Fort Worth’s fierce foray into diner and pub grub takes on a queer tone
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor email@example.com
305 Main St., Fort Worth.
Open daily at 7 a.m.
THE POUR HOUSE
2725 W. 7th St., Fort Worth.
Open daily from 11–2 a.m.
I think I know the real reason Fort Worth is called Cowtown: It’s because every time I finish eating there, I feel like a heifer.
This is not, I want to stress, a bad thing.
The cliché is that gay men eat protein shakes and picky French-sounding food, but the reality is we like to eat rich, fatty foods as much as straight guys; we’re just willing to hit the treadmill for an hour to work it off.
Two gay-owned restaurants in Fort Worth realize this. They are bastions of hetero cuisine — not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Cowtown Diner is the latest venture by Scott Jones, whose last project was reinventing Southern comfort food with upscale execution at Screen Door. The Diner is less upscale, but it is a po-mo approach to diner food: Calorie counting be damned, we’re here to eat.
Truth is, there are some heart-healthy offerings on the recently revamped menu. Some. But the emphasis is on the classics: catfish, casseroles, chicken-fried steak.
For the most part, it succeeds, especially in the slightly reimagined standards. One of the appetizers, “pigs in a handmade quilt” ($8.95), suggests a redneck Wellington: spicy venison sausage wrapped in phyllo, served with a rich mustard sauce, sliced on the bias in a charming presentation. There’s no escaping the bold, forward flavors of the sausage, though the pastry is less impressive.
The deep-fried deviled eggs ($8.95), hardly something you’d find on your South Beach Diet, also pack a kick, but a side of the so-called chili cheese ($2.95) grits didn’t have a point of view or even seem all that “chili” to me aside from a light dusting of chili powder.
Paul Gonzales has updated the menu since another chef opened Cowtown Diner in January; gone is the turkey a la king (a wise move), while we welcome the addition of grilled tilapia ($13.95), blackened on the outside with an exquisitely tangy lemon sauce clinging to it while the flesh remains as moist and inviting as a teenager on prom night. You can detect a Cajun influence in the risotto (a holdover theme from the original menu), although the rice itself was slightly gummy.
The pasta sofia ($13.95) lacked finesse. Pasta purses were too thick by half, creating an al dente style not called for with the inclusion of delicate but pungent cheese on the interior, and the creamy pesto smothered the flavors.
Desserts are back on track; after a flirtation with store-bought pies, Gonzales has taken over pastry chef duties as well, and the creations are indulgent, like the heady bourbon bread pudding and the diner-ific banana coconut cream pie ($5.95 each). Those are the kind of delectable meal toppers best served by a middle-aged woman with her hair in a bun, but we’re willing to compromise.
The Pour House
“An awkward morning beats a boring night” opines a banner at the Pour House’s Sunday rock-n-roll brunch, a hangover-shaking concept proprietor Eric Tschetter pinched after visiting a gay club in New York City. Why shirk from loud music and hair o’ the dog when you can embrace it and move on? That means disco music (“Copacabana” was playing when we entered) and man-mosas: orange juice and champagne served in a pint glass instead of a flute. It’s perfect for chugging, and how mimosas deserve to be drunk. (And at $2 a pop, it’s easy to drink a lot.)
But despite campy drinks and circuit party music, the Pour House isn’t a gay club at all; it’s a sports bar … just one with a gay attitude.
Observe the walls, decorated with hammered-metal roof tins; it’s quaint and homey but kinda butch, too. Big screen TVs dot the room like dandelions after a windstorm with World Cup play never even outside your peripheral, but if there’s one place you actually want to see TV while eating, it’s a sports bar.
And eat you should. For a spot known primarily as a bar, the Pour House’s food is a notch above normal. Even the size of the menu catches you off guard: The usual suspects like potato skin appetizers, burgers and salads.
But what’s this — calamari ($8.99)? And not the fast-food traditional style of tentacles and suction cups, but slender steak-fry cuts of battered mollusk that are as tender as they are unexpected. You might even mistake them for the mozzarella sticks ($7.79 — a pub grub staple) and you can certainly dip either in their marinara sauce.
Equally unusual are the tortilla-crusted shrimp ($8.79). In a world where deep-fried prawns are commonly coated in coconut, the crunch addition of tortilla shards (hand-battered in-house) gives a distinctly Southwestern character to a generally generic starter.
For more proof of its Latin bona fides, you might wanna ask for a side of their spicy salsa (or stick with the also-tangy cocktail sauce). We enjoyed that particular garnish on everything. Best of all: Dousing it over the migas enchiladas ($8.99). This may be the dish that solved the brunch conundrum of whether to order breakfast or lunch; it’s both. Eggs and tortilla strips are rolled in tortillas and drowned in queso. Filling, fattening and fiery, it’s a surefire hangover and hunger cure.
Subtlety isn’t a strength of the menu — since when would you expect that as a sports bar anyway? But friendly service and a fun atmosphere is, and the Pour House has sass to spare.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 18, 2010.