A Crazy Expansion
Look for savory new menu items at south-side sweet spot Stir Crazy Baked Goods, and soon, a move to a larger space. Owner and baker Robbie Werner says that after three years she has outgrown her tiny artisan bakery and wants to be in a location where customers have room to sit and stay awhile. “We are definitely staying in the neighborhood,” says Werner of her South Main Street locale. “That’s where we were born and we want to see it thrive. It is still transitional and there are still a lot of new businesses moving in. We are staying — not in the same building, but very close.” There’s now a soup special and daily quiches. Werner soon will source naturally leavened, artisan bread from Fort Worth-based Le Boulanger Barbu for sandwiches. “We want to have something light that you can eat for lunch or a light dinner,” she says. 106 E. Daggett Ave., Fort Worth, 682-710-2253, www.stircrazybakedgoods.com.
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Surviving less than a year as an upscale steakhouse-turned-bar-and-grill, Prime Mansfield is now El Primo’s Mexican Grill & Cantina. The revamp brings tried-and-true Tex-Mex favorites such as fajita feast platters, chiles rellenos, carne asada and enchilada plates, as well as seafood dishes like chipotle-glazed salmon, shrimp and scallops in cream sauce, and a play on Spanish paella made with salsa verde. The concept overhaul has worked so far, drawing crowds for casual cuisine, live music, and new frozen blue margaritas, the restaurant’s signature, electric-blue thirst quencher that’s as potent as it is refreshing. 2300 Matlock Road, Mansfield, 817-225-4140, www.elprimos.net.
Named for two small Texas towns about an hour west, Thurber Mingus is new in Fort Worth and billed as a modern twist on West Texas cantinas. “The menu is a combination of what I grew up with in West Texas, which is border-style cuisine,” says executive chef and owner Coby Baumann, whose gastronomic experience includes time as a culinary arts professor in Abilene and executive chef of Keller’s Sky Creek Ranch. “It’s not really the classic Tex-Mex people are used to. It’s more authentic to Mexico. The tacos have a lot of pickled cabbage and fresh creams. And the sauces are not very hot, but more smoked.” One of those sauces combines smoked tomato with oregano relish. It comes atop a roasted sirloin pupusa, or stuffed tortilla, a dish that’s hard to find on many Fort Worth menus. There’s also stewed meat chili, chicken and cascabel chili empanadas, and a lineup of burgers that includes a goat cheese and bacon jam number and a green chile version with white cheddar pimento. The full bar features only Texas-made alcohols, and all cocktail mixers are made from scratch. “You won’t see any bottles of grenadine, but you will see fresh pomegranate juice,” Baumann says. Inside, custom lighting features Edison bulbs and Mason jars and walls made of pallet materials. The large venue, formerly a popular college bar, has a new stage outside for live, acoustic music. Fire pits, an herb garden and an outdoor bar are in the works. 4400 White Settlement Road, Fort Worth, 817-371-1575, www.thurbermingus.com.
Vivo’s Lucky Number
Beverly Hills real estate mogul Paul Daneshrad, founder and CEO of StarPoint Properties, has always wanted to open his own restaurant — and he’ll do so this month inside one of his own properties. Vivo 53 will fill a corner space on the ground floor of The Tower in downtown Fort Worth and will offer gourmet pizza from a cherry wood-burning oven. The number 53 marks Daneshrad’s number of attempts working with master bakers over the past three years to get the dough just right. “When I was on 30 and 35, it was really painful and I was worried, but we finally got it right. I can laugh about it now,” says Daneshrad, who worked his way through college at Los Angeles restaurants, including California Pizza Kitchen. “Vivo, in Italian, means ‘to celebrate.’ After 53 attempts, I was celebrating.” Daneshrad describes the dough as crunchy on the outside with plenty of structure and a slightly chewy interior. “You can pick up our pizza and eat it by hand and it’s not going to fold or fall apart,” he says, adding that the flavor will resemble sourdough. There will be more than a dozen varieties as well as handmade pasta, custom-made salads and a full bar serving craft cocktails with an Italian flair. 525 Taylor St., Fort Worth, 682-990-5150, www.vivo53.com.
