Courtesy Fireside Pies Facebook
Courtesy Fireside Pies Facebook

Chow, Baby grew up with traditional pizza party birthdays, so I’ve always associated the doughy, gooey Italian dish with sleepovers, presents, and all-around good times. Now that I’m an adult, pizza is something that Chow, Baby’s bosses use to disguise meetings as parties. And pizza isn’t the flimsy, greasy cardboard-esque stuff of my childhood anymore. As with every other comfort food, chefs have gotten hold of it and gussied it up. These days, I have to get dressed to eat pizza.

One of the better purveyors of upscale pizza is Fireside Pies (2949 Crockett St.). I have a love-hate relationship with the place, and a recent visit reminded me why.

My guest and I were told there would be an hour wait for a table, which we had anticipated. But, we thought, we could while away the time at the bar and each enjoy a delicious grapefruit Ricky ($9), a refreshing combination of vodka, elderflower (a soft drink made with elderberries), and grapefruit juice. We didn’t anticipate Mr. Grumpypants bartender, who must have been having a bad night.

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Instead of any of the usual greetings, he just pointed at us as though we’d been caught stealing something. When we ordered the crisp, tender fried calamari appetizer ($13), he literally threw our plates at us, still refusing to use his words. It wasn’t until we asked for a glass of the Bandwagon pinot noir ($13) that he uttered his first word: “OK.” It’s bad enough that we had to listen to him repeatedly slam the drink shaker into the metal bar, creating a sound like a gunshot every time he made a drink. But when our table was ready and we paid our bar bill of more than $70 (including tip), we didn’t get so much as a thank you.

Fortunately, our experience in the dining room did a lot to wash away that bad taste. Our server was courteous, friendly, prompt, and knowledgeable, and he salvaged our dinner. We started with the mushroom arancini ($12), a fried and gooey breaded ball of mozzarella cheese, served with a warm pomodoro sauce. Maybe my favorite salad in the world is Fireside’s Texas bibb ($14), with bibb lettuce, bacon, goat cheese, hearts of palm, avocados, cherry tomatoes, and a red wine vinaigrette. It’s big enough to serve Mao’s Red Army, and was neither soggy nor over-dressed. We rounded the night out with the Iberian pizza ($15), a masterpiece of fennel salami, smoked provolone, soffritto (a traditional Latin base made from stewed vegetables), green olives, yellow tomato, and manchego cheese. For the record, our server thanked us at the conclusion of dinner.

Though Winslow’s Wine Café (4101 Camp Bowie Blvd.) offers far more than pizza, it does serve one of my personal favorites, the Winslow’s Crunch ($16). The pie is loaded with mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, pepperoni, jalapeños, blue cheese, red onion, and house-made potato chips, all topped with crème fraiche. The combination of pizza and potato chips is whimsical enough to transport me back to childhood and challenging enough to satisfy my grown-up palate.

On a non-pizza note: I don’t know what that place does to its spinach ($7 for a full order). Unicorn tears? Angel kisses? OK, maybe just the right amount of garlic. But I know how Popeye felt every time he needed a boost.

I guess pizza and I sort of grew up together. I enjoy the new-fangled pies, and I’m glad Fireside and Winlow’s do them so well. I wonder if either would allow me to show up in pajamas on my birthday. Who knows, the ones with bunnies might even put a smile on that bartender’s face.

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  1. I always have a great time at Fireside pies. I do know from experience to go a bit earlier on Friday afternoons, otherwise it may be a bit of a wait.

    I go there because of a bartender, John. He makes these concoctions that can go back over 100 years. Because of John, we always sit at the bar rather than at a table. Julie, a night manager, is always busy working with the customers and has a great report with the workers.

    Here’s the deal. Fireside Pies has some incredible food. From pies to kale salad, beet salad and Ipswich clams, the quality is the best. It is not a huge place, so when it draws a crowd, you may have to wait. For me, it’s always worth it.

