American, Coffee Shop, Fort Worth, Mexican, Sweets, Uncategorized

La Zona on Magnolia- Fort Worth, TX

Yet another adorable spot has opened in Fort Worth and it would only be fitting that it land on West Magnolia. La Zona only opened this past January, but they’ve been all the buzz in town. Tapas and sangria is the name of the game and, although you’ll have to keep reading on my take of it all, the food is delicious and that sangria was like the nectar of the gods. La Zona is definitely a great addition to the city.

New restaurants typically get a ton of buzz and press, but then you hear they are kind of disappointing particularly when it comes to how smooth service is. Every new restaurants struggles with the new system of things, training, everything. That was the case with the newest addition to West Magnolia in Fort Worth. This is actually why I like to wait a little to go to new places, give them the time to work out the kinks with service and the menu. The changes from what I’ve heard to what I experienced prove they have improved greatly. Our waiter was great, a tad nervous perhaps, but the effort and time he put into our table was wonderful and he did a fantastic job.

Some critiques of the overall restaurants are small, but still key I think. The staff doesn’t have uniforms so it was hard to tell them apart from guests. You only knew they worked there if you saw them with food or they came up asking you about your meal. From observation a good portion of the waitstaff that night were men and I couldn’t help thinking that a simple, but universal button down of some kind would do just the trick. A second thing is the overall vibe. I was really excited about a tapas and sangria inspired restaurant, Fort Worth is missing that and this was the perfect opportunity for La Zona. However, it kind of fell flat. The items on the menu were delicious and the sangria was scrumptious, but it lacked the tapas menu I was looking for. The feel of the restaurant is perfect and cute and spot on, but the menu didn’t necessarily coincide.

With that last sentence on your mind, the vibe is great and the look of the restaurant is adorable. It’s on a huge amount of land for the Magnolia area, but the actual restaurant is really small. The majority of their seating is outside, which is perfect most of the time in Texas, but certainly questionable weather nights would deter me from trying to go. The inside is super cute with lots of colors and fun light fixtures. The bar looked comfortable and cool, a great first date spot for sure. They have movie nights where they set up a projector and have local DJ’s come to entertain the guests and fill the air with fun music.

Like I said the menu wasn’t what I was expecting. A lot of the starters sounded great and tapas like, but from a natural Mexican/Hispanic vibe I wouldn’t really think to order pizza. Some of the pizzas have Spanish flair and flavors, but again it wasn’t what I was expecting. However, I ordered the rioja pizza which had chorizo sausage, red peppers, and onions on it and that was a damn good pie. It was a super thin crust, which is what I like, and all the ingredients were fresh and tasted amazing. I wish it was cooked just a little bit longer because the weight of the toppings just barely sat on the pie, the dough a little too soft.

The sangria was absolutely superb. I’m not a huge sangria person mostly because they tend to be overly sweet, but this sangria was perfect. The sweetness wasn’t too much and definitely tasted to have come from the fruit, no added sugar. We all enjoyed eating the fruit too, which in the past I’ve seen some sangrias without fruit…so is that really sangria? No, but La Zona is serving up real and really good sangria.

Afterwards you have to walk next door to Saint Sofia. Don’t be confused, La Zona is two buildings with the main restaurant being named Hotel Madrid and the cute churro shop Saint Sofia (it’s all on the same property). The churros are all over Instagram when you look up La Zona’s location and rightfully so. It’s super small and cute and transports you to a place where you would see little shacks on a dirt road serving up the best food. The churros were fried to a nice crisp with a soft inside and doused in cinnamon and sugar to leave your taste buds happy.

Overall I really like La Zona and would go again. I think they could work on their “identity” a little only because they could fill the hole that they are saying they are that Fort Worth needs. They’ve found their niche, they just need to fulfill it. In the meantime, the food they are firing is delicious and they’ve already improved so much since they first opened. I can’t wait to see what happens here next.

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American, Chinese, Ethnic

Gung Ho- Dallas, TX

There are several different areas within the city of Dallas.  When it comes to going out and having a drink most people will tell you to go to Deep Ellen or Uptown. However a just as fun area, less crazy and just as popping, is Lower Greenville and that’s exactly where we went and had the pleasure of enjoying Gung Ho.

