At 11:30 a.m. on a sunny Saturday morning, the hostess at Press Café indicated an inside table for two would be available in 45 minutes to an hour. Seating options include about two dozen tables inside, an upstairs patio that was closed off the day that my guest and I visited, and back patio tables with both reserved seating for meals and open seating for those waiting around.
We made friends with the bartender on the backyard patio –– mimosas, prosecco, bottled beer, and water only outside. For anything else, you have to head indoors. During our visit, the inside bar looked as packed as any place downtown before last call on a Friday night. The back patio is extremely pleasant, dog and kid-friendly, with a nice amount of shade. Puzzlingly, there were plenty of open seats, although we were told the wait was 90 minutes for table service. Press seemed to have a shortage of wait staff (and bar staff).
With all the food options in Fort Worth, who waits that long for a table under normal circumstances? Even with a delicious horseradish-spiked Bloody Mary and lovely patio seating? Fortunately, the hostess under-promised and over-delivered, and we landed at our table in a mere 35 minutes.
Any frustration we might have had with the wait and the noise level inside the small, echoing restaurant began to disappear once the food began to arrive. The heirloom vegetable salad was an impeccable mélange of textures and flavors. Apples, pears, peas, mango, avocado, cheese, and squash had all painstakingly been cubed and tossed with pistachios and crunchy chia seeds in a light sherry vinaigrette dressing. Each bite tasted different (sometimes crunchy thanks to the apple, pear, or nuts, sometimes soft), and the whole bowl just looked glorious.
The fish of the day was a palm-sized cube of salmon. I asked for medium, but the fish came out well done, although not dry. The grill spice was a great balance of salty and spicy, which augmented the delicate fish nicely. The accompanying broccolini with grilled onions was closer to raw and crunchy than al dente and remained on the plate uneaten. The Brussels sprouts turned out to be an infinitely better side dish. The veggie had been deep fried (without batter) and smothered in a pineapple–soy glaze that soaked into the hot sprouts. The crunchy little morsels in the sweet/briny coating were downright addictive.
The featured panino included salty prosciutto, gooey cheese, sliced tomato, and a subtle pesto in between two buttery, crunchy, generously large pieces of sourdough bread, all pressed and grilled perfectly. The spectacular adult version of grilled ham and cheese came with house-made potato chips and a pimento cheese dip, which was weirdly appealing. Pimento cheese is kind of a love-it-or-leave-it spread, and it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to serve the so-called caviar of the South in a fairly upscale setting.
Although our server had a great grasp of the menu and was able to speak almost lovingly about the specials, there were some glitches in communications with the kitchen. Five minutes after we ordered, we were told there was no salmon, so we reordered. Then, magically, there was salmon. The restaurant was out of our first choice for dessert –– a strawberry cake with a cheesecake-type frosting –– but we found that out only after we ordered. The “tuxedo cake” was an acceptable substitute for sure: chocolate cake with real vanilla beans in the cream cheese vanilla frosting and a thick and lovely chocolate ganache. The cake was rich and not too sweet, which provided a nice counterpoint to the frosting.
Press Café is Chef Felipe Armenta’s third restaurant in town. I loved what I ate at Pacific Table in 2013, and Armenta had no food supply or service difficulties whatsoever when he opened The Tavern in 2010. There’s no question that most of the food coming out of Press Café’s kitchen looks beautiful and tastes good. However, if Armenta’s aiming to be the next Jon Bonnell, he needs to up his game a little. The restaurant is a little jewel on the Clearfork Trail, and spring is upon us. Let’s hope the communication issues and wait times get resolved before we’re too far into patio season.
Bloody Mary or mimosa $8 each
Fish of the day $25
Pressed daily sandwich $13
Chocolate cake $8[/box_info]