Count Lanny Lancarte II among those chefs moving forward as the pandemic continues to reshape the dining scene. In 2020, he launched Eat Fajitas from the kitchen of Righteous Foods, his Fort Worth Cultural District restaurant. This fall, Lancarte triples down by moving Eat Fajitas to its own special kitchen and adding two new concepts to the to-go business. Taking over a former Northside church — not too far from Joe T. Garcia’s, his family’s famous restaurant — he has opened Fantasma Kitchens, using the Spanish word for “ghost.” Eat Fajitas joins El Pollo Tocayo, serving fried chicken and chicken al carbon, and Pizza Zapasta, with a menu of handmade pastas, pizzas and salads. The ghost kitchen concept also includes Fantasma Spirits, premixed cocktails that have natural botanical ingredients and are packaged in branded bottles packed in nugget ice for delivery or take-away. There’s room for a couple more concepts and space on the property for a patio should on-site dining be added. “This is so much fun — it’s so gratifying for me to create concepts,” says Lancarte, noting that he’s been itching to do something new for a while. (He opened Lanny’s Alta Cocina Mexicana on 7th Street in 2005, then replaced that with Righteous Foods in 2014.) “What’s here allows me to do so much more, and I’m ready for that. I feel like I’ve been fighting gravity for a long time, so doing this is exciting.” Open for to-go orders and delivery daily for lunch and dinner, find Fantasma Kitchens’ updates at facebook.com/fantasmakitchens and on Instagram @eat.fajitas, @elpollotocayo and @pizzazapasta.
A pasta flight takes off at Mamma Monica
Chef Monica Russo’s menu of elevated classics, pizza to pasta, makes the Italian native’s casual bistro a Weatherford go-to (Russo co-owns upscale Zeno’s on the Square with her brother). A minimum of two guests are needed to participate in her “Pasta Tour,” sharing a choice of any three dishes from the menu’s pasta column. Housemade noodles and authentic flavors make it a quick trip to Italy — and a nap — for $16 per person. For a little more dough, round things out with a starter such as the basket of schiacciata, slices of stone oven-baked bread oozing with either garlic-Parmesan or rosemary-infused olive oil. Choices include baked dishes such as Lasagna alla Bolognese made in Northern Italian fashion, layered with bechamel and meat sauce; Trevis, a casserole of penne pasta, topped with sausage and mozzarella in a white sauce; and Nina, a penne dish of Sicilian-style eggplant marinara topped with bechamel. Don’t overlook the flavorful chicken ravioli in Alfredo sauce, deliciously uplifted with herbs. And, yes, they have housemade spaghetti and linguine with a variety of sauce choices, including squash and bacon. Ask about gluten-free options. On the small but just-right Italian wine list, the Scagliola Barbera is very companionable.
816 S. Main St., Weatherford, 817-818-2948, mammamonica.com
Muchacho Comida Tex Mex: Go for the chips, eat everything else
With Whistle Britches humming along, chef Omar Flores finally got his second restaurant in Southlake Town Square open mid-September in the former Snuffer’s space next to Brio. At one time, he considered putting Whistle Britches into this spot, but saved the large spot for his Tex-Mex restaurant. Serving lunch and dinner, Muchacho offers classic combo meals along with its notable fajitas al carbon and specials such as cornmeal dusted redfish tacos and chicken mole poblano. The shrimp cocktail is presented in a glass, but then plated in wide bowl for easier eating. Muchacho’s chips might be the crispiest in town, and we always get extra green sauce. The smart-looking dining room with its muted floral wallpaper, subtle Western touches and comfortable seating is the work of Tyler Duncan of Duncan & Miller; he also did Whistle Britches, which is located at 1230 Main St. 431 Grand Ave. E., Southlake, 469-513-2944, muchachotexmex.com
Jane’s split personality is a good thing
A coffee shop by morning, this swank spot morphs into a lounge in the evenings. Now that the covered patio is open, hours have steadied. While breakfast nibbles are limited to pastries from Southlake bakery Pinch of Salt, the coffee menu is small but solid. Go for drinks in the evenings with a small-bites menu ranging from a cheese board to meatballs with tomato-basil pesto. Saturday and Sunday brunch includes biscuits and wagyu country gravy, a light vegetable frittata or fried chicken and waffle sliders. Lunch is in the works. The kitchen is small, but the staff accomplishes a lot. Go to the website or the Facebook page, facebook.com/meetatjane, for updates.