The new Chinese-American spot only just opened its doors this past February, right next to its sister restaurant HG Sply Co. It’s prime location is central on Greenville Ave, smack dab in the middle of everything. At first my friends and I walked right past it, HG right next door almost covers it up if you’re walking north on Greenville. Once we back tracked we couldn’t believe we walked right past it. People were dining on the small outside area with others flooding out the doors around the bar. The staff is very accommodating, even on a bustling Saturday night, always checking on us while we waited for a table at the bar. 

The interior is super cool, fun lighting and texture ceilings, intimate booths and Asian inspired decor. The biggest eye catch is the green lit “Gung Ho” bar background enticing you to get a closer look…and a drink. The drinks menu is next level featuring liquors from fig infused rum to famous grouse scotch. Egg whites and lapsang tea accompany other ingredients in these decadent cocktails, new ideas pouring over the back bar. The Lapsang Penicillin featuring famous grouse, lapsang tea, honey syrup, ginger and lemon was a fiery delight. 

The food menu is very inviting, classic Chinese flavors and ingredients with some exciting new twists. They recommend getting a couple of different plates and sharing, which is the best way to try a little of everything. With items from classic dim sum and kung pao chicken, the staff recommended some of the fusion dishes being their favorites. We started with the glazed eggplant featuring a fish sauce caramel, garlic, Thai basil and fermented chilis. The eggplant was cooked perfectly and the flavors really popped, the spicy chilis adding a great kick to it. The glaze added a light sweetness to the dish, this was a standout. 

Several staff members recommended the crack chicken, and it did sound amazing boasting fried chicken in a mala seasoning (yes please) along with those fermented chilis and herbs. This dish was really good, spicy flavors really coming through from the seasoning and chilis, but it was pretty basic being just a fried chicken dish. The meat was delicious and juicy and we got our protein for the night, but not as big a standout as the eggplant. 

The star dish of the night goes to the crab and coconut rice. Our waiter set the dish down in front of me and the aromas of coconut immediately hit me. I was actually worried that because there was such a strong coconut smell that it would mean an overpowering taste. I was totally wrong, the perfect amount of coconut flavor paired with crab and delicious rice and egg topped with fresh scallions left me incredibly fat and happy. A subtle sweetness balanced the other spicy dishes out and left me continuously adding more to my plate as my taste buds kept calling for it.

Gung Ho came as a recommendation from my friend Jonathan who enjoyed the restaurant, but certainly Gung Ho has worked out their new restaurant kinks. They changed the menu up a little and improved the service, from exact timing of our wait time to fast food delivery all on a crazy Saturday night. The cool cocktail menu and delicious coconut crab rice will bring me back to Gung Ho along with its cool interior and fusion vibe. 

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Dallas, Fort Worth, French, Savory, Sweets, Uncategorized

Rise Soufflé- Dallas, TX

Qui penserait à aller à un restaurant soufflé à Dallas? 

No need to Google translate that (how do you think I was able to start a blog post in French?), but seriously who would think to go to a soufflé restaurant in Dallas, TX? I’m sure few people think of French cuisine when entering this great state, but a small company of restaurants is making us rethink this. Rise, with “rise no1, no2”, and “no3” are making themselves known for the French classics, one in particular. 

For those of us who don’t know, soufflé is a classic egg based French dish known for its puffy, airy look and texture before collapsing. Many people see soufflés as a complicated dish to make, achieving an airy whipped egg center and risen browned exterior. With locations in Dallas, Houston and most recently Fort Worth, “rise” is taking the metroplex by storm.

It’s almost as if you’ve walked into a “mom and pop” front in Paris. Toned down colors of purple and red, adorations like wine bottle chandeliers and Parisian styled decor welcome you. The location in Dallas is small and quaint, bursting with energy and laughter. Just as the wall says “Smile you’re at rise”, you can’t help but abide. 

