Westfork is our series exploring the dining culture of Fort Worth and its surroundings.
I know a gal--for anonymity's sake we'll call her "Martha"--who finished her holiday shopping and baking and wrapping weeks ago. My hatred for her perfection burns with the fury of a thousand suns.
I--like 95% of the population, probably you included--have not come close to finishing my holiday to do list. In fact, I haven't even started. I could say it's my iron will to avoid the juvenile tug-of-war that breaks out over $9 toaster ovens at 5 a.m. on Black Friday but in reality, it's because I'm lazy.
And I spend too much time thinking about food.
For me, fighting the masses in the food court simply does not work. But I could probably be lured into the maddening rush by the promise of a good snack, before and/or after my shopping hell.
And so as I make my list and check it twice (and plot ways to get the best parking spot along the way), I've also compiled my list of good bites near the major Tarrant County shopping areas.
Southlake Town Square
Thai Chili (215 Grand Avenue, Southlake) is the place for spice, in case fighting over the last Wii wasn't exciting enough. The Chicken Coconut Soup is a standout dish with its blend of spicy heat and cooling coconut milk. Pad Thai follows the basic formula with a healthy portion size. Service can be spotty, but compared to holiday checkout lines, one would hardly notice.
Brio Tuscan Grille (1431 Plaza Place, Southlake) changes the menu seasonally, a nice touch for a chain restaurant. Dining in the bar can sometimes yield quicker service--as well as better cougar watching (yes, we have them in Fort Worth, too)--but this is not the place to duck into for a twenty minute meal but rather an end-of-shopping day victory lap and glass of wine. Mushroom Ravioli al Forno is baked comfort food for cold weather and the Sliced Steak Bruschetta is the heartiest of the many bruschetta and flatbread options on the menu.
Italianni's (1601 Precinct Line, Hurst) is a hidden secret tucked about a mile from the snarling traffic nightmare that surrounds the mall. The Stuffed Mushrooms are a long-time favorite of mine with their blend of herbs, sausage, and cheese as is the buttery Shrimp Scampi. The peach bellinis and soothing Sinatra will take the edge off even the most frazzled shopper.
Abuelo's (824 Airport Freeway) delivers what many frazzled shoppers need most: an array of margaritas. The Los Mejores de la Casa (or "best of the house") presents a side-by-side of two of the savoriest items in the house--bacon wrapped filet and bacon wrapped shrimp. For a lighter snack, the Layered Dip (creamy queso, guacamole, beans, and taco beef) is a wonderful cocktail accompaniment.
Sushi Tao (4954 Overton Ridge Blvd, Fort Worth) runs lunch specials that allow for more choice than the typical bento box. Diners can pick from a list of various rolls (choice of two--and yes, Fort Worth can do sushi) along with salad and soup for a mere $7.95. The Sesame Wakame seaweed salad is solid portion.
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Rosa's Café Tortilla Factory (5000 Overton Ridge Blvd, Fort Worth) is the drive-thru option for in-the-car-dining-before-it's-banned-by-Congress on the way to the mall or while rushing home to wrap presents. Husk-on tamales help fake Christmas cooking duty for those who like tradition. Crispy beef tacos are stuffed with beef (and ooze just a bit of grease for that authentic touch). Tortillas are available by the dozen and warm sopapillas make a good substitute for the holiday cookies you forgot to bake for that party in the neighborhood.
Tommy's Hamburgers (2701 Green Oaks Road, Fort Worth) is no-fuss, no-frills burgers for the masses. The Green Oaks menu is slightly abbreviated from that at the other Westside locations, but includes not only a variety of basic burgers, but also crispy fried catfish and chicken fried steak. I prefer the fried okra and corn nuggets as a substitute to fries that can be too limp. The basic grilled cheese will please even the pickiest backseat shopping assistant.
New York Joe's Pizza and Pasta (520 Alta Mere Blvd, Fort Worth) delivers basic New York style pizza--the kind where the slices are so big they require two hands--quickly and simply. This is a no-frills joint where pizza and red-sauce Italian dishes rule the menu. Spaghetti and meatballs and loaded pizza slices are the go-to dishes but staff suggestions are rarely misses.
With this much eating to do, I can probably be prodded out of my chair and off to the mall, reluctant to stand in-line for that Snuggie for the dreaded cousin in the gift exchange (won't she regret that Jean Nate bath set from a few years back?!), but secure in my knowledge that a good meal awaits to bring on my Christmas slumber.