I’ve never been much of a hippie — I just don’t care for drum circles or the band Phish. But socially conscious eating I’m for. Maybe dining on locally sourced organic ingredients allows my natural smugness to flourish. Or it could be that chefs who are relentlessly devoted to using quality ingredients just produce tastier food. I think it’s fair to say that the locavore movement has caught on here in F-Dub. Plenty of high-profile local chefs have hitched their respective wagons to Texas ingredients and critters. But some of the best places are the ones you have to look for.
After a recent trip to Chow, Mere’s lavish Arlington estate on a dog-feeding mission, I swung by Potager Cafe (315 S. Mesquite St., Arlington), an oft-neglected favorite of mine. The place is proof that, despite the rumors, there is great food in Arlington.
Owner/Chef Cynthia Chippindale is all about communal dining, slow cooking, and putting her philosophy where her cash register is. No one in North Texas is more committed to using fresh and local ingredients than she, and no one is more disturbed by food waste. Patrons sit and dine (not just simply eat) together and pay whatever they feel the experience is worth.
From the outside, the quirky little BYOB café looks more like a fast-food joint than an earnest laboratory of progressive concepts, but that’s part of its charm. On a recent Friday evening visit, my guest and I partook of what could have been a neighborhood potluck dinner, with creamy broccoli soup, a delicious green-bean-and-cheddar quiche, a citrus-y seared wild salmon, roasted cucumber and asparagus, fresh tomatoes, and a flourless chocolate and pureed chestnut cake. The flavors were energetic and the cooking spirited. And while nothing was exactly cutting-edge, the kitchen still knows when to color outside the lines. Everything that passed my lips brought a smile to them.
My guest and I enjoyed the experience so much we exceeded the pricing guidelines, choosing to pay $25 per person, as opposed to the suggested $15 to $20 — only fair considering the vast amounts of food we ate.
Another unlikely setting for a philosophically progressive restaurant is the Catholic Charities building in Fort Worth. It may be kind of out of the way, but there’s an admirable synergy at work between the charity and World Café (249 Thornhill Dr.), a purveyor of self-described “world cuisine,” with an emphasis on locally sourced, healthy ingredients. The prix fixe menu changes daily, and a variety of salads, pastries, and even breakfast items are served throughout the day.
On a recent solo flight, I opted for the world plate ($6.50), consisting that day of a beef and vegetable stew, freshly made rolls, and fresh fruit. The beef in the stew was tender and juicy, and the rich broth, swimming with carrots and celery, brought my taste buds to attention. The food wasn’t as dynamic as Potager’s, but it was excellent and reasonably priced. It’s a true diamond in the rough sort of place, worth visiting again.
In short, my advice is, think global, eat local, tune in, drop in, pig out, and go away smiling like you just ate one of those special brownies.
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