The menu is quite classic, but I am certainly happy if you’re reading this before going. It’s an experience, with a cheese cart and way to order, and so many different options. Here they take your order for everything up front as it takes time to create and cook these soufflés. I’m glad I went with my friends, Diana and Jonathan, because they knew how it worked and had their own recommendations. One thing we all agreed on was cheese and marshmallow soup.

At rise they have a cheese cart where you can order anywhere from three to five to however many different cheeses, all from Europe including France, Italy, and Spain. They have a real deal spinning cheese board that as you crank the handle it shaves the cheese into small triangles (note that many of the special dinnerware items and dish towels are for sale). Another notable, and what they are quite known for, is the marshmallow soup. No, it’s not real marshmallows, but rather a nice thick tomato soup with goat cheese “marshmallows” on top. Yes, goat cheese marshmallow balls. This soup is heavenly and honestly I don’t think it needs much description, you just need to know goat cheese balls and then check out pictures below. And yes, that’s homemade pesto drizzled on top.

Now onto the star of the night, the soufflé! For the first visit I had to go classic with the jambon (ham) and gruyere. Two very French ingredients harmoniously combined in this spectacular dish. The soufflé came out piping hot, risen to a nice height with a golden brown top. The eggs were cooked beautifully, perfectly whipped and fluffy. There was a good ratio of egg to ham and cheese I thought, the ham diced into small cubes. The flavor was all there, seasonings coming together and filling my stomach, heart, and taste buds with warm happiness. 

Naturally you can’t get a first course, main course, and indulge in the cheese cart without trying the dessert soufflés…right?! They do have seasonal specials for both savory and sweet options, this night the strawberry soufflé was speaking to us. Our waiter, who was absolutely the cutest, highly recommended it and offered it with the strawberry, chocolate, and grand marnier sauce. He was a keeper, speaking our language of food. Again, beautifully risen soufflé with a gorgeous brown top. The fresh strawberries had a ton of flavor and all the sauces only enhanced the sweetness alongside the base. 

The overall look and feel of Rise is just adorable and welcoming. The dishes are beautiful, full of color and had an authentic homemade look. The decorations at the Dallas location make it feel intimate and special, I’m sure the same look applies to the Houston and Fort Worth locations. The staff always had a smile on their faces, our main waiter being absolutely phenomenal and showing true pleasure in his work in serving us and making sure we got the full experience. 

Rise Soufflé is quite the dining affair to find in Texas. I continue to be proven wrong as I find higher end restaurants serving cuisines other than steak and potatoes (which I never object to, but you know what I’m getting at). It’s so wonderful finding places like rise’s French cuisine and ambiance that as you leave and are given a quote for the evening you really just look around and feel grateful that you get to enjoy fantastic and special meals with beautiful, supportive friends. It’s truly a blessing going on this food journey and having a fun blog, but it’s the people you’re enjoying these meals with that you will never forget. 

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American, Fort Worth, Italian, Uncategorized

Piattello Italian Kitchen- Fort Worth, TX

Can you believe I found another Italian restaurant that is actually good in Texas? And I’m from Boston, the best Italian restaurants are next door to my house. Well, as Fort Worth is growing and becoming more “cosmopolitan” the restaurants are coming in and adding more depth, culture to the city. Now a BBQ loving country boy can get decent, authentic Italian food. Yet another Italian restaurant has made its debut in Fort Worth, tucked in the back at Waterside, and that’s Piattello.

Waterside, located just past the Trinity River off Bryant Irvin, is just one of the several new business sites in the city. Where the Fort Worth Whole Foods famously sits, Waterside is home to other chain restaurants and some retail stores. The one standout is Piattello, the only non-chain restaurant in the complex. It sits sort of behind everything, just down from Steel City Pops. It has a small outdoor patio that is their own, but opens out to the courtyard area behind Whole Foods and Taco Diner.  With twinkling lights in the trees, children playing, and the fresh air it all adds to Piattello’s ambiance. The inside is pretty subdued, fun light fixtures adorn the ceiling, otherwise there is nothing too special. There is a lot of space, you can see when your waiter has picked up your food, and in one corner I noticed a wine shelf. Again, nothing too spectacular.

