America Gardens, 2833 Morton St, FW. 817-439-9660.11am-2am daily. All major credit cards accepted.
When my dining companion and I visited America Gardens for brunch, it was a glorious spring day. The mostly open-air restaurant is built for days like that – those rare non-windy, non-rainy afternoons when the temperature is between 60 and 85 degrees.
The fare of the newly opened West 7th development bar/restaurant is best enjoyed on the place’s outdoor benches and tables of both the fully shaded and full-sun varieties (depending on the time of day) stationed on a pea-gravel lowland. Additionally, there’s seating on the exposed wooden deck and indoor tables in air-conditioned comfort.
The kitchen deserves credit for its use of peppadew peppers – the sweetly spicy little gems were balanced by a tart, creamy goat cheese stuffing. Fried in a deliciously crunchy batter, the golf ball-sized portions were easier to eat than, say, stuffed jalapeños. The morsels were an excellent start to our lunch.
When a lobster roll is on a menu here in Texas, I always have this question: Will it be made New England-style, with buttered lobster chunks (whole claw meat and all) on a buttered roll with a side of melted butter? Or will you have this … thing that’s like a lobster cake, heavy with unnecessary breading and chopped mirepoix? Fortunately, the Gardens’ version is the former, with a decent portion of sweet, perfectly cooked lobster in a light tarragon sauce, nestled in a fancy, oversized hot dog bun. The entrée came with waffle fries, which were adequate but superfluous.
The herb garlic chicken sandwich was a pleasant, simple surprise. A generous amount of rosemary-flecked, beautifully grilled bird came topped with outrageously good smoked bacon and a creamy whole grain mustard-mayo combo. Our server suggested adding tomatoes and avocado on top of the bacon, which was worth the small upcharge.
There’s only one dessert on the menu, but the America’s Milkshake was actually three desserts in one. A Mason jar of thin vanilla milkshake had an outside rim of frozen Nutella spread, to which chocolate and peanut candies were affixed. A donut with sprinkles topped the jar. Genius in advertising, but the whole thing lacked flavor (other than just the obvious one-note sweet). And there was no way to enjoy the Nutella except to lick the rim.
When we visited, the patio looked like a little microcosm of Fort Worth. Every race and ethnicity and gender and culture together. Young and old sitting or playing foosball, ping-pong, and the life-sized Connect Four. Everyone was smiling. The service was great. I worried that perhaps the lovely experience was colored by the buttery lobster at brunch, so I revisited a week later, just in time for a Friday happy hour. This time I brought my dog and a new dining companion with a fresh perspective.
“Nice dogs” are welcome on the downstairs patio, and so far it looks like Fort Worthians are taking full advantage. But on an early Friday evening when said patio is full to bursting, you’d better have a nice dog that’s not too easily distracted. Fortunately, the early evening crowd of mostly heybro dudes and ladies in short sundresses liked my mutt, and he loved the attention from random strangers. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough servers for the back patio – and many in the crowd had come just to drink and take up real estate for a few hours. Mixed drinks start at $8, and there are no happy hour specials. The outside bar wasn’t open, which created chaos as servers tried (and failed) to navigate crowded stairs with full beverage trays. The social media marketer dude stationed on the top deck taking and posting pics of the backyard on the restaurant’s Facebook page actually impeded the wait staffers, who were doing their level-best to keep up with the demand.
And if you visit on Friday, you’ll land in the middle of the parking wars. There’s no lot for America Gardens – the blacktop next to it belongs to Tortaco, and towing is enforced. If you park in a West 7th garage and eat at America Gardens, you can take your parking ticket and your receipt to its sister eatery Social House for parking validation. I’m not sure if the mile-long round-trip walk beats the seven bucks for weekend space in the pay-to-park lot up the street.
America Gardens offers a premise we all want – a nice-sized patio where people will bring us food and drink. And from the looks of things, folks are willing to pay a fairly good-sized premium. Be advised that your level of enjoyment may be highly influenced by the time and day of your visit.
Peppadew peppers $8.95
Lobster roll $18.99
Herb garlic grilled chicken $12.95
America’s milkshake $11.99