Rabbit Food Hops to it
Keller resident Matt Rakoczy’s former on-the-go career in construction led to too many trips to the fast-food counter, he says. “I got tired of it. I wanted to eat decent, quality food that was relatively quick.” So he opened Rabbits Garden Fresh Café, a new fast-casual eatery in Keller with fare that’s far from rabbit food. “The menu is based on vegetables and proteins, not breads and starches,” Rakoczy says. For example, char-grilled bison, ahi tuna and walnut-crusted salmon come atop vegetables and greens. Avocados are halved, grilled, and stuffed with shrimp and mango salsa. There are also zucchini “boats” baked with cheese, herbs and marinara sauce, and baked sweet potatoes served with Greek yogurt and cinnamon — not the usual brown sugar and butter. Moms will be happy with the kids’ menu, which includes antibiotic-free chicken nuggets and an almond butter and jelly sandwich. “I’m trying to walk that edge where people can eat really well and not feel guilty about it,” Rakoczy says. “And we wanted a name that sticks.” 761 Keller Parkway, Keller, 817-741-3554.
Chinese Tamales and More
Cannon Chinese Kitchen, named for its Near Southside West Cannon Street address, will bring updated versions of authentic Chinese cuisine to Fort Worth. “We love opening concepts that we would love to dine and entertain friends at,” says owner Mary Ho, who, along with her husband, Jarry, owns the soon-to-be revamped Tokyo Cafe and Shinjuku Station. “We want to update some of the dishes our parents used to cook for us; it brings back childhood memories. We want our kids to grow up on similar food that we had growing up. We also did some research in New York, and this is what we feel Fort Worth needed.” Expect a few dim sum items, or small plates, such as green onion pancakes, white radish cakes and zhong zi — lotus leaf-wrapped sticky rice Mary Ho likes to call “Chinese tamales.” Cannon will be cozy, housed inside a historic, 1920s-era home with dining in multiple rooms, banquette seating, a small marble-topped bar and vibrant wallpaper prints. Ho anticipates a late February to early March opening for dinner service to start. 304 W. Cannon St., Fort Worth, www.cannonchinesekitchen.com.
Top Dawgs At Fred’s
Burger enthusiasts might remember chef Keith Grober from his days at Rodeo Goat, where he invented many of the burger joint’s over-the-top options. He left that gig last spring with a plan to open his own restaurant, and while that is in the works, he’s developing gourmet hot dogs for Fred’s Texas Cafe. (The partnership began when Grober assisted Fred’s owner Terry Chandler with concessions at Amon G. Carter Stadium last fall.) Currently available at Fred’s TCU and Fred’s North locations, Grober’s Top Dawg will change monthly. February’s Kobe beef dog sits in a brioche pretzel bun and is topped with cracked pepper horseradish cream sauce, bacon-braised sweet peppers, queso fresco and fried tobacco onions dusted with Chandler’s Heifer Dust spice rub. A knife and fork might be required. Fred’s TCU, 3509 Bluebonnet Circle, Fort Worth, 817-916-4650. Fred’s North, 2730 Western Center Blvd., Fort Worth, 817-232-0111. http://fredstexascafe.com.
Kids in the Kitchen
Touted as a kids’ kitchen by day and BYOB adult kitchen at night, Taste Buds Kitchen is a new Southlake cooking class venue that offers interactive culinary entertainment for budding chefs of all ages. Owner Eden Bullock, a Keller resident with a culinary degree from Johnson & Wales University, is the very first franchisee for the New York City-based concept. The bright and airy space can be reserved for private parties and corporate events, or kitchen enthusiasts can register for hands-on classes and camps. Upcoming events include a cupcake workshop themed after the movie Frozen for ages 2-6 (10-11 a.m. Feb. 27, $28), steakhouse cooking (7-9 p.m. Feb. 27, $60), and pasta making (5:30-7:30 p.m. or 8-10 p.m. Feb. 28, $60). “We’ll also do brunch and dinner events,” says Bullock. “We’ll teach you how to make sangria with Mexican food and all sorts of fun stuff.” 2140 E. Southlake Blvd., Southlake, 817-488-0538, www.tastebudskitchen.com.
