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The Pig Pizza included crumbled Italian sausage, pancetta, and pepperoni. Photo by Lee Chastain.

Back in 2010, restaurateur Felipe Armenta duplicated the successful culinary alchemy of his San Angelo-based The Tavern here on South Hulen Street, to good reviews. In the subsequent six years, he’s opened two more originals –– Pacific Table on University Drive and Press Café on the Clearfork Trail. Last month, Armenta returned to his West Texas roots, bringing his Cork and Pig Tavern (with sister locations in San Angelo and Odessa) to the West 7th development, in the space previously occupied by the beloved AF&B.

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Cork and Pig Tavern

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2869 Crockett St, FW. 817-759-9280. 11am-9pm Sun, 11am-10pm Mon-Thu, 11am-11:30pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.

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Some of the menu items can also be found at The Tavern, like the deviled eggs with pancetta appetizer. The egg whites were really fresh and not rubbery, the smooth yolk center wasn’t too mayonnaise-y, and the pancetta provided a great salty crunch. The cheddar bacon biscuits (not on any of Armenta’s other menus) were exceptionally tasty, slightly reminiscent of a certain food chain’s cheese biscuits but less greasy. Also, Cork and Pig serves its biscuits with a locally sourced, scrumptious booze-infused berry jam. Biscuits as an appetizer may seem a little odd, but the combination of homey, flaky goodness interspersed with salty meat and covered with sweet jam was a winner.

Cork and Pig’s cuisine is pretty much all over the place, which is a standard feature at Armenta’s restaurants. The bill of fare is divided into salads, full meals, sandwiches, and pizza offerings. The kale and escarole salad sounded healthy –– a plate of good-for-you minced greens with grilled chicken, grapes, and a subtle walnut vinaigrette, which was loaded with nuts. But the whole mound was covered in an avalanche of daintily curled white cheddar cheese shreds. The textures and flavors of the firm chicken, crispy veggies, pliant grapes, and creamy cheese provoked a little bit of sensory overload, but the overall effect was delicious.

The fried halibut and chips –– three hand-sized, perfectly cooked pieces of white fish with an ample amount of thin, not quite shoestring fries –– was moist, and the batter crisp and not overly greasy. The menu advertised “house sauces” with the halibut –– the entrée came with a delightfully tangy tartar sauce. Technically the vinegar and ketchup brought to the table count as sauces, I guess.

The six-piece Pig Pizza, the third entrée for our table of three, included crumbled Italian sausage, pancetta, and pepperoni, along with the standard mozzarella cheese topping. The crust was the bubbly/crispy type that comes out of almost any brick oven. The nice thing about this version was that the slices weren’t overly loaded with tomato sauce, which made the pie crispier and less goopy.

Although dessert was not totally necessary because the meal portions were ample, the Key lime pie (also on The Tavern’s menu) and Mexican chocolate cake called to us. The pie, dusted with freshly grated lime zest and topped with a dollop of real whipped cream, managed to be delicately sweet and pleasantly sour at the same time. Lime is a difficult flavor to duplicate, and the result here was spot-on. The sumptuous chocolate ganache-topped cake was accompanied by a scoop of zesty cinnamon vanilla ice cream. Although we were all full, somehow we kept going back for small spoonfuls of both desserts because they were so outstanding.

Armenta chose wisely with his Fort Worth staff: He’s assisted by Le Cordon BleuParis-trained John Nestor and Chef Virginia Dalbeck, who survived a stint on the reality TV show Hell’s Kitchen as the runnerup on the second season. The service, from the hostess to our server Anthony, to the manager who checked in on us, was a delightful blend of competence and a “we’re happy you’re here” attitude.

So, do we need another tavern-type restaurant on West 7th, where real taverns abound? Absolutely. The word “tavern” does not fully do justice to the food, beverages, service, or casual/upscale atmosphere at Cork and Pig.

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Deviled eggs     $5
Cheddar bacon biscuits     $6
Kale and escarole salad     $13
Halibut and chips     $21
The Pig Pizza     $15
Mexican chocolate cake or Key lime pie     $8 each[/box_info]

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