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Bread Winners’ shrimp and grits was the star of the dinner hour. Photo by Lee Chastain.

Bread Winners Bakery & Bistro

1612 S University Dr, FW. 817-984-8710. 8am-9pm Sun, 7am-9 pm Mon-Thu, 7am-10pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.

It seemed like the “coming soon” sign for Bread Winners Bakery & Bistro, which took over the space formerly occupied by Blue Mesa Grill in the swanky University Park Village center, was up for at least a year. “Soon,” apparently, is a relative term to the owners of the North Texas chain. The company’s first outpost in Fort Worth and sixth overall (there are three other locations in Dallas, one in Plano, and one in Trophy Club), opened with little fanfare just in time for our oppressive summer heat – a season when new restaurants, like every plant in North Texas, tend to wilt away. 

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Luckily, the kitchen’s decadent baked goods and lunch/brunch items made up for its inauspicious beginning. 

For appetizers, the spinach and artichoke dip came out in an adorable single-serving cast iron skillet with a brown paper bag full of thick tortilla chips. The creamy, chunky dip contained a substantial amount of chopped red pepper, which overpowered the delicate flavor of the artichoke. Still, the hearty appetizer disappeared quickly.

Specialty items appeared offset in boxes on the menu, and the buttermilk pan-fried chicken was singled out as a dish the owners were particularly proud of. It sounded like a winner: lightly fried chicken on a bed of mashed potatoes with a side of jalapeño applesauce. While the chicken was moist and cooked perfectly, it was bland, and even the kick of the spicy applesauce didn’t help much. However, the accompanying garlic and leek home-style mashed potatoes and cream gravy were delicious and comforting.

Meatloaf is sort of a mood thing to order at any restaurant, unless perhaps you’re in a really good/bad diner or greasy spoon. Bread Winners’ upscale brisket chuck loaf was seared and caramelized on a grill after it was baked, which ratcheted up the flavor quotient from adequate to excellent. The meat was served with a topping of deliciously crispy onion strings, more of the leek mashed potatoes, and a superb tomato demi-glace sauce. Sadly, there wasn’t enough to both dress the meatloaf and use as a sop with the chunky taters. We probably could have ordered an extra side of the tomato-y manna, but our server had the unfortunate luck of being split between rooms – the restaurant’s footprint didn’t substantially change when Bread Winners took over, and there are four rooms plus a bar. Although she tried her best, we didn’t see much of her after our food arrived.

The kitchen’s take on shrimp and grits turned out to be the best dish of the three: Half a dozen perfectly grilled shrimp sat atop a mound of chunky cheese grits, which were dolloped with a spicy-sweet Sriracha sauce. Small chunks of tender, salty, caramelized pork belly added a little over-the-top decadence. The cheese flavor in the starch was subtle, but all the components of the dish aligned beautifully.

Saving room for dessert is a must –– while the entrées were hit or miss, the baked goods proved delightful. The Italian cream cake was a dream of rich, thick icing, which was sweet without being too sugary, and supremely moist vanilla-flavored cake. The chocolate pie was actually better than homemade, with a milk chocolate center that was thicker than pudding but lighter than mousse. The filling came buried under lightly sweetened whipped cream. 

There are two kinds of happy hours at Bread Winners – the traditional evening variety with discounts on booze and appetizers and the bakery happy hour, when all of the fresh-baked pastries are half price after 2 p.m. 

Bread Winners Bakery & Bistro

Spinach and artichoke dip $8

House meatloaf $16

Buttermilk pan-fried chicken $16

Shrimp and grits $16

Italian cream cake $6

Chocolate cream pie $6

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