The Royal Treatment
You’re guaranteed to eat like royalty, from a menu fit for a queen, when chef Darren McGrady is in the kitchen. The tenured culinarian cooked for Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh and their prestigious guests at Buckingham Palace for more than a decade, and later moved to Kensington Palace to serve as Princess Diana’s private chef, also cooking for Princes William and Harry. A popular cooking instructor and author of the cookbook Eating Royally, McGrady — a Plano resident — recently launched a professional chef service in North Texas. The service includes an in-home menu planning consultation, grocery shopping and meal delivery after preparation in his professional kitchen. Sample menu items include everything from chicken potpie and chicken enchilada casserole to braised lamb shanks, smoked trout terrine and Princess Diana’s bread-and-butter pudding with salted caramel sauce. McGrady says many of the dishes were served at Buckingham Palace, but custom menu items are available. Packages begin at $360 for 12 meals. 214-293-4516, www.eatingroyally.com.
Blue Bonnet Bakery is selling king cakes through Fat Tuesday on Feb. 17. The cinnamon streusel Mardi Gras pastry, painted purple, green and yellow, comes in sizes ranging from 8 inches ($10.99) to 12 inches ($19.99) with filling options of cinnamon, cinnamon-apple, cream cheese and strawberry cream cheese. Although tradition says the one who finds the mini plastic baby inside has to buy next year’s cake, Blue Bonnet places its baby on the exterior for safety reasons or strategic placement when serving. 4705 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth, 817-731-4233, www.bluebonnetbakery.com.
Trader Joe’s will open its second Tarrant County store Feb. 20 in Southlake Town Square. The iconic California-based grocer originated in the 1950s and has developed a cult following for ready-made frozen meals, economically priced wine and cookie butter. Staff members wear Hawaiian shirts, and all products are packaged under the Trader Joe’s brand name. The 13,500-square-foot location will open at 8 a.m. 1492 E. Southlake Blvd., 817-251-0360, www.traderjoes.com.
Upper 90 is now open on West Magnolia Avenue and is Near Southside’s first official sports bar. The flat-screen TV-filled watering hole is owned by proprietors of The Usual, Lola’s Saloon and the neighboring Tina’s Cocina, where menu items such as tacos, barbacoa and tortas may be ordered for delivery. Targeting late shift workers from nearby hospitals, the smoke-free venue opens at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday. (Smoking is permitted on the patio.) 961 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth, 817-882-6614, www.upper90fw.com.
Umbra Winery celebrated its grand opening last month in Grapevine and serves as the cozy tasting room for vino produced in Little Elm. The wine bar offers more than a dozen varietals, including an award-winning rosé called My Cheeky Bastard. Menu items for pairing include marinara meatballs, cheese boards, bruschetta and antipasto plates of cured meats and ciabatta bread. 415 S. Main St., Grapevine, 817-421-2999, http://umbrawinery.com.
Brooklyn Crust Bistro, a New York-style pizza joint with gourmet menu options, is new in Grapevine from chef Sage Sakiri, whose past culinary endeavors include Colleyville’s Tribeca Americana and Chef Sage. Pizzas are made with thick Brooklyn-inspired dough, and a namesake version comes with sweet crème mozzarella and plum tomato sauce. Other items at the BYOB eatery include soups and salads, panini, burgers and pasta dishes. 3105 Ira E. Woods Ave., Grapevine, 817-488-8130.
The second annual Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival, set for March 26-29, will host collaborative cooking classes featuring festival chefs at Central Market Fort Worth starting this month. Chef mash-ups include Sebastien Layen of the Omni Fort Worth Hotel partnered with Juan Rodriguez of Reata (Feb. 11), Donatella Trotti of Nonna Tata with Kevin Martinez of Tokyo Cafe and Yatai (Feb. 18), and Blaine Staniford of Grace and Andrew Dilda, who most recently cooked at Barter in Dallas (Feb. 25). $65, 6:30 p.m., 4651 West Freeway, Fort Worth, 817-989-4700, www.centralmarket.com. For information and tickets to the festival, visit www.fortworthfoodandwinefestival.com.