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The restaurant business is not for the faint of heart –– just ask anyone who has deigned to open a business in the cursed space in Montgomery Plaza, which has claimed yet another victim this week. “And another does / Another one does / Another one bites the dust.” I don’t mean to make light of a business failing. Seriously, we hardly knew ye, Honey Smoke Pit BBQ. (I hope the next restaurant that opens there is called The Bermuda Triangle. Maybe Maureen Hucey of the recently moved Angie’s Bikkles could do a Caribbean menu? Just putting that out into the universe.)

But 44Bootlegger (1411 W Magnolia Av, 817-887-9089) is a special case. Tammy and Tommy Brown, co-owners of the quaint Magnolia-area wine and craft beer bar/bistro, and their wunderkind chef, Jaime Fernandez, recently parted ways. And once again, Bootlegger is adjusting its concept a little –– the place started life as a chic retail boutique. Instead of replacing Fernandez, who was in the conversation when the Weekly food writers were discussing who was best chef in Fort Worth for our annual Best Of issue, the Browns have decided to pare down their menu to small bites, cheeses, and charcuterie plates designed to complement the vast wine and beer selections (44 of each, if you’re keeping score) –– something they’ve wanted all along. 

“We found that by simply adding main dishes to our menu, we became a ‘restaurant,’ and we never intended to become that,” Tammy said in an email. “Our plan from the beginning was to offer cheese and charcuterie, small bites, and desserts. 

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“When we brought Chef Jaime on, it was hard to contain his creative passion for cooking,” she said. “Daily, he was making something for Tommy and I to try, and the next thing you know we had a menu that also included main dishes. We got caught up in the excitement of our taste buds, quite frankly.”

What it came down to for the Browns, she continued, was that the husband-and-wife team no longer enjoyed coming to work. They couldn’t spend quality time with their guests, and their vision for the tiny bar was lost in critical accolades, complicated dinner specials, and dwindling space for the bar crowd. 

Looking forward, the kitchen will still crank out what Tammy calls “world-class” cheeses and cured meat accompanied by Niçoise olives, fresh honeycomb, cornichons, and Marcona almonds. 

“We will continue serving our most popular items,” Tammy said. “Deviled eggs, housemade meatballs, and pomme frites” will stay on the menu while the kitchen focuses on expanding its “selection of light fare offerings such as soups, salads, and sandwiches,” so lunch will be an option in the near future. 

Bootlegger hopes to start serving lunch by January. As for Fernandez, a guy that talented in a market where restaurants are opening just about every day, I’m sure he’ll land on his feet and Fort Worth’s culinary cognoscenti will follow –– as long as he doesn’t fall in that sinkhole in Montgomery Plaza. 

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