Don Artemio Mexican Heritage blazes new trails
Adrian Burciaga, general manager and partner with Mexican chef Juan Ramón Cárdenas, has opened a gem of a restaurant with the first U.S. location of Don Artemio in Fort Worth’s Cultural District. The original is located in Saltillo in northeastern Mexico, a city known for its tile, which is used extensively throughout the Fort Worth location. Large planters trucked in from Mexico and filled with herbs and greenery define the outdoor patio. While across-the-street construction has limited access and parking, the next-door garage on Barden Street is a snap to use, plus valet is available. While the interiors are stunning with an artful use of stone, wood and textiles, the food is the star of the show. (The menu will expand in coming months along with a rotation of “festivals” celebrating regional cuisine.) Appetizers include crispy cactus strips spiked with bacon, and tacos filled with tender braised lengua (beef tongue) enveloped in housemade tortillas and served with excellent salsas (the green version packs a lot of heat). One of our favorite salads features planks of panela cheese topped with hearts of palm and avocado slices, all drizzled with a peanut chili vinaigrette. Steak lovers have a couple of options, but we encourage you to explore. The cream cheese-stuffed poblano is baked in puff pastry rather than deep-fried; the signature cabrito is slow-cooked in a creamy tomato sauce. Pork belly confit with black bean puree is served with a single crisp strip of plantain. For dessert, the deconstructed tres leches cake with a serving of ice cream shaped like an ammonite is a crowd favorite. While we didn’t have a chance to sample lunch before our deadline, brunch won us over with duck confit chilaquiles, a Mexican version of eggs Benedict, and the French toast made with crispy-edge brioche and topped with berries and vanilla ice cream. A potent espresso is the perfect complement.
Museum Place, 3268 W. 7th St., 817-470-1439, Fort Worth, donartemio.us
Fred’s goes big with new location and expanded menu
With new digs, a bigger kitchen and, yes, better parking, Fred’s Texas Cafe — scheduled to open this month — brings back old favorites and familiar faces. Leaving a Fort Worth location they had occupied for more than 40 years meant giving up familiarity, but they’re gaining a lot more. Parts of the former Buffalo West restaurant, which closed in the summer of 2020, have the feel of the old Fred’s — the landscaping, the memorabilia, the sparkly vinyl seats — and there’s an inviting covered patio with a stage, plus the option for private dining. You’ll see familiar faces, too, including Quincy Wallace, now a partner in Fred’s, and Fabián Alvarado, who formerly helped with catering. Several of Fred’s longtime servers are returning, too. The menu features Fred’s beloved burgers — the spicy Diablo and the Outlaw, stuffed with pepper jack and poblano chile, topped with guacamole. Lunch specials include the long-popular fried chicken Wednesdays. Chicken-fried steak with eggs, migas, quail with eggs and big biscuits are on the brunch menu.
7101 Camp Bowie West, 817-332-0083, Fort Worth, fredstexascafe.com
Koracha Thai Restaurant brings the heat and the flavor
We found this little gem thanks to a detour we made one evening through Bedford and have been back multiple times since. We’re slowly working our way through the menu, but you can’t go wrong with any of the appetizers, curries, noodle dishes or classics such as the pad thai. The half-portion of the Duck Basil, one of the chef specials, had generous portions of tender deep-fried duck in a flavorful sauce. And if you’re not so intrepid when it comes to chile heat, opt for a 1, or maybe a 2, when they ask how spicy you want your order.
229 Harwood Road, Bedford, 817-605-9025, korachathairestaurant.com
It’s modern Tex-Mex at Mesero Southlake
The former Howard Wang’s space has been completely reimagined and a back patio added as Mesero expands to the Shops of Southlake. Airy and light-filled, the dining room features two bars; one services the outdoor patio, which features ceiling fans twirling from the pergola. The main bar hops in the evening, and you also can dine there. The former HW patio in front is now an enclosed space with lots of windows. The main dining room features a semi-open kitchen and a service table topped by a beautiful flower arrangement. Mesero’s menu doesn’t waver much from the chain’s other locations: lots of shareable options, big salads, a variety of tacos and enchiladas and combo plates. The margaritas are top notch, and one of the varieties is a keto-friendly, no-carb option that comes frozen or on the rocks. Service is polished and friendly.
Shops of Southlake, 1471 E. Southlake Blvd., 817-952-9705, mesero.net
The magic of mushrooms
Having once belonged to a mycophagist society, we know something about the elusive nature of edible mushrooms, the thrill of the hunt and the payoff in the kitchen. We also know foraging for fungi in the wilds can be dirty, difficult and potentially dangerous. It makes us happy to see more and more mushroom growers at area farmers markets. Central Market is now “farming,” too, in select locations including Southlake and Preston Royal in Dallas, and shoppers can find blue oyster, king oyster and lion’s mane growing in densely humid environments that mimic nature. (All CM stores carry shifting varieties of exotic mushrooms, including, this time of year, the scarce fresh morels, not yet successfully cultivated and only foraged in the spring.) For this new adventure in fungi, CM uses temperature- and humidity-controlled cases from Smallhold, an Austin grower, set up in the produce department. They’re kept at 60 to 65 degrees to re-create a shaded forest floor just before a rain shower. Note that exotic mushrooms are delicate and for best flavor should be consumed as soon as possible. The flavors of exotics differ from the common button or cremini varieties. Blue oysters are thick and meaty and good sauteed as entrees, added to soup or served sauced with pasta, but the stems are too chewy or tough to eat. King oysters, also known as king trumpets, have a scalloplike flavor and a meaty texture; the stems are edible and have a distinct umami of their own. Grill them like a steak, saute in butter or deep-fry in a tempura batter. Lion’s mane has the spongy texture of a soft white bread and a crablike flavor that makes it a tasty component in mac ’n’ cheese. Or slice thin for a quick saute with butter and garlic to use on pizza or flatbread. — Babs Rodriguez
Sadelle’s: bagels, caviar and more
This charming restaurant in Highland Park Village is the first of several planned for Dallas from New York City-based Major Food Group. Open Wednesday through Sunday, the all-day hot spot is known for its from-scratch baked goods, including hand-rolled bagels. Breakfast highlights include omelets, pancakes, cheese blintzes and house-cured salmon. For lunch, try a triple-decker sandwich or fried chicken. In the evening, splurge on caviar service or a bone-in strip. A coffee counter offers Sadelle’s own house blend; take home a rotisserie chicken from the grab-and-go market. The setting is from designer Ken Fulk.
1 Highland Park Village, Dallas, sadelles.com
The accent is on Italian at La Stella Cucina Verace
Serving only dinner for now, La Stella inhabits the former Flora Street Cafe space in the Dallas Arts District. It’s from Giuseppe “JP” Piccinini, chef Luigi Iannuario and hospitality veteran Riccardo Ravaglia, three guys who know how to share the charms of Italian cuisine. La Stella’s tight menu is a strong nod to Iannuario’s native Italy, offering handmade pasta, seafood, braised meats, grilled vegetables and a well-stocked wine cellar. Though Iannuario turns out exemplary focaccia and crusty breads, there’s one thing you won’t spot passing through the dining room. “We won’t be making pizzas,” Iannuario says. “This is serious Italian cuisine.”
2330 Flora St., Dallas, 469-663-7800, lastellatx.com
In the works: Portillo’s is heading to Texas
Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches and grilled burgers dominate the menu at this beloved Windy City brand, which plans to open its first Texas outpost this fall in The Colony. Additional area locations are planned but haven’t been announced. portillos.com