There are a ton of holes in our city’s burgeoning culinary landscape. We could really use some good dim sum places. I’d love to see a rise in the number of Indian joints, more restaurants that deliver without using a third-party service, a Chinatown or at least a concentrated cluster of Asian eateries like the ones in Haltom City and Arlington. There was one Spanish restaurant, Sera Dining & Wine (2418 Forest Park Blvd., 817-927-7372), and now its menu casts a wider net. We have only one true port of call for vegans. On the fining dining scene, local chefs seem hesitant to experiment much at all.
If there’s one piece of the restaurant puzzle we do have covered it is upscale comfort food. And yet places that specialize in that style of cuisine keep opening and doing well. I don’t know why Fort Worth gastronauts keep going for more of the same, but I can’t blame restaurateurs for giving the people what they want –– even if it bores me to tears.
The newest player in the fancy grits game is Fixture Kitchen and Social Lounge (401 W. Magnolia Ave., 817-708-2663). The eatery sits in the space formerly occupied by the mysteriously vanished 24 Plates on the east side of Mad-nolia. Esthetically, the place does little to separate itself from the building’s former tenant. But that’s not a bad thing. Its industrial chic vibe fits in perfectly with that part of the Near Southside.
I should say up front, Fixture is a good restaurant. The staff was friendly and prompt, the vibe relaxed, and the drink offerings top notch. The menu is true to the genre. There’s a gussied-up peanut butter and jelly sandwich, fried bologna club, shrimp and grits, and elevated versions of other things that were once staples at diners and sandwich shops. There were a few non-comfort outliers that hinted at sophistication. Both the pan-seared salmon with faro and the mushroom spaetzle piqued my interest.
But on a recent weekday afternoon visit, my guest and I eschewed my personal curiosities and went for what we thought might be a more representative meal. We started with the duck confit ($12) served on a sweet potato tot that was so overcooked it had the consistency of wicker. The duck leg fat itself was intense and flavorful but lacked an equal dance partner on the plate.
The truffle mac and cheese ($7) with black truffle oil and manchego cheese was gristly as is sometimes the case when a hard cheese is melted. Though packed with flavors of truffle and cream, it could have used a touch more salt and pepper. The pasta was a perfect al dente. It was a good if ordinary starter.
Thankfully, the entrées fared better. The generously portioned chicken and waffles ($11) had just the right amount of rosemary to add sweet fragrance to the classic soul food dish. The thighs tasted as though they’d been brined, which made the pieces fork tender and provided a nice contrast with the crispy batter. The waffle itself was airy and light.
The aforementioned shrimp and grits ($14) were almost too spicy, thanks to the raw jalapeño in the pico de gallo. But the cheesy grits had a soothing, cooling effect. The shrimp were plump and plenty.
It’s not Fixture’s fault that this town is overrun with similar places. But could we criticize someone for opening a coffee house in Seattle or a plastic surgery clinic in Dallas? Welcome to ComFort Worth, y’all.
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