Fine dining in Fort Worth’s spotlight
By Scott Nishimura
Photography by Olaf Growald
Maiden, a new vegan restaurant where dinner for two could run $400, debuts. And Don Artemio looks to what’s next after its James Beard nomination.
Maiden Fine Plants & Spirits, an all-vegan Near Southside fine dining restaurant owned by the founders of Spiral Diner & Bakery, made its debut in early June.
Is Fort Worth ready for a prix fixe vegan dinner for two — with a seasonal tasting menu accompanied by beverage pairings — that runs four C-notes? Amy McNutt, a co-founder of the casual Spiral Diner, which opened in 2002, obviously thinks so. She has been noodling on a fine dining concept since before COVID-19.
Reservations for June have been good since Maiden opened them up in mid-May on the Tock site, McNutt says. McNutt is banking on years of building a clientele with Spiral Diner and the input she has received from friends over numerous tastings.
“The feedback from them has been overwhelmingly positive,” she says.
Maiden, in a standalone building resembling the bridge of a ship at 1216 6th Ave., in the newly built PS1200 mixed-use complex, will seat up to 50 people in its 2,100-square-foot space.
Maiden will rotate seasonal tasting menus at $150 per person, plus alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverage pairings at $45 per person. The tastings will be six to eight courses, beginning with a soup or consomme and moving through appetizer, salad, entree and an apres-dinner cheese course.
The restaurant will be open evenings five days a week. Reservations are “strongly encouraged,” the restaurant says, and prepayment is required. The restaurant expects to host two seatings per evening, with each lasting two to three hours.
“It takes days to prepare everything,” McNutt says. “We have to be able to plan ahead. It’s not the kind of food you can put together last minute.”
A limited number of walk-in seatings for up to two guests will be available each evening, assuming the tables aren’t already reserved. Walk-in guests who can’t secure a table can sit at Maiden’s bar — or its covered outdoor lounge — and treat themselves to beverages and the cheese course.
Maiden is planning on the element of surprise to heighten guests’ anticipation throughout the experience. Maiden won’t publish its menus online — forget DoorDash — and guests won’t receive one when they sit down, preventing them from fixating on what’s next. Rather, servers will carefully tell the story of each dish as it emerges from the kitchen, McNutt says.
It’ll be a luxuriant experience, “but you can still relax,” McNutt says. “You don’t have to think of any kind of etiquette or rules.”
The spring tasting includes a lemongrass grapefruit consomme; roasted parsnip with zucchini and walnut confit, served with sourdough and shallot jam; and “a play on potato leek soup that will surprise patrons,” the restaurant says. In the fall and winter, guests can expect “a lot of smokiness and more of a comforting kind of feel” from the menus, McNutt says. “The spring tasting will be lighter.”
In keeping with the surprise element, McNutt isn’t divulging much more about what’s on the menus.
Maiden’s beverage selection is also vegan, featuring wines that don’t use gelatin in production for color and flavor.
Maiden makes up part of a small triangle of vegan establishments — Spiral Diner on West Magnolia Avenue and the new Dreamboat Donuts & Scoops — founded and owned by the Spiral Diner team. McNutt believes Maiden can boost Fort Worth as a destination. “Hopefully, it’ll be something the whole state can enjoy.”