Park Village, 1151 E. Southlake Blvd., Southlake, 817-424-5263, meetatjane.com
IN THE WORKS
Flower Child to open first location in Fort Worth
The popular clean-food restaurant is taking over the former McKinley’s Bakery and Cafe space in Fort Worth’s University Park Village, much to the delight of its many fans (there are three Dallas locations and one in Addison). Renovation of the space started in September with a target opening date early in 2022. The space will include outdoor seating. Flower Child’s menu caters to nearly every specialty diet: vegan, vegetarian, keto, gluten-free and paleo. All dishes are made from scratch with the bowls being some of the most popular items. The Mother Earth bowl may make you feel especially virtuous, thanks to a combo of ancient grains, sweet potato, portobellos, avocado, cucumber, broccoli pesto, charred onion, leafy greens, red pepper-miso vinaigrette and hemp seeds. Just know that you can get a steak with sides of smashed gold potatoes and green goddess asparagus. Adult beverages include local beers, seasonal sangria and wine. Takeout items include family packs that serve four to 6 people.
1616 S. University Drive, Fort Worth, iamaflowerchild.com
Ober Here keeps on trucking … for now
Chef Mark Guatelara will be moving into a brick-and-mortar restaurant come the new year — but he doesn’t have very far to go. Guatelara has built up quite the fan base in the last six months serving a limited menu of Filipino rice bowls along with addictive lumpia and other specialties from his food truck. He parks in the lot behind the contemporary Hotel Revel at 1165 8th Ave. in Fort Worth; loyal customers bring their own lawn chairs and stay for food and conversation. The development next to the hotel currently is developing space for three tenants, and Ober Here will be one of them. With construction and the holidays coming up, Guatelara is in no rush. “I promised the family some down time,” he says. “It could be January or later before we open in the new space. I want to make sure and do it right, too.” Watch oberhere.com for hours; follow Ober Here on social media at facebook.com/eat.oberhere.
Dakota’s Steakhouse reopens downtown
Despite its 37-year history as downtown Dallas’ oldest steakhouse, many thought a closure during the COVID pandemic marked its end. Instead, new owner Meredith McEneny stepped in with the cash and expertise to restore Dakota’s luster. McEneny and her husband, Tim, a hospitality veteran who owns Sloane’s Corner on Ross Avenue, revamped the subterranean space and its outdoor patio. Shielded from the busy street above by a tiered waterfall and lush garden, Dakota’s has never looked better. Allen Brothers prime steaks and impeccably fresh seafood anchor the menu from chef Ji Kang, which also includes aligot-style mashed potatoes enriched with a heavy hand of melted Gruyere cheese, handmade pastas and, during lunch, $19.84 steak frites — a nod to the year Dakota’s first opened.
600 N. Akard St., Dallas, 214-740-4001, dakotasrestaurant.com
Hutchins Barbeque back in business
One of the best smokehouses in North Texas is again drawing crowds to its flagship location in McKinney now that it has reopened after a fire shuttered the family-owned restaurant last year. And one of the best may have gotten even better. Brothers Tim and Trey Hutchins say they’ve brought on barbecue expert John Mueller as a new pitmaster. You probably recognize Mueller’s name; he’s the grandson of Texas BBQ scion Louie Mueller (of Louie Mueller BBQ in Taylor), but he also carved out success at his own short-lived joints. “Growing up in a BBQ family, I knew about Hutchins and respected their reputation in the industry,” says Mueller. “I’ve owned BBQ businesses for 30 years. I’m ready to not own anymore but keep doing what I love.” Trey says the partnership will be a productive one. “It’s really cool working with someone who shares the same love and passion for building fires and smoking meat. I know we can learn from each other, have fun along the way, and become better as a result.” Mueller is already tweaking menus at both Hutchins locations — McKinney and Frisco — but insiders say an overhaul isn’t in the plans.
1301 N. Tennessee St., McKinney, 972-548-2629, hutchinsbbq.com
Rye adds a Dallas location
The popular McKinney restaurant known for its small plates and inventive cocktails adds a second location on Greenville Avenue. Both center on small-plates options that employ fresh, local ingredients mostly grown on-site or at nearby farms. Recent standouts on chef Taylor Rause’s Dallas menu included a veg-forward beet and goat cheese lasagna, citrus-brined duck breast sauced with pomegranate-pistachio vinaigrette and charred leeks, and slow-roasted pork belly “lollipops” glazed with bourbon and burnt oranges.
1920 Greenville Ave., Dallas, 972-803-3391, ryemckinney.com