I kept adjusting the way I was sitting so that my friend’s head would block the blinding sun reflecting off my windshield. The Chowmaro was one of the only cars in the parking lot of Thurber Mingus (4400 White Settlement Rd.). My guest and I eventually moved to a new table, and once the blobs of color cleared from my eyes, I couldn’t believe we were in the same place that once housed Froggy’s Beach Club. Or Froggy Bottom’s. Or whatever it was called the last time I was there.
That occasion was a Fort Worth Weekly Christmas party a few years back. All I can remember are Kristian Lin’s epic karaoke performances and some vague beach-themed bric-a-brac.
The new décor is simple, sparse, and elegant. The tables, walls, and light fixtures are made of pallet wood, and the stark concrete floors make the wood seem brighter.
Named after Thurber and Mingus, two blink-and-miss-them border towns, Thurber Mingus bills itself as a throwback to West Texas cantinas. Chef Coby Baumann’s menu of mostly tacos and burgers is all rustic with few frills.
On our recent lunch visit, the place was mostly empty, save for a few campers on the patio. Our server was charming, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable. The food, when it eventually arrived, was decent. And there’s the rub. We waited roughly half an hour for a burger and three tacos on a day when the dining room was virtually deserted.
My guest, who had to get back to work, was a good sport and braved the interminable ticket time. But I was embarrassed almost to the point of asking the chef to write my pal a letter explaining why the food took so damn long. The fact that we could see the sandwich sitting under the heat lamp for what felt like years made the ordeal all the more frustrating –– well, that, and the goat cheese and bacon-jam burger ($11) was lukewarm by the time it reached our table.
It was still pretty good. “Pretty” good. There was a nice balance of creamy, cooling cheese and rich, salty, semi-sweet spread. The toasted brioche buns were a nice, buttery touch. However, the meat was way overcooked. Were we not already pressed for time, we would have sent it back.
The tacos were good but not great. And they get minus points for holding up our order –– unlike the burger, they arrived steaming hot.
The best of the trio was the tender, spicy green chile-pork shoulder taco ($4.25) with queso Oaxaca, pinto beans, and pickled cabbage. It was a zesty, rich delight.
We were psyched about the steak taco ($5.25). The meat had been marinated in herbs, orange, and lime. But all of that creativity was buried beneath too much queso blanco, beans, and fire-roasted salsa.
The chicken thigh taco ($4) was OK, but it was by far the most forgettable.
The banana pudding ($6) was an enormous and delicious palate pleaser. Thurber Mingus’ creamy, whipped version of the Southern classic was served with a shot of bourbon and chunks of pound cake mixed in a mason jar. It was a great ending to an otherwise flawed meal.
Though I was disappointed, I am intrigued enough to go back. New restaurants often have these hiccups, but Thurber Mingus has been open about two months. I just hope it finds its sea legs in time for our next Christmas party.
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