FeaturesRadar: Dining Out


By Debbie AndersonApril 29, 2021April 30th, 2021No Comments

Dining Out


Don’t miss chef Keith Hicks’ signature chicken and waffles served with collard greens. Photo by Meda Kessler

The Rim brings Keith Hicks back to Fort Worth

Brent Johnson and Keith Hicks join forces to bring their version of Southern cooking to Fort Worth in the former Taco Diner space in the Waterside development. Johnson is a busy restaurateur who owns four Rio Mambo restaurants. Hicks is beloved for his gussied-up plates of soul food — at the long-ago Ovations and then Buttons. The two first worked together in 1999. That was at Ellington’s, which Johnson opened in Sundance Square, introducing Cowtown to Sunday gospel brunch. Twenty years later, Hicks rejoined his former compadre at The Rim in Burleson, which Johnson opened in 2018. Now, they’re opening a second branch of this lively bar-and-grill concept, with generous sides of pop culture nostalgia. The name comes from a vibe Johnson calls “rhythm in motion”: “Yeah, it’s corny,” he concedes with a laugh, “but it’s our corn.” The restaurant focuses on the yin-and-yang of food and drink with thoughtful service, a trademark at the Burleson shop. Johnson’s affection for vintage everything shows up in the decor, notable for its Harley-Davidson motorcycle hanging from the ceiling; TV screens play early MTV videos. Seating in the wholly renovated restaurant includes three large half-circle booths with a view of kitchen action; a significant outdoor dining area; and bar areas inside and out, with a big view of the green space. Hicks’ food seals the deal; witness his signature chicken and waffles with sensational collard greens, redfish with andouille-studded jambalaya and creamy crawfish sauce and an Ellington’s favorite: Oscar Tenderloin. New additions include poke nachos, pasta dishes and, at brunch on Saturday and Sunday, waffles in a bananas Foster treatment. Must-try cocktails include the cucumber-lavender margarita and the Spicy Texan, a blend of Western Son gin, St-Germain and Tabasco. Waterside, 5912 Convair St., Fort Worth, therimrestaurant.com

Café Modern returns

Wolfgang Puck Catering makes its first appearance in Fort Worth when Café Modern reopens in May, 14 months after the pandemic closing. The celebrity chef-branded company, with outlets from coast to coast, brings in chef Jett Mora to replace Denise Shavandy, who served as executive chef since 2015. Mora’s resume includes a decade with WPC, as well as time alongside Puck himself at Oscars dinners and at Puck restaurants in Los Angeles. Mora is working with local farmers and purveyors to bring Texas ingredients to his new menus. Roxanne Mclarry, the longtime Café Modern GM, stays on to oversee service as it resumes at lunch Tuesday through Sunday, happy hour and dinner Friday, and brunch on the weekend. Dishes include chicken paillard with local greens, golden raisins, Marcona almonds, Parmesan and Aleppo honey; Piedmontese little gems with green beans, slow roasted tomato, walnuts and creamy bagna cauda dressing; and a Mini Crawfish Po’ Boy with Cajun remoulade on toasted rolls. Reserve tables inside or outside on the beautiful patio. 3200 Darnell St., Fort Worth, 817-840-2157, themodern.org/cafemodern

Photo courtesy Cafe Modern

Breeze block is found inside and out. Here, a wall divides the lounge from the main dining room. The banquettes are upholstered in mohair.

Hola, Maria’s Mexican Kitchen

Reports of a new Tex-Mex place in the former Hoffbrau location near the Fort Worth Zoo have been greatly exaggerated: Maria’s Mexican Kitchen is far from a combo plate joint. As at The Tavern, Pacific Table and Press Cafe, Felipe Armenta’s other restaurants in Fort Worth, you’ll find bold flavors and culinary innovations. But at Maria’s — inspired by the woman who infused him with a love for the food from her home in the Colonial town of Guanajuato — Armenta taps into his roots. He always knew he wanted to open something like this: “It was totally in the back of my mind, to open a Mexican place that would be an homage to my mom,” says Armenta, who grew up in the kitchen with his mother, “a phenomenal cook,” at their family restaurant in his native San Angelo. “But I wasn’t looking to do it during COVID-19.” However, the location near the Trinity River proved irresistible.

Armenta and local designer Kellye Raughton collaborated on the overhaul of the old steakhouse. She drew upon a Colonial Mexico vibe with an inviting mix of colors: pink, black, light blue, cream and green. Luxe touches include lacquered wood paneling, designer wallpaper and custom tile. Raughton also mixed traditional elements with modern flair. “We used lots of velvet, mohair and leather,” she says, “with layered patterns and colors to give guests quite an experience.” To that end, each bar stool showcases a different fabric. Lacquered green walls wow, as do tufted mohair banquettes. Concrete tabletops inside and out mimic a bold terrazzo; breeze-block walls separate the lounge from the dining room. Lighting elements include custom copper bar-top lamps. In a heartfelt touch, a commissioned portrait of Maria Armenta by local artist Joey Lancaster hangs at one end of the main dining room, florals framing her smiling face. With seating for 130 to 140 indoors at the bar and at booths and tables in two rooms, there’s also room for an additional 75 to 80 outside on the landscaped patio, lush with potted magnolias and a wall of succulents, all shaded by the large live oak that has watched over this space for many years.

