Apart from a couple of spots, the Stockyards isn’t known as a dining destination. Most natives obligingly visit the historic area on the North Side to entertain curious out-of-town guests or do some boot scootin’ at Billy Bob’s or any one of the neighborhood’s numerous nightclubs. With the recent return of Fort Worth’s Grady Spears, there may finally be a good reason to seek out grub in this part of town.
204 W Exchange Av, FW. 817-882-6405. 11am-10pm Wed-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Horseshoe Hill is on a quiet part of West Exchange Street, and its distant locale could be a metaphor for Spears’ humble re-entry into the Fort Worth scene after opening and closing several restaurants over the past few years, including the recently shuttered Grady’s Line Camp in Tolar. Though controversy follows Spears wherever he goes, his dishes remain true to his cowboy-cooking roots.
Despite the ramshackle exterior, the décor oozes country charm. Framed reviews and pictures that hark back to Spears’ starry past intermingle with Western-themed art lining the walls.
A large green chalkboard displays a handwritten menu that includes Spears’ greatest culinary hits: chicken-fried steak, pan de campo (or “camp bread”), Rocky Mountain oysters, red chile cheese enchiladas, and a 16-ounce dry-aged rib-eye. The star of the show, though, is the chicken-fried steak. Horseshoe Hill offers five varieties.
The dining room holds about 60 people, and on a recent weekday evening the place was packed with a lively crowd. The vibe has been engineered to be informal, down to the walk-up counter and take-a-number ordering system.
For starters, the Texana deviled eggs were presented on a thick wood cutting board with a mound of dressed spinach salad garnished with a sprinkle of pico de gallo. The accompanying bacon crumbles, green onion, and a sprinkling of sea salt added texture to the smooth and slightly tangy filling. Alternating forkfuls of the zesty spinach salad served as a palate cleanser for the creamy handheld bites.
The pan de campo received the same butcher-block presentation and had a thin cracker-like texture that hardly seemed hefty enough to withstand the melted cheese, spinach, and pico layered on top. It tasted like a burnt biscuit without filling, and unfortunately the toppings did nothing to bring the dish together.
The dramatic-looking Cowboy Way chicken-fried steak was plated on a dark oblong platter. The chef’s signature dish did not disappoint. The crisp, well-seasoned crust surrounded a tender, flavorful cut of meat as big as a football. The steak was topped, but not slathered, with a peppery cream gravy. Though the meat could have stood on its own, the sauce added a layer of comforting decadence. The mammoth cut of meat was propped up by a chunky knoll of mashed potatoes prepared with plenty of butter and cream.
The Farmer’s Way chicken-fried steak featured a heaping portion of chile gravy on top, along with a fried egg. The egg was deep-fried, and slicing into the golden exterior revealed a bright yellow lava-like flow. The creation was an exciting amalgam of competing flavors and textures, but the chicken-fried steak still rightfully remained in the spotlight.
Most of the sides were delicious and completely satisfying. The blue cheese coleslaw contained just enough cheese and cilantro to keep it interesting but not off-putting. The creamed corn was lighter than the traditional version and proved to be a refreshing take on a country classic.
The red chile cheese enchiladas with slow-cooked red sauce sweetened with honey had potential. However, they were served at room temperature, so the cheese didn’t ooze at the touch of a fork. The slight sweetness in the sauce contrasted nicely with the spicy guacamole that accompanied it, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the lukewarm preparation.
Despite slightly higher than average prices, the quaint space, straightforward food, and casual service made for an inviting and unpretentious dining experience. The focused menu gives diners the opportunity to experience Spears’ best-known dishes, and the chicken-fried steak alone merits more than an occasional visit to the Stockyards.
Texana deviled eggs $6
Cowboy Way chicken-fried steak $16
Farmer’s Way chicken-fried steak $17
Blue cheese coleslaw $3
Red chile cheese enchiladas $6[/box_info]