightcatcher.com.

Brewed unplugs, but is that good or bad?

The Brewed bakery-cafe on West Magnolia Avenue is now promoting “weekends without Wi-Fi” — “because weekends are about disconnecting and enjoying each other.”

Of course, the 90-year-old Paris Coffee Shop across the street has been running without public Wi-Fi for years — just without a slogan.

(Polite request: If you’re hogging a table just for the wireless, take your work to McDonald’s or Starbucks or someplace else where folks aren’t waiting for a table. But Wi-Fi service is important in restaurants, particularly to foreign visitors trying to save data costs.)

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

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