Our waiter was very present during our meal, filling our water glasses and checking on us frequently. For a Friday night it wasn’t too crowded, but it was certainly bustling so the fact that he was checking on us as frequently as he did proved how much he was trying. 

We started with the ricotta cheese appetizer, simply just ricotta with olive oil embedded on top and toasted bread. Simple, but very delicious. That bread was so addicting!

Now whenever I am about to go out to a new restaurant I always check Instagram for photos from the restaurant and public posts from other people (that aren’t staged and photoshopped). Photos, even though I’m a blogger, speak loudly and cooking is a visual art. So when I looked Piattello up it seemed to be that the pasta dishes are what makes them stand out. Ten points to Instagram and the general public because this is so true! Even the simplest pasta dish, strozzapreti cacio e pepe (cheese pasta essentially) was scrumptious. Great flavors and mixture of cheeses with parmigiana and pecorino, perfectly cooked pasta, and seasoned just right, nice and creamy. Again Piattello is demonstrating that sometimes you just have to go simple.

With that being said the above pasta dish was great, but I shouldn’t have gotten it. My friend who enjoyed this meal with me ordered the sweet potato ravioli. I should’ve gotten that just to take home for later. In a brown butter and sage sauce, those ravioli were superb. The flavors were spot on, the ravioli constructed and cooked magnificentally, it was by far the better of the two. I almost went to dinner the next night alone just to get the ravioli. They were that good. I mean how dreamy do those look?

Piattello also serves pizza and by photos they look pretty good so definitely will need to get back there to try them out. They also advertise quite a bit about their coffee service in the afternoon so with the nice outdoor space that’s something to check out too. 

Overall Piattello was a great experience. Although there wasn’t a lot of character with the interior, the food spoke volumes and provided great decor, until devoured. The service was good, no complaints there. If you have the chance get over to Waterside and treat yourself to a nice Italian meal at Piattello.  

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American, Beef, Burgers, Fort Worth, Ice Cream, Sweets, Uncategorized

Hopdoddy- Fort Worth, TX

Another burger joint has graced Fort Worth, sharing their fresh ingredients and spreading community outreach within the city. Hopdoddy has made an impression on Fort Worth after only been open for three months. From the fresh and delicious food to the overall atmosphere, Hopdoddy is a great addition to the city.

Located on West 7th, across from the Barcadia/Parkside area, is Hopdoddy. This area is just now being built up with new apartments and a grocery store just behind. The area is definitely growing and being close to downtown is another plus. The space is a decent size, the inside has a large round bar in the center with booths and tables along the perimeter. There is some outdoor seating, but certainly room for a couple more tables, including a long table for larger parties. The vibe inside is cool and relaxed, it isn’t terribly loud and attracted a nice, middle age crowd. 

It’s a ‘walk up counter’ service kind of place, it actually reminded me of Wahlburgers in terms of the idea, atmosphere and food. What’s great though is they take your party number when you enter and assign you a table number. You don’t have to worry about finding a table after ordering food and they do their very best to accommodate you. Service was actually really quick, too, that kitchen is obviously working hard to fire food. Once you sit, you do have a ‘waiter/waitress’ who comes around if you need anything or want to order anything last minute, which is much appreciated if you want to go back and get that milkshake (which you should do, definitely get one). They checked in on us very often and always had a smile. 

The food, again, was very similar to Wahlburgers. The ingredients all tasted very fresh and that burger was so juicy and cooked perfectly. I ordered the Goodnight/Good Cause burger. For every one of these burgers sold, Hopdoddy donates $1 to a charitable cause. They’ve raised over $700,000 so far, they are doing amazing things with this delicious burger. On the angus beef patty is Tillamook Cheddar, Caramelized Onions, Jalapeños, Hickory BBQ sauce, and their signature Sassy Sauce (a mayo based dressing). This burger was so good, all the flavors coming together and that juicy patty just dripping delicious between a toasted, soft, fluffy bun. A very notable menu item is the Impossible Burger and I suggest that you go ahead and Google it. Here is the gist of it: it cooks like meat, it looks like meat, it’s supposed to have a similar taste to meat, but it’s not meat. It’s 100% plant based and I hope/promise to eat one and write about it. The idea is intriguing and as someone who obviously loves meat, I gotta try this thing out. I’ve heard mixed reviews, from it being truly mind blowing to being “meh” so I want to try and be honest about it. 

