The corporate chefs at Black Walnut Cafe certainly know their way around the spice rack.
Their crispy chicken tenders sandwich ($9.25) was rejected by my son for being too “spicy,” which might just be the first time in the history of chicken tenders that a kid ran the other way.
No problem — the adults enjoyed it, and pretty much everything else we tried at the new Colleyville location, the fifth in North Texas and first in Tarrant County, of The Woodlands-based chain.
Open about a month, the restaurant has trained its staff well. At the front entry, a host greeted us kindly, then quizzed our knowledge about the place. Professing sheer ignorance, we looked around at the extremely varnished surroundings — Pledge should be Black Walnut Cafe’s official sponsor — and were directed to the counter, where we toted our huge plastic menus.
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Along the way, we almost got side-tracked by a handsome, U-shaped bar; a mini-gelateria also nearly beckoned, but first: the main meal.
Black Walnut Cafe has a lot of those. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, sporting all of the usual menu suspects. But because most have inspired ingredients and/or the above-mentioned savvy seasoning, the final results are uncommonly good.
Take the fried pickles ($6.25), a large handful of spears that had a lovable no-frills exterior. I picked one up, and after one dunk in the cayenne ranch, half of the breading left the pickle and stayed in the sauce.
It was worth fishing out — plus, I was eating with family, so manners don’t count.
The Black Walnut salad ($11.90) seemed a reasonable barometer to test the chain’s mettle on the un-fried side. A composed salad, it included nicely grilled and flavorful chicken breast, sliced; julienned Granny Smith apples; walnuts; and Gorgonzola cheese. I nixed the tomato-based dressing it came with in favor of the asiago blue cheese, and I was quite happy.
But, this being traditional American fare, cheesy standards were calling our names. The only thing I didn’t like about the John Mac & Lob ($15) was its name. Who among us could find fault with penne pasta, mixed with Alfredo sauce, jalapeños, a house-made salsa, American cheese (!) and lobster — all topped with toothsome breadcrumbs?
Next to its dumb name on the menu was the universally understood fire emoji, so you knew the entree would sport more than its share of heat, which it did.
The blue-cheese burger ($10.50) featured a hearty Angus patty bedecked with blue cheese and topped with a superfluous amount of peppered bacon, pickled jalapeños and spinach. When we placed our order, we weren’t asked how we liked our burger cooked, so this one was medium-well, yet it was still juicy.
And, lest we forget the chicken-tender sandwich, a calorically obscene testament to the glory of melted cheddar cheese and fried chicken tenders. I ate every last bite, then picked up the kids menu to find something to feed my son.