As for the menu, look for a handful of Tex-Mex items from the San Angelo restaurant alongside specialties such as braised short ribs with ancho chile sauce and steamed sea bass with chipotle-lime sauce and roasted vegetables. Cocktail standouts include the Road to El Dorado, a blend of tequila reposado with ancho chile, caramelized pineapple and lime juice and the Nuevo Old Fashioned, a mix of mezcal, agave and chocolate bitters. Maria’s will serve brunch, lunch and dinner; opening is scheduled for May 15. 1712 S. University Drive, Fort Worth, mariasmexicankitchen.com


WineHaus says cheers to new beginnings and patio weather

Grape lovers were saddened by the closing of WineHaus last year, but Robyn Davis stepped in as new owner near the end of 2020 to save the day for this neighborhood favorite in Fort Worth. While it has been a slow process reopening, Davis is celebrating this month with multiple events. Look for former Café Modern chef Denise Shavandy to host a Day Before Mother’s Day brunch May 8. Shavandy, whose new catering company is called Spork & Spice, is preparing four courses with wine pairings by Dan Miller, former sommelier at Grace. Both will be in attendance. The menu includes Strawberries, Melon & Brioche with Domaine Eugéne Carrel et Fils, Crémant de Savoie Brut Tradition Rose; Salmon Lox and Avocado Mascarpone with Domaine Paul Autard, Cótes du Rhóne Blanc 2018; Tuna and Beetroot Tartare with Spectral Cellars, Gamay Noir Willamette Valley 2018; Lamb, Smoked Tomato Sauce and Herb Pistou with Domaine Paul Autard, Cótes du Rhóne 2018. Two seatings, 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. May 8; $75 per person. Reserve a seat at bookwhen.com/winehaus. 1628 Park Place Ave., Fort Worth, 817-887-9101, winehausfw.com

Chef Denise Shavandy hosts a May brunch at WineHaus, which recently renovated its patio. Photo by Meda Kessler


Joe Leo Fine Tex Mex takes over El Bolero in East Dallas

Pappasito’s Cantina veteran Kyle Noonan and his FreeRange Concepts (The Rustic, Bowl & Barrel, and Mutts Canine Cantina) have circled back to Tex-Mex with the opening of this East Dallas newcomer in the former El Bolero space. Named for Noonan’s grandfather, Joe Leo hews toward classic, old-school Tex-Mex: fajitas, queso and margaritas spiked with something akin to Everclear. The two-story restaurant encompasses a large open-air patio with a fountain and fire pit, indoor and outdoor dining areas, and large garage doors that link the two for all-weather use. 2722 N. Fitzhugh Ave., 214-363-2699, joeleotexmex.com

Cake Bar introduces cake ATM

An ATM that dispenses cakes instead of coins promises 24-hour delights at Trinity Groves. Cake Bar’s new refrigerated vending machine is stocked each day with 5- and 8-inch round cakes, providing the ultimate socially distanced bakery visit. The multilayer cakes are all made from scratch and sell for $15 to $40. If a full-size Old Fashion Chocolate, Carrot or Hummingbird cake — or one of their 13 other from-scratch flavors — is too indulgent (or if you need something smaller to snack on in the car), an adjacent by-the-slice ATM fulfills late-night or drive-by cravings. 3011 Gulden Lane, Dallas, 972-684-5801, cakebardallas.com

Get your Cake Bar fix — whole or by the slice — at any time thanks to a new 24-hour vending machine. Photo courtesy of Cake Bar

The setting is vibrant but serene. Enjoy classic dishes such as marinated and grilled chicken served with pomegranate seeds and a spice-spiked yogurt sauce. Photos courtesy of Âme

Âme bares its “soul” in Bishop Arts

New to the popular Oak Cliff neighborhood in the old Hattie’s space, this French-Indian restaurant (pronounced ah-mmh) from mother-daughter duo Afifa and Sabrina Nayeb marries classic French technique with modern Indian cuisine. Lighter sauces replace traditional curries, coconut often subs for tomato, and lentils and grains figure prominently on a vegetarian-forward menu that also includes housemade paneer cheese and beet samosas, plus eggplant with pine nuts and turmeric bechamel. A companion cocktail lounge called Elephant Bar trumpets a wide variety of cocktails and sparkling wines. The restaurant is open for dinner daily except Mondays and serves brunch on weekends. 418 N. Bishop Ave., Dallas, 214-782-9696, amerestaurantdallas.com