It was easy to find Gogo Gumbo as we drove down the main drag of Boyd, a small Wise County town roughly 30 miles north of downtown Fort Worth. We just spotted the place with all the cars and the people lined up outside.
Kraig Thome came up from Houston a little more than five years ago to open this seafood joint in what used to be a catfish restaurant — and through a combination of media coverage and word of mouth, he has been drawing crowds virtually from the beginning.
We discovered just what that meant when we encountered an 80-minute wait at 6 p.m. on a Saturday, but the wait turns out to be part of the experience. The restaurant has an interior waiting area with video games, board games and even books, but the line outside was where the action was, where people talk to each another while they wait. The most common question was “Where’d y’all come in from?”
One guy’s answer was Grapevine; a group of women came in from north Fort Worth. In each case, they were bringing along a friend who’d never been there, helping spread the “You gotta try this place” word. (The group of women also wisely brought wine — Gogo is BYOB, and you can’t buy alcoholic beverages in Boyd.)
The restaurant has about 50 seats, including a communal counter. That was where we wound up on our first visit, with more conversation (this time a couple from Decatur, who were regulars) and enthusiastic, knowledgeable servers. Although Thome’s menu isn’t overwhelmingly big — he has a list of mainstay specialties as well as another column of specials that change weekly (updates are posted on Gogo’s Facebook page) — the choices are all so appealing that it can be hard to decide. Gogo Gumbo is about a lot more than just gumbo.
This led us to the TV Dinner ($13.50), a bento box featuring chicken and sausage gumbo, shrimp and grits, a crab cake, and a house salad — a good way to sample several of the restaurant’s wares. The gumbo had a good, dusky, mildly spicy flavor with chunks of pork sausage and chicken, but the modest portion of shrimp and grits was the star, with a pleasing ratio of boiled (and peeled!) shrimp to creamy, buttery grits. The crab cake was tasty but bowed to the other two seafood dishes, and the salad, with its dried cranberries, spiced pecans and feta cheese, was a nice mix of sweet and savory.
Wild mushroom ravioli ($16.95), one of the rotating specials, also came with boiled and peeled shrimp (we appreciated not having to remove tails that were covered in tomato sauce) and organic broccolette. The mushrooms were mild but detectable, the veggies crisp, but our favorite part was the rich and pleasantly garlicky tomato sauce. For an appetizer, we had tempura green beans ($5.95), which had a nice crispy coating but retained the green bean texture and flavor.
On a second visit, we arrived about 5:30 p.m. on a Tuesday to find a half-full restaurant and no wait — but by 6:30, the interior waiting area was filling up. This time, we tried a cup of the shrimp and crab gumbo appetizer ($5.75 cup, $7.95 bowl) and were even more pleased by the spicy flavor. Artisan goat cheese salad ($9.95) came with a full disc of baked, pecan-crusted Laura Chenel goat cheese, chopped dates and julienned Fiji apple and was big enough to be an entree — it’s one of the few vegetarian items on the menu, but it ain’t boring.
For main dishes, we went with the “naked” poblano chile relleno ($17.95), one of the rotating specials, and a simple popcorn shrimp po-boy ($8.95). The relleno, stuffed with crab, Monterey Jack and two large tails-on spicy shrimp, was served atop sauces both savory and sweet, and had a mild spiciness, but it was almost upstaged by the accompanying baked sweet corn pudding, which had full pieces of corn, rich flavor and a perfect texture. The po-boy, served with just-crispy-enough fries, was another winner, with loads of crunchy breaded shrimp spilling out of a sandwich big enough that half of it became the next day’s lunch.
One of the first things you notice when you walk into Gogo is the colorful chalkboard menu of the day’s desserts ($4.95 each), which Gogo does as well as it does seafood. We ordered a dessert on each of our visits, and both were more than big enough for two people: The “2Die4” is a well-constructed mountain of cream-cheese mousse festooned with strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, on a bed of ladyfingers with an almond cookie on top. It was wondrous to look at and eat, and it was sweet without being cloying. We couldn’t really detect the Jack Daniel’s in the Jack Daniel’s chocolate mousse pie, but the pie was so deep and rich we didn’t care.
Gogo’s limited hours and location might make a visit a bit of a challenge for some DFW diners, but it’s worth the trip to check it out. We know we’ll be back. And in 2013, Thome opened a lunch restaurant, Canteen, in the same strip as Gogo. After our Gogo experiences, Canteen is on our to-do list as well. We’re just waiting for Guy Fieri to discover both.
116 W. Rock Island Ave. (Texas 114), Boyd
Hours: 4-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; BYOB