To go with such a great burger what else are you gonna have other than fries? Oh but at Hopdoddy they don’t just have regular Kennebec potato fries, they have Parmesan truffle fries. Man oh man were these fries good! Thin cut, nice and crispy yet soft inside, the right amount of truffle and covered in delicious Parmesan cheese, how could you go wrong? The sweet potato fries were equally as amazing, giving local Fort Worth favorite Brewed a run for their money, in my opinion. 

The milkshakes are also amazing, strong flavors and thick, I would suggest getting one, whether to save for later or share with a friend. Check their Instagram as they have special burgers and milkshakes over a certain period of time! When I went their special was the Banana Shake- enjoy the picture below. 

Hopdoddy is already proving that they belong in Fort Worth. A town with a strong food culture, they are on my list of top places in town and certainly a place I’ll be recommending to people, locals and visitors alike. Hop over to West 7th and check them out, whether that’s before or after you’ve already checked out the mouthwatering menu online or on Instagram. 😉

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American, Fort Worth, Italian, Uncategorized

Cane Rosso- Fort Worth, TX

All of my readers know that I’m extremely picky about my Italian food. I very clearly announce on a daily basis that I do not eat Italian in Texas, just like how I don’t eat Tex Mex in Boston. However, when the word on the street is all about an Italian place in Fort Worth, my curiosity just takes over. I had to check out what all the hullabaloo was about Cane Rosso

Man, I swear every other post I do about a place in Fort Worth is located on West Magnolia. But it’s true, W Magnolia is just popping with exciting and innovative new idea restaurants that keeps people coming back. The area is electric and Cane Rosso fits in perfectly. Located next door to Brewed on the tail end of Magnolia, it’s always been a popular place, people constantly coming in and out flocking around the building. Reminder, they take reservations on Open Table! Definitely suggest making a reservation no later than 24 hours in advance, time slots get taken quickly! It’s super helpful that they do business on Open Table though, as many Fort Worth restaurants don’t, so take advantage of it. 

The vibe is very homey, tables packed closely together, the brick pizza oven behind the long bar. They have some outdoor seating too, which would be beautiful on a cool night. It doesn’t necessarily scream “Italian, quaint, trattoria”, but it is sort of a hipster, Italian look. The ceiling is adorned with several different light fixtures, each one with character and creating some separation in the big main room. 

The menu is adorned with several classic Italian dishes and ingredients. Our waitress did a fantastic job explaining what San Marzano tomatoes and soppressatta are. Even though I know what those are, most Texans won’t, so the fact the staff is educated in these special ingredients and can explain what they are is great and a testament to the kind of establishment they are creating.

We started off with the classic caprese just because it’s so hard not to enjoy. The tomatoes were juicy and the mozzarella tasted like Italy. The balsamic had to have come from a legitimate source bursting with tangy, sweet notes. The bread tasted fresh and grilled perfectly with a drizzle of olive oil. The pesto tasted homemade too, adding another component to the dish.

As the entree, how could we not get pizza? With the san marzano tomatoes and brick oven just behind our shoulder, we would be silly not to try the pizza. It didn’t disappoint. The ingredients tasted fresh and came together harmoniously. We chose the “OMB” pizza with meatballs, sausage, caramelized onions, and calabrian chiles. The onions added a sweetness while the chiles gave a little heat. The meatballs and sausage were fantastic and the dough was actually impressive. It wasn’t sweet like some doughs can be, it only enhanced the flavor. My one critique would be that the crust was flimsy, not crisp. I know not everyone likes a crisp thin crust and that Neapolitan pizza is supposed to be soft, but it still could’ve been cooked a little longer in my opinion.

