Americado Mexi Food Hall, 2000 W Berry St, FW. 817-759-9107. 11am-10pm Sun-Thu, 11am-11pm Fri-Sat.
There has been plenty of buzz coming from the direction of West Berry Street, where the much-hyped and long-awaited Americado Mexi Food Hall has finally thrown open the doors of its polished, custom-built home. Billing itself as a “fast-fine eatery” inspired by the street food of Mexico City, the project opened with a full-court media press, a website so slick it can crash your browser, and a building designed to turn heads. In a neighborhood known for authentic (but unpretentious) taquerias, Americado came to kick ass.
It doesn’t take a whole lot of pre-rusted perforated sheet metal to convince Fort Worthians that something significant is getting built in their neighborhood, and Americado has plenty, along with custom signage and poured-in-place concrete countertops. Dallas-based Coeval Studio, a restaurant branding and design firm responsible for the interior design of Cork & Pig Tavern in the West 7th development, has spared no expense and, seemingly, left no ideas on the cutting room floor.
The concept appears to be that of three identical food trucks and a beach bar parked in someone’s garage. The auto repair and body shop that was previously on the site might have housed the notion more comfortably — instead, an awful lot of money was spent building, from the ground up, a space that feels dark, cramped, and disorienting. Intended to evoke market stalls or street vendors, the otherwise indistinguishable food stations are labeled with stylized appellations: “Chilangos” serves tortas and tacos, while “Chi Chicken” and the “Fisheria” are fairly self-explanatory. There’s also a “Juiceria” serving aguas frescas and popsicles. A panoply of design impulses trip over one another in the same chaotic space where hapless diners wait in multiple lines to pay multiple checks — like a mall food court without the variety.
My guest and I visited Americado on a slow weekday evening and were promptly confused. For all the brainstorming that evidently went into designing the place, there is very little in the layout that tells you how the facility is meant to be used. The good-natured staff tried gamely to shepherd us through what turned out to be a rather complicated system — wait, order, pay, repeat — that somebody, somewhere had thought might make for a good time.
(Not everything about the place is uncomfortable. There’s a cheery patio space on the eastern side that will make for pleasant al fresco dining most of the year.)
A plate of four mix-and-match tacos served with white Yucatan rice promised to be a worthy introduction to the kitchen’s business. Unfortunately, the three-bite morsels that arrived on their tiny, precious tortillas were so antithetical to the notion of good taco stewardship that we had a hard time moving on. Has the day finally come when spending $10 on tacos in Fort Worth won’t fill a man up? Not if you cross the street. At Americado, though, it gets you a bar snack. As far as the fillings went, what was there was predictably tasty (tacos are tacos, after all) though not exceptional. The cochinita pibil, pulled pork marinated with achiote, was the standout favorite, and a meatless option of mushrooms and peppers with Oaxaca cheese was a satisfactory addition to a repertoire that often leaves vegetarians high and dry.
The cochi-queso torta, a pulled pork sandwich on telera bread, would have been pretty good if it hadn’t sogged out the bottom of its own bun. Though the pork had a bright citrus marinade that paired handsomely with a seared, caramelized crust, we had to pick the swine off a wet mass of refried beans and (though it had not been listed as one of the ingredients) mayonnaise. Served alongside were thick hand-cut fries, some of which were cooked beautifully.
The Huachinango ceviche, a dish of raw red snapper typically cured in lime juice, appeared to be marinated in the kitchen’s pico de gallo instead. Though certainly an efficient use of prep time, the strategy had the unfortunate effect of turning the flakey white fish the color of tinned salmon and obliterating any subtlety of flavor with the overwhelming taste of tomatoes.
The chicken tinga quesadilla was an improbably sweet portion of shredded chicken dressed with something like Hunt’s barbecue sauce with a splash of soy. Holding it in place between two oily corn tortillas was a plug of melted cheese.
Americado has a few kinks to work out if its shaky concept is going to pay for its uncomfortable building — but the food isn’t bad, and it wouldn’t take much to make it better. Thanks to an alcohol variance, you can also enjoy a stiff cocktail a mere 215 feet from Paschal High School, although you’ll be looking at the intersection of West Berry and Cleburne Road.
Americado Mexi Food Hall
Taco plate $10
Cochi-queso torta $12
Quesadilla de tinga $9
Huachinango (red snapper ceviche) $11