The Tower Restaurant and Speakeasy occupies the same location on the corner of 4th and Taylor streets downtown where The Vault Mediterranean Restaurant flamed out a couple of years ago. The new eatery is owned by the same folks who operate Grill 1709 in Keller, and The Tower’s menu is fairly similar to that of its self-pronounced “gastrobar” suburban sister. The Tower had a soft –– some might say downy –– opening last month, and when two guests and I visited earlier this month, it seemed like the place could use a little more fanfare.
According to our server Jason, the Speakeasy, located downstairs, will eventually offer “custom-made 1930s drinks” with a “post-Prohibition” theme. At the time of our visit, there was liquor but no mixers. Jason assured us that would change by the end of this month, and the wine list more than made up for the fact that we couldn’t get a Mary Pickford or a Sidecar. Or even a piña colada, though Jason gamely tried to jimmy one together with orange juice and a lot of rum.
The meal started with the crab cakes –– at $15, the appetizer was priced more like an entrée. More crab than cake, the two nicely seasoned, slightly spicy morsels were coated with just a little panko crust and served with a magnificently decadent lobster aioli sauce on a bed of greens. One order of two golf ball-sized cakes was enough for three. We also tried the spinach artichoke dip: well-cooked spinach and slightly crunchy artichoke hearts swimming in an insanely rich alfredo sauce. It was tasty enough that we kept returning to it well after the main courses had arrived.
The chicken arrabiata (“angry” in Italian) was a nice and a-spicy counterpoint to the heavy dip. The dish’s anger came mainly from some jalapeños. Served over penne, the bird had a lot of flavor and wasn’t overly spicy. However, if you prefer something with zero heat, look perhaps toward the bacon-wrapped meatloaf, which was comfort-food perfection. The mildly spiced dish was served with a dainty drizzle of tasso-spiked brown gravy. The accompanying mashed potatoes should have been excellent –– skin-on and chunky –– but the spuds needed some salt, or some more garlic, or more of that excellent ham-enriched gravy on top. The dish also came with perfectly al dente summer veggies.
The personal–size gluten-free pizza with mushrooms was tasty, with a sweet, chewy crust that stood up nicely to the fire-grilling process. The tomato sauce was fine, but the pie could have used a little more cheese. The Greek salad, ordered to accompany the pizza, was heavy on red onions, effectively canceling out every other flavor. The green stuff, though, was crunchy and fresh, and the bowl was loaded with feta cheese, cucumber, and olives.
Dessert at The Tower is mostly house-made. The plate-sized chocolate brownie, served slightly warm with vanilla ice cream, was over-the-top good. The bread pudding, a giant cube full of fresh berries, was also scrumptious, although the treat would have benefitted from more sauce. The semi-homemade key lime pie was served with a lime wedge, which the server encouraged us to squeeze on top. That little touch made a lovely difference, elevating the sugary concoction to something outstanding.
Service at The Tower is white-tablecloth good: fresh forks with each course, and our server had a great command of the varied menu. The ambience is decidedly casual, though. The restaurant has the unfortunate circumstance of being on the edge of Sundance Square, facing the wrong way –– mostly out to empty Taylor.
It’s hard to describe the cuisine at The Tower succinctly. It’s fancier than a diner but with a lot of diner-style comfort-food options and giant diner-size portions.
The Tower Restaurant and Speakeasy
525 Taylor St, FW. 817-386-7475. 11am-10pm daily. All major credit cards accepted.
Crab cakes…………………….. $15
Chicken arrabiata…………… $13
Bacon-wrapped meatloaf.. $12
Chocolate brownie………… $7
Berry bread pudding……… $7