True, the economy sucks, but you’d be hard pressed to drive a city block in Fort Worth without seeing at least one building being built or remodeled. Out in north Fort Worth, there’s a loud, sweaty construction crew on just about every street corner. A couple of years ago, the once sleepy area by Alliance and Meacham airports began a boom that doesn’t look to be slowing down at all.
Along with all of the new strip malls, apartments, houses, and banks — lots of banks — there are restaurants. A lot of restaurants. Though most are chains, a few are independently owned. Most of them are international in flavor and are above average to excellent.
On the hunt for a ‘shroom-swiss burger as big and heavy as a truck tire? Look no further than OC Burgers, a no-nonsense dine-in/drive-thru operation owned and operated by two native Southern Californians, Todd Hoffman and Mike French, on the corner of Denton Highway (U.S. 377 N.) and Western Center Boulevard in Watauga. Though a tad on the pricey side, OC’s version of the burger-joint staple was a deliciously greasy, fully loaded two-hander of juicy, charbroiled beef and lightly toasted airy bun. The experience required a small tower of napkins. But aren’t all of the best burger encounters messy ones?
For your choice of sides, go with the onion rings. Straight from Paul Bunyan’s garden, OC’s battered and fried bad boys also could, in a pinch, serve as hula-hoops.
The restaurant is Hoffman and French’s second location. Their first is on Airport Freeway in Euless.
Another micro-chain spreading roof in North Fort Worth is MK’s Sushi, a ma-and-pa operation based in Bedford.
As elegant as OC’s is casual, MK’s is a suburban oasis, located in a half-filled strip mall off Western Center surrounded by construction and within nunchuck-tossing distance of incessantly growling I-35 N. Once inside, though, you’ll be transported to some classy Midtown Manhattan establishment. The décor is all black and white and is sleek, with murals of curling waves on the walls and windows treated to block out all that is unholy — and crappy-looking and loud — about sprawl in North Fort Worth.
For us American dogs, one of the worst parts about sushi is restaurants’ insistence on small portions. WTF? We don’t want to not be hungry to have sushi. Thankfully, MK’s caters to our unrefined palates by offering chirashi, a deep bowl of sashimi over sushi rice. Imagine unraveling a bunch of different rolls and dumping everything but the nori into a bowl: That’s chirashi. The truly unrefined among us might want to shelve the chopsticks for spoons, to optimize maximum shoveling potential.
All of the sashimi — yellowtail, tuna, and shrimp, among other raw aquatic creatures — were fresh and, when kissed by some wasabi-infused soy sauce, supremely tasty, and the service was fast and friendly.
Right across the street, literally, is a new Chinese restaurant, An Zen. A gorgeous space in another strip mall, the ma-and-pa eatery serves up no-nonsense traditional Chinese fare. A quick word about baby shrimp, which applies to An Zen and most other Chinese restaurants: Baby shrimp are insulting. They merely pay lip service to the concept — and flavor — of real shrimp and don’t even soak up any sauce. Please stop using them, everyone. Thank you.
In driving all around North Fort Worth, you’re bound to run into a restaurant that’s been there forever but that you never knew existed. Case in point: Moni’s Italian Table Bar & Grill, another strip-mall-located restaurant, on Blue Mound Road. A North Fort Worth staple, Moni’s is as close to Sardine’s Ristorante Italiano as North Fort Worthians are going to get: There’s a full bar that’s kind of small but always comfortably occupied, the walls are covered in murals of famous paisans — and a woman we presume is Sophia Loren — and the food, like Sardine’s, is superb. The Chicken Aristocrat had two massive breasts of bird and, in authentic style, was topped by breaded and deep-fried slices of eggplant, and the arrabiata dish — macaroni sautéed with green peppers, ‘shrooms, and onions in a spicy marinara — rivals Sardine’s version, a veritable coup in local Italian food lore.
One thing’s for sure: As urban redevelopment and sprawl continue on, the number of restaurants in Fort Worth will probably triple. Foodies are recommended to catch as catch can.