I’ve been missing Salsa Fuego a lot lately. Last year, the outstanding haute-ish Mexican eatery moved out of its tiny location on the Weatherford Traffic Circle to a place with more square-footage, and then –– poof! –– it was gone. Co-owners Carlos and Christie Rodriguez have resurfaced at a gas station in the small town of Rendon.
Part of what was so cool about Salsa Fuego was taking people to the converted fast food building (it began life as a KFC) and watching their faces as they processed the whole experience. There’s a specific look that screams, “This food in this place?!” During that moment, I felt like an archeologist who discovered some rare anomaly in the foodie-verse. At least I can still do that.
The Dive Oyster Bar (3520 Alta Mere Dr., 817-560-3483) has stepped right on in to the lil’est kitchen in town.
The coastal-themed joint opened in December, and it occupies the same space on the niceness scale as its predecessor: a non-fancy chef-driven version of comfort food classics. Chef Josh Rangel was a sous chef at Jon Bonnell’s Waters Coastal Cuisine. (Thankfully, Rangel and the Mule Pub/Oscar’s Pub ownership group chose a more sensible name for their restaurant than the SEO-driven keyword Scrabble game of Waters.)
I’ll say up front that I’m not a huge fan of Gulf Coast oysters. But Dive’s grilled iteration ($7), with bourbon-chipotle butter sauce, was sweet, plump, crunchy, and delicious. The appetizer Mexican cocktail ($10), a version of shrimp cocktail with avocado, cucumber, and onion suspended in a thick red cocktail sauce, was a little sweet for my taste but still packed a spicy, salty, tangy wallop.
I was less impressed with the clam chowder ($7), a thin version of the East Coast classic that begged for salt and, well, any kind of seasoning. Speaking of the little mollusks, the fried clam strips ($8) didn’t seem very clam-like –– just iddy-biddy fried balls of bland nothingness served with a creamy mayo-based cocktail sauce.
The real star of the show was the blackened red fish entrée ($18), a delicately sweet filet of fish sitting atop a hillock of crawfish etouffee, dirty rice, and green onions. It was every bit as good as any of the high-toned, multi-sauced entrées at Waters. The kimchi fries ($8) also made my yum list. The handcut bad-boys were piled in a tin bucket, loaded with not-too-spicy fermented cabbage, and topped with a perfectly sunny-side up egg.
The place’s key lime pie ($9) is one of the best around. The meringue-like curd was not overly sweet, and it sat beautifully posed on a buttery graham cracker crust that needs to be written about in a science journal: How can it be so thick yet so tender and flaky?
Salsa Fuego will always have a place in my heart –– and I plan on visiting Rendon soon (promise). I don’t have to go far to fill the emotional void. And, frankly, The Dive can give me something Fuego never could: pie.
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