Sundey McClendon occasionally goes searching for some of DFW's farthest-flung gems. Have a suggestion? Leave a comment and she may check it out.
A while back I heard a tale of a restaurant run by a landscaper and a local celebrity in Mansfield. Unable to turn down a local celebrity -- I'm actually writing this from the hood of Ron Washington's locked Biarritz -- I decided that my first stop had to be Steven's Garden and Grill in Mansfield. This sweet, underrated Texas treat is a sprawling oasis of a place, tucked between a historic neighborhood, a funeral home, and an industrial area. You may have better luck finding Waldo than you do Steven's, but it's well worth the search.
It's anomalous location has much to do with its history. It began as purely Steven's Garden, a retail garden center owned by two expert gardeners, John and Jan Cox. (Steven is John's middle name.) If the name Jan Cox doesn't sound familiar, her maiden name, Jan Hoelscher, might. Jan was made local-famous by her horticulture column in the Star Telegram and a regular spot on channel five morning news as a gardening expert in the early 90s.
She and John ran the garden center until, on vacation in 2000, John told Jan he might like to open a restaurant. "I call this place my husband's mid-life crisis," Jan laughs, motioning to the large, airy space, adorned with corrugated tin inside and lovely iron work surrounding rows and rows of patio tables outdoors.
They partitioned off part of the garden center, added a kitchen and seven tables and started serving BBQ and burgers. "It was a funny thing," Jan says. "People could come and have lunch, and then come next door and pick up ant bait." Soon word of mouth began to grow. They expanded their menu to include items that were heavily requested by customers, causing the restaurant to overtake the garden center.
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And so, Steven's Garden and Grill was born. It's been 10 years, and now they offer a variety of delicious meats, smoked and grilled on site, as well as delectable, fresh sides, appetizers, desserts, a varied beer collection and a "no mix allowed" policy on their popular margaritas.
I sampled their Thanksgiving turkey dinner, consisting of a hickory smoked turkey, pulled pork tinged green beans, pecan cobbler and a baked potato salad so sinfully buttery it would make Paula Deen blush. The meal was as good as any I've had on Thanksgiving, but without my mean aunt asking me if I have a gland problem.
You too can enjoy a delicious smoked turkey, both at Steven's or in the comfort of your own home. For Thanksgiving, Steven's is offering a selection of whole smoked meats, including ham, brisket and turkey for takeout. You can order until the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and if you happen to have a turkey disaster, they may be able to bail you out of your turkey trouble until the day before the big day. If you stop by, Jan assures me, she is happy to answer any of your pressing yard queries, free of charge.
In short: This place is worth the drive both for the food and for the free gardening advice. I mean, really, would Neil Sperry offer to make you a pulled pork sandwich while reminding you that it's time to apply pre-emergent? Doubtful.