    I could go down the street to a place less crowded and be deeply dissatisfied, or I can suck it up, wait my turn and have a delicious meal with awesome service. When people come to Fort Worth and ask where’s a good place for dinner, Fireside Pies is ALWAYS in my top five.

    P.S. I agree, that Texas Bibb salad is spectacular.

    • It wasn’t the wait that bothered me at all. My guest and I were actually looking forward to sitting at the bar and chatting. We just weren’t expecting to be so distracted by Mr. Grumpy.

    • I thought I was being pretty chilled. And I wouldn’t have written about it if that were the first time that sort of thing happened.

  2. Fireside Pies would not be the same without “Mr. Grumpypants” as you refer to him. John is an amazing bartender and always makes me feel like I’m at home when I’m at the Fireside bar. He (and his amazing Grapefruit Rickey’s) are why I come back week after week!

    • That’s why it was so disappointing. I’ve heard great things about the bar there, but my experience(s) didn’t match the hype.

  3. I’m not surprised by this story regarding Fireside. My family’s first visit was awful service wise. I wrote reviews in multiple places online, and was actually contacted by the manager. We gave them another try afterwards, and it was a better experience. With that being said, it’s not somewhere I will continue to go. One grumpy bartender or wine chugging manager can put a damper on the business. It’s a good thing so many people have come here to scream cheers for the place.

  4. Fireside would not be Fireside without John and the rest of the bar staff, he is the primary reason we go there so often and only choose to set at the bar. Excellent conversation and even better cocktails. I my opinion he is the best bartender in Fort Worth HANDS DOWN!

  5. i like this article for two reasons. one, calling john “grumpy pants” is hilarious. he may not be the most bubbly bartender but he is a great bartender and a good guy. two, the crunch pizza at winslows was created by myself and former sous chef mondo at winslows a few years ago when i was exec chef there. glad to see its still on the menu

  6. Grow up chow baby! As you stated waiting and hour or more for a table is not uncommon, people love the place and the staff! If would have taken the time to watch the bar staff you would have noticed they try to give timely great service to every body, yes in the real world big crowds can change the level of service you recieve when the staff is trying to please every body. So you did not recieve “special” treatment and felt you had to slam a busy bar tender. We have been going to pies since day one, we always dine at the bar, yes when its busy the staff does not have time to focus one one group as they are tending to every body. it appears you need to stick to rating burger kings…by the way, your description of “elderflower” is wrong, you should do your home work…

    • I wasn’t grumpy about the wait at all, in fact I was looking forward to sitting at the bar and enjoying some drinks. Also, I did get special treatment: the bartender threw plates at me, and refused to speak. I didn’t see him do that to anyone else.

    • Also, I’ve never rated a Burger King, but I think my favorite one is on Eastchase Parkway. I guess now I have rated a Burger King.

  7. Agree that their drinks are the absolute best. I also enjoy the food at the FW location much more than I do the Dallas.
    So excited that it is almost PATIO season – it’s hard to beat sipping one of their fab cocktails on their great patio!

  8. Good lord. Looks like while he was being grumpy, you were being sensitive. I’m sure he didn’t single you out. That place can be super busy and the bartenders bust their hineys to get you what you want in a timely manner. I only eat at the bar when I go to fireside because of the amazing bar staff.

  9. service is comprised of several things.Key is the demeanor of the staff.The bartender is so cranky I would never go back.He is suppose to be working for the customer and representing the establishment.The guy needs to seek work in a morgue.

  10. Thanks to your review and the confirmation by the followup comments regarding this bartender, have no desire whatsoever to visit this restaurant.
    Part of the dining experience (a large part in-fact) is the social aspect observed regarding interaction with the staff, the service, the clientele and the atmosphere. To have to put up with a “grumpy” employee who’s job it is to provide a social-based service totally takes away from any enjoyment of interacting.

    For MY money and MY time, I’ll go elsewhere.
    Thanks CB!