What if Fort Worth had a little, family-run seafood restaurant, sort of like a Nonna Tata but with grilled fish and shrimp dinners?
Cindy Crowder Wheeler is making it come true at Tributary Cafe, her new Riverside-area ode to everything that comes from the river or Gulf.
Wheeler serves snapper, shrimp and fish dishes handmade with care, flavored with Cajun and Creole spice the way she learned while running her smaller Creola Cafe in Waxahachie.
Wheeler, long a manager at Nonna Tata, has brought a little of that sincere, unassuming spirit to Tributary, in a 90-year-old home on Race Street near Greasy Bend Burgers.
The chairs are simple and the dining room is spare. But Tributary eventually will have a full bar, essential for a New Orleans cafe.
On Sunday, Tributary showed no signs of being in its first weekend. A shrimp Victoria dinner ($16) was full of large, fresh shrimp and delicately balanced between mushroom and creme fraiche.
Crawfish étouffée ($16) and seafood gumbo ($8) were spot-on, both smooth and subtly spiced. Fried okra spears (a substitute for green tomatoes) were breaded in fine cornmeal. The same okra spears also come atop the house salad along with toasted pecans ($3).
Wheeler said she is using small suppliers bringing seafood directly from Louisiana or the Gulf, not food-service vendors.
“Nothing here is mass-produced,” she said: “It’s all done by hand.”
Tributary will add a weekend brunch menu in January and a patio by springtime, she said.
A stunning run of new restaurant openings continues this week.
Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken will open by midweek, serving spicy fried chicken and chess pies to West Magnolia Avenue on the corner at South Adams Street.
Gus’s has bone-in chicken, tenders, a choice of eight sides and chocolate or coconut chess pies.
What it doesn’t have is parking. Try on the business streets nearby or to the north, or park in the Magnolia Green public garage four blocks away at 1201 Alston Ave.; gusfriedchicken.com
Before year’s end, Tio Carlos Mexican-Latin Grill is expected to open in Colleyville in the former Matt’s space; 4843 Colleyville Blvd., tiocarlos.com.
Besides Tributary, the best opening last week might have been the White Elephant Saloon Chili Parlor, serving chef Tim Love’s beefy chili for $6 a bowl.
One addition to the list of Christmas openings in this space last week:
R Bar & Grill, the restaurant inside the Hilton Arlington, will serve a dinner special by chef Marcelo Vasquez all day.
If you missed the list of Christmas dining, it’s short:
▪ Most full-service hotels and most Furr’s, IHOPs, Luby’s and Saltgrass Steakhouses;
▪ Buttons, Mercury Chop House, Ol’ South Pancake House and Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Fort Worth;
▪ Humperdinks Restaurant & Brewpub in Arlington;
▪ Buca di Beppo and Copeland’s of New Orleans in Southlake;
▪ Some Chinese restaurants such as First Chinese BBQ in Haltom City.
Coming in 2017
After New Year’s, watch for:
▪ Piattello Italian Kitchen, tentatively opening with a coffee bar Jan. 2 and full service Jan. 14 in the Waterside shopping center;
▪ California-based Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar, Jan. 9 in Euless;
▪ Loveria Caffe in mid-January in Colleyville;
▪ Sai Thai & Asian Bistro, replacing Citrus in Colleyville;
▪ R Taco, the former Rusty Taco, a Buffalo Wild Wings spinoff opening on Camp Bowie Boulevard in the old Wild Mushroom and on Bluebonnet Circle in the old Pegaso. An R Taco opened last weekend in Mansfield at 1520 E. Debbie Lane;
▪ Craft & Vine and also Chop Shop Live in Roanoke;
▪ A Twisted Root Burger Co. and Quincy’s Chicken in Mansfield;
▪ NM Cafe, opening Feb. 10 along with a new Neiman Marcus in the Shops at Clearfork (the current Zodiac will close Jan. 28);
▪ Istanbul Grill and Waters Fine Coastal Cuisine in Sundance Square;
▪ Meso Maya on South Hulen Street;
▪ A new Heim BBQ on White Settlement Road;
▪ And El Ranchito in Arlington.