Someone, anyone, 'splain me the mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a monkey riding a pig that is Fort Worth's Sundance Square. It's a tourist trap that feels authentic. It's easy to park in and around. Locals seem to consider it a perfectly acceptable, if not downright fun, entertainment destination. And I'll be damned if you can't get a reasonably priced, tasty brunch at one of its best known outposts: the Reata.
Boasting "legendary Texas cuisine," the Reata also has a location in Alpine, but the Man O' The Hour and I figured a half-hour cruise down Interstate 30 was plenty drive for us yesterday morning. Though Sundance Square was pleasantly populated with dog-walking, coffee-drinking locals, we found a (free! on Sundays! as it should be!) parking spot within a block of the restaurant and moseyed over to grab a table shortly after the place opened at 11 a.m.
The Reata looks like what I imagine people who have never been to Fort Worth probably think the entire city looks like: paintings of cowboys and Indians on the walls, taxidermied deer and buffalo heads above doorways, everything and its big-haired mother made of wood and/or leather. There's a gift shop out front that I believe sold cowboy-themed breast cancer-fund-raising gear. Western tacky, but in that well, whatteryagonnado? kind of way.
Typically I'd give the place an eye-roll and head off into the sunset to find a real honky-tonk and greasified chicken-fried steak joint. But let's be real: When I'm in Fort Worth, I'm a tourist. Trap me, trap me, trap me.
Our friendly waiter, who bore the burden of his schlocky cowboy shirt uniform as best he could, was quick on the draw with the drinks -- always a good sign. The first words out of his mouth: Hi, I'll be your waiter, can I get you started with some Bloody Marys today? Hell and yes, sir. Then he delivered a hot, hot basket of jalapeno cornbread and sausage biscuits with garlic-thyme whipped butter on which we happily munched until our Bloody Marys arrived.
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Mixed with a homemade concoction of tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and good old salt and pepper, the Marys weren't particularly thick but flavorful nonetheless. The black pepper was especially fresh -- it took a bit of stirring to mix the grounds at the bottom of the glass, but they added both texture and bite. Three olives and a lime garnish -- respectable but not ideal -- topped off the salt-rimmed glass. And at $6 per drink at a tourist trap? That, pardners, is a downright deal.
MOTH was enticed into ordering the chef's special omelet -- Southwest chicken, onion, ranchero sauce and cheese. He found it eminently satisfactory, "
On the downside, Reata's brunch menu is actually quite small -- besides the skillet and omelet, it offered a Benedict, a cinnamon-apple French toast that sounded fairly divine and traditional egg and meat options. The rest of the menu is so extensive, however, it's difficult to blame them for not wanting to be stretched thin. Tourists are a demanding lot, after all.
Our bill came in under $30, drinks included, mainly because we managed to talk our enthusiastic waiter out of reciting a dessert menu slightly longer than a traditional production of Hamlet. Afterward, we wandered around the Square and stopped by the Water Gardens, the Philip Johnson-designed public park I hadn't visited since I was a little girl taking ice skating lessons at the Tandy Center. It was a mini-vacation in the very mini-est sense of the word, but a welcome respite from the hassles of downtown Dallas, where a similar outing would have meant the Grassy Knoll, sans-conspiracy theorists, and ... Dick's Last Resort? Ugh. Sundaying in Sundance Square is by far the better option, long drive and all.