After this experience at Cane Rosso, I don’t know, I may have to stop saying that I don’t eat Italian in Texas. This is yet another Italian restaurant that has proven me wrong about there not being good, high standard Italian food. I continue to be surprised by the capabilities of the chefs, not only by their cooking skills, but their knowledge of what real Italian food is. These chefs are great and are working for and with fantastic investors, sous chefs, waitstaff, and most importantly serving the community their absolute best. West Magnolia is home to yet another fantastic restaurant that I will certainly be going back to. 

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American, Barbecue, Beef, Fort Worth, Uncategorized

Heim Barbecue- Fort Worth, TX

Well it’s that time of the year, Texas Monthly released their Top 50 Barbecue Joints in Texas list and this carnivore certainly didn’t miss the chance to read through it. They had a good list comprised, but in my opinion forgot some places too (particularly Black’s in Lockhart and even The Longoria’s in Everman…Angelo’s is one of my favorites, but it’s been some time since it’s made the list). However, barbecue is growing and expanding and the millennials are taking a crack at it…and succeeding. One young couple is doing just that and was named the top BBQ joint in Fort Worth, Heim BBQ.

The story basically starts with Travis Heim who started smoking meat young, learning from his grandparents, and the BBQ fire was lit. He and his now wife, Emma, started off local and small, grew to a food truck, and then met the right people to start their own place on W Magnolia in the Fort. It’s a great story of growing your business and going after your dream, never giving up. And it has obviously paid off.

The Magnolia area is a perfect fit for Heim, like I said the Heim’s being a younger couple have sort of aimed for the millennial generation as their customers and making BBQ ‘hipster cool’, which is precisely what Magnolia is sort of known for. Don’t get me wrong you see the older couples in there too, just my opinion and overall feeling I got.

They do have daily hours, but when they sell out they sell out. We went on a Friday and it was still hopping around 7:30, but if you check their Facebook they update it and it’s usually around then that they sell out, just a heads up. The space is nice, some outdoor picnic tables, full bar area, and decent amount of seating inside. Long tables take up the center part of the joint which adds a community feel to it, and isn’t that what barbecue is all about? 

Overall the food was good, I can see why it made the top 50 list. However, I wouldn’t say my mind was blown by the food. Let’s get into detail here:

The sauce- tangy, some smoky flavor, but definitely a sweet taste to it. There was a good mix of spices that I could taste, I’d certainly take a bottle of it home.

Coleslaw- I’m not personally a fan of heavy mayo or super creamy coleslaw and Heim’s was far from that. They actually use red cabbage only with shredded carrots, which made it bright and pop off the plate. However there wasn’t much seasoning to it, just a lot of pepper. Could’ve used a little more of a creaminess to balance it more.

The mac and cheese- good flavor, but don’t expect any chile flavor from this ‘green chile’ mac. It was very cheesy though!

Beans- huge tomato flavor that pops, good heat and cooked perfectly. Probably one of my favorite sides. 

Potato Salad- Wow, amazing. The cheese mixed in added a creaminess to the mashed potatoes. There isn’t a lot of seasoning, but I didn’t feel the need to add any. It was very refreshing to have compared to the other sides. My other favorite!

Now for the brisket- I have to start with that it was good, but it wasn’t mind blowing like some people have talked about it being. The meat pulled apart nicely and had a good, promising, smoke ring. There wasn’t really any smoky flavor to it unless you took a bite of meat with the bark. The piece of meat was very fatty, I like some fat, but almost the whole piece was fat. It was tender outside of that though, but again not much flavor which was disappointing.

To make up for the meat was the highly suggested bacon bits. The meat was delicious, I mean bacon, and the rub gave the bits almost a pork flavor. It was very sweet for a rub, but it was amazing.

Overall Heim had a cool feel to it, trying to get the younger generation into barbecue from the location to the hipster kind of vibe it has. The Heim’s have certainly paved their way and worked hard, but their meat was fatty and everything was very sweet rather than smoky. I would go back for that potato salad and other sides though! I recommend it so all y’all can experience and say you’ve been to Heim, but there are plenty of other great barbecue joints that deserve a spot on that list. 

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