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The Bentley’s house hot dog and the Bent-Mi both pack a lot of spice. Photo by Lee Chastain.

If you can remember the days when the only hot dog to be found on West Magnolia Avenue came from BJ Keefer’s, the street’s newest restaurant may cause you to reflect on how far the area has come. Bentley’s’ triple concept of craft hot dogs, crepes, and single-origin coffee is an ambitious program on a street fraught with ambitious programs, but it targets the neighborhood vibe with a sincere interest in quality ingredients and flavor combinations that you won’t quite find anywhere else.

[box_info]Bentley’s, 1515 W Magnolia Av, FW. 682-715-4530. 7am-8pm Mon-Thu, 7am-10pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.[/box_info]

My guest and I arrived on a recent weekday evening to find a chatty smattering of diners with strollers in tow. The space is tiny, with an open kitchen and high counter seating around the edges. Outside, a shady courtyard offers more comfortable tables and chairs. The patio was breezy and pleasant, even at the end of a day that saw temperatures nearing the century mark.

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“Craft” is a descriptor that has passed its zenith, but, for the hot dogs at Bentley’s, it is probably still apt. The kitchen focuses on quality ingredients and labor-intensive preparations (be prepared to wait a few minutes for your dog) that take the humble frankfurter on a quick tour around the globe. The only thing missing from the menu is a straight-up, classic American dog with all the fixings. The kitchen steers away from the expected, though, even going so far as to cook its meat butterflied on a flat-top grill. Cutting sausages open before cooking is dangerous business — increased surface area means more interaction with the toppings, but the juicy snap that comes from bursting the skin of a plump frank is lost.

The Bentley’s house hot dog came served on a fresh, toasted pretzel bun schmeared with jalapeño cream cheese and topped by onions fried with more jalapeños. The punch of the peppers was almost guaranteed to cause heartburn, but the coolness of the cream cheese made it seem like a reasonable level of risk. The kitchen offers strips of grilled portabello mushrooms in lieu of franks, and the substitution on the Bentley dog worked great as a meat-free option.

Regional purists might raise an eyebrow at the Pork Worth, a beef frank topped with pulled pork, barbecue sauce, fried onions, and cabbage. Fort Worth has not historically been a sausage town, and some of us still view barbecued pork with suspicion. But for carnivores, this sandwich has plenty to love. The pulled pork was particularly well seasoned and flavorful, and I’d like to try it on a bun without the dog sometime.

The Bent-Mi was the most exotic of the diverse flavor profiles we tried, merging a humble hot dog with the crisp flavors of a traditional Vietnamese banh-mi sandwich. Pickled onions, fresh cucumbers, and cilantro joined the sausage in a sweetened bun dressed with tangy red curry mayo. I could have done without the “Asian-style” pulled pork, however, which was too sweet.

The place’s perfectly cooked hand-cut fries were served skin-on and tossed in overpowering truffle oil. Even in minute quantities, truffle oil is potent stuff, and pairing it with the punch of jalapeños or pickled onions might result in an unpleasant evening. Unless I was ordering them to enjoy by themselves — a distinct possibility — I’d probably skip the truffle oil next time.

My only disappointment was with my crepe. Half the fun of eating a crepe is watching the batter poured and spread thin on the pan, and Bentley’s has the equipment to put on a proper show. Unfortunately, the staff used the fancy electric crepe cooker to warm up a crepe that had been prepared at some earlier time, resulting in a rubbery disposition. The “cinnamon roll” filling was a frosting-like material that dribbled out of both ends of the rolled confection and puddled underneath. It would be nice to see Bentley’s get this dish right by cooking each crepe to order and then folding it around its filling in a flattened cone for easy, mess-free enjoyment.

For a hot dog shop, Bentley’s has exceptionally good coffee. Whether you order the house cold-brew (served with crunchy “Sonic-style” ice) or the Columbian single-origin Chemex pour-over, the friendly staff doesn’t cut any corners to serve a great cup of joe. If the kitchen can extend this level of consideration to its crepe station, Bentley’s will be well-positioned for a good run on the new Magnolia.

[box_info]Bentley’s
Seasoned fries     $4
Bentley hot dog     $7
Pork Worth hot dog     $8
“Cinnamon roll” crepe     $5
Cold brew coffee     $4.50[/box_info]

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