Eats Beat

Here's a homestyle Mexican restaurant worth the drive to Johnson County

Some small-town restaurants are so good, they're worth the drive.

Casa Jacaranda in Venus belongs on that list.

In its third year, the tiny little cafe and bakery in downtown Venus has taken its place as one of few Texas outposts for authentic, handmade Mexican food.

One thing you notice right away at Casa Jacaranda is that unlike at high-volume Tex-Mex restaurants, the plate is not hot.

These enchiladas and entrees are carefully stacked, rolled or folded and topped with complicated, flavorful sauces. They're not scooped from a pan and shoved through a broiler.

Josefina and Nely Cruz and Monica Martinez have brought Johnson County the best enchiladas this side of Enchiladas Ole, and the most homestyle cooking since Revolver Taco Lounge or much-missed Fernandez Cafe left these parts.

It is one of few local restaurants with a solid five-star rating on several social media websites — and that's after more than 100 reviews praising everything from the mole enchiladas to the chile rellenos, huaraches and empanadas.

On a visit last week, both a chicken mole pipian enchilada and a green chicken enchilada were topped with distinctive sauces.

The primary enchilada sauce is a white queso with a touch of yellow queso and aged cotija. There are two spectacular table salsas with the chips, and both cups will be empty by meal's end.

After lunch or dinner, there's a full case of bakery goods to try. The tres leches cake and empanadas get the most attention, but do not overlook the homemade chocolate chip or chocolate chunk cookies.

Casa Jacaranda's interior shows a designer's tough. It's a tiny old storefront in dowdy downtown Venus, but it's been repainted in bright colors with papel picado banners strung along the tin ceiling.

The restaurant will soon expand to a larger space nearby, with the bakery staying in the current location.

Casa Jacaranda is open at 7 a.m. for breakfast through dinner Tuesday through Friday, at 10 a.m. for brunch through dinner Saturday and at 10 a.m. for brunch Sunday.

It's a 40-minute drive from Fort Worth or Arlington, a 20-minute drive from Burleson or Mansfield.

Look for it at 118 W. Second St., Venus, one block west of Farm Road 157 (which runs south from Arlington and Mansfield); 817-489-4775, It's BYOB.

Two more trips: Boyd, Godley

Two other road-trip restaurants worth the drive:

Gogo Gumbo!, 116 W. Rock Island Ave., Boyd, is a seafood restaurant run by a former New Orleans and Houston country-club chef.

It opens at 4 p.m. for dinner only Wednesdays through Saturdays, and go early. It's BYOB; 940-433-3474,

Del Norte Tacos, 101 E. Highway 171, Godley, is a Tex-Mex restaurant with a great smoker that turns out brisket, pork, chicken, sausage and smoked chiles rellenos.

It's open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner; 817-389-2451,

New menu at Horseshoe Hill

For those asking: Yes, Horseshoe Hill Cafe is open regular hours.

Fuzzy's Taco Shop founder Chuck Bush owns a large stake in Horseshoe Hill, and the Stockyards-area restaurant has been operating as always despite the arrest last week of founding chef Grady Spears in connection with a domestic assault that his wife, Wendy Mann-Spears, attributed to medication.

A new menu features chicken-fried steak seven ways, plus rib-eyes and tenderloins.

It's open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday; 204 W. Exchange Ave., 817-882-6405,

Cookout-style burgers at T&P

The oft-forgotten T&P Tavern has one of the biggest covered patios around, and now there's a Saturday special that's patio-perfect.

The T&P is serving cookout-style burgers beginning at 2 p.m., Saturdays only. They're big and come with a choice of cheese, straight from an open grill on the T&P patio on the concourse of the beautiful, 90-year-old old Trinity Railway Express rail station at 221 W. West Lancaster Avenue.

The T&P opens for dinner during the week and at midafternoon weekends. Park at Lancaster meters or up the ramp for a lower fee; 817-885-8878,

Bud Kennedy, 817-390-7538, @EatsBeat
Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram