Race Street on the Near East Side has spent years trying to position itself as an entertainment district with varying degrees of success. “Build it, and they will come” might work for imaginary baseball fields, but entertainment districts need buzz and street cred in addition to real estate. Otherwise the party crowd finds somewhere else to be young and beautiful.
Race Street has attracted art galleries, head shops, tattoo parlors, bars, organic food markets, and other businesses that cater to a young demographic. Still, the crowd count can be spotty along this approximately quarter-mile-stretch of road between Sylvania Avenue and the Six Points intersection where Riverside Drive and Race and East Belknap streets cross.
The most recent biz to open up is not hip, edgy, or trendy, but it’s a welcome addition. Good Food Co. (2919 Race St, 817-759-9988) sells basic breakfast and lunch comfort fare – bacon and eggs, chorizo, hamburgers, French fries, chicken-fried steak, chili – in a small, simple, stripped-down setting, like in the old days before everything got McDonalized. Even the prices appear to be nostalgic. Where else are you going to get a tasty, well-seasoned hamburger cooked to order by a real chef using fresh ingredients for $4.50? Cheeseburgers sell for $5. The menu offers a variety of fancier burgers with Portobello, poblano, Swiss and mushroom, and bacon for a dollar or two more.
My guest scarfed down his chili cheeseburger, remarking that he looked forward to a return visit. Yours truly was pleased but not blown away by the chicken-fried steak. The meat was thick and flavorful but overcooked, meaning it was slightly dry despite the dollop of cream gravy on top.
Customers can add French fries and a fountain drink to any burger purchase for an additional $2.25. It’s money well spent. The real hero on both of our plates was the hot, thick pile of fries. I have a method for consuming fries that goes something like this: Eat the first fry without ketchup, and if the fry tastes outstanding, eat them all dry and savor the flavor. If the first fry tastes like nothing special, then I douse them all in ketchup.
I use ketchup about 75 percent of the time – most fries can use help in the flavor department. But the wonderfully seasoned beauties at Good Food Co. needed no stinkin’ ketchup, not one drop of the red stuff. That’s a good fry.
The little restaurant is the newest brainchild of two local guys: Juan Solis, owner of The Usual (1408 W Magnolia Av, 817-810-0114), and Chef Evan Williams, who introduced locals to upscale late-night fare at Black Market Bakery & Café last year in a brief timeshare with Nonna Tata’s kitchen (1400 W Magnolia Av, 817-332-0250).
On my visit to Good Food Co., Williams proved to be an engaging host as well as a capable cook. He excitedly shared his plans to transform the back part of his property into an outdoor dining area soon.
The hamburger joint sits next door to Race Street Barber Shop (921 Race St, 817-239-8866), where barbers still remove men’s stubble with straight razors. Get a haircut and step into Good Food Co. for a hamburger, fries, and Coke afterward, and you are liable to feel as if you’ve been transported to Fort Worth circa 1950s. Tell Williams, the guy in the stained chef’s shirt, that Gomer says, “Hey,” and then order a hamburger and fries and drift away to a simpler time.