Lettuce Cook Gourmet-on-the-Go
5101 White Settlement Rd, FW.
817-989-2665. 7am-7pm Mon-Fri,
All major credit cards accepted.
Fort Worth native Todd Brown bounced around a lot of local kitchens before opening Lettuce Cook Gourmet-on-the-Go. After culinary school, Brown was hired as sous chef at The Ashton Hotel before landing the executive chef role at two restaurants, first at The Nutt House in Granbury and then at the late, lamented Angeluna in Fort Worth. He opened a catering company in 2004. Earlier this year, Brown and wife/co-owner Natalie Brown took that business a step further and launched Lettuce Cook Gourmet-on-the-Go, a fast-casual café with pre-packaged meals and treats, in Fort Worth’s developing River District.
The tiny space has four rustic wood tables of varying sizes and bar-top seating for about a dozen. There’s a mismatched charm that echoes through the décor and a vintage touch to the home-style food and some of the beverages. In addition to several varieties of kombucha tea, the self-serve refrigerator is filled with Tab and Mello Yello, along with more standard soda options.
The dine-in menu focuses on simple fare: sandwiches, salads, appetizers, a daily special, and hearty breakfast options. Brown said the TCB, the place’s house salad, flies out of his refrigerator. On my recent visit, the salad mix was delightful: Dried cranberries, tomatoes, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and parmesan and blue cheeses enlivened the hubcap-sized bowl of romaine lettuce. Each bite had a slightly different taste –– sweet and crunchy from the cranberries and nuts or pungent from the blue cheese. The overwhelmingly tangy sweet Vidalia onion vinaigrette was served on the side, and that was a blessing –– the assault of lemon and mustard was like having a blast of cold air assail your face.
The menu also includes an abundance of whimsically named sandwich offerings. The Clucking Good chicken was as advertised, with a generous smear of magnificently sweet fig jam on a crusty bolio roll. The sliced savory breast was a bonus, as it was easier to take bites of smaller portions of the moist bird rather than chomping into the whole breast. The chicken was topped with melted mozzarella cheese, and a little chopped tomato added a bit of juicy freshness that complemented the sweet, mellow, oozy goodness.
The You’ll Flank Yourself sandwich was billed as a honey-rosemary-marinated steak with grilled onion on the same bolio bread. The overall effect was more of a teriyaki flavor, although I did eventually taste a hint of the piney, fragrant herb. There weren’t a lot of grilled onions, and the puzzling chunks of goat cheese on top of the meat changed the flavor to something akin to Asian-Greek fusion. Both sandwiches were accompanied by a side of delicious, fresh, vinegary coleslaw.
The list of desserts changes often because everything’s scratch made, and most of the ingredients are seasonal. The raspberry-chocolate crème brûlée was a superior version of the French pudding crusted with a burnt sugar top. The dessert’s ramekin sat in the refrigerator until I ordered it, and when sugar crust was applied to the glorious ganache-like chocolate with its hint of raspberry at the last minute, the thin layer at the top crackled and crumbled at the touch of a spoon. We also tried the granola bar. The top of the housemade gluten-free white assemblage of chocolate, coconut, and blueberry was toasted, adding a lovely, crunchy texture, but the middle was soft and weirdly gooey.
The to-go refrigerator contained solo entrées like baked chicken, mac ’n’ cheese, and meats and starches paired and packaged for reheating at home. I grabbed a container of turkey chili and pretended to cook diner that night. The meat was finely ground and spiced with a rich, cumin-y sauce that was just on the right edge of fiery. Although there’s plenty of space to eat, some of the niceties of a sit-down restaurant are missing here. Diners pay at the register, the flatware is plastic, and the bowls and plates are recyclable, heavy-duty unbleached cardboard.
But Brown pleasantly bantered with folks at the counter, nobody circulated to see if diners wanted beverages or anything else. That may be a function of the newness of the place, or maybe the Browns have done so much takeout business with their catering company that they’re aiming for a leaner, fast-casual business model.
Lettuce Cook Gourmet-on-the-Go
TCB Salad $9.50
Clucking Good sandwich $9.50
You’ll Flank Yourself sandwich $9.50
Raspberry chocolate crème brûlée $4.00
Homemade gluten-free granola bar $2.50
Turkey chili $7