Eagle Mountain Tavern, 7255 Boat Club Road, FW. 817-720-5355. 11am-10pm Sun-Thu, 11am-12am Fri-Sat. All credit cards accepted.
Eagle Mountain Tavern brings a familiar face back to the Fort Worth restaurant scene: Brian Olenjack. The former Reata chef has returned from a three-year hiatus after leaving Olenjack’s Grille in Arlington – the restaurant closed seven months after its namesake chef parted ways with investors under undisclosed circumstances.
Situated on Boat Club Road in the old Boo-Ray’s of New Orleans building, Eagle Mountain Tavern is the brainchild of Olenjack and oil and gas executive Mark Caffey, who both opened the eatery late last year. Olenjack is originally from Chicago, though he has embraced the robust flavors and hearty textures that Texans love. Like Fort Worth itself, his menu is planted somewhere between the Deep South, the Gulf Coast, and the American Southwest. The easygoing vibe is family-friendly, and the bar offers happy hour deals and handcrafted cocktails aimed at luring in a younger crowd.
With two dining rooms and a big back bar, the restaurant feels huge and a bit stark. Half the tables in the main room were filled when my guests and I slid into a window booth on a mid-week evening.
Appetizers appeared in minutes. We lunged for the fat slabs of fried green tomatoes, which were super-hot with no sign of sogginess inside the crunchy cornmeal crust. A punchy Cajun remoulade and a pinch of microgreens paraded over the top. The slices disappeared fast, along with their accompanying bed of fresh charred corn, chopped shrimp, and tiny chunks of tasso ham.
Housemade bread’n’butter pickles arrived piled high with thin strands of onions and jalapeños. Dotted with mustard seeds and dosed with a hint of heat, the sweet-sour crunchers were a big hit. —
Our server was excellent but stretched a little thin, and we waited too long for our entrees. The Southern salad was our nod to healthy choices, but it was strangled under a tsunami of too much smoky jalapeño ranch. The well-fried but flavorless chicken strips were more batter than meat. I reached for the ketchup (never a good thing with a salad) while we discussed whether there really is such a thing as too much ranch dressing?
Our debate was cut short by the arrival of the Shiner Bock beef short rib macaroni and cheese. Hefty hunks of rigatoni chest-bumped with strips of meat and onions slathered in a heavy cheese sauce. I couldn’t taste Shiner Bock in the panko-topped pasta, but that didn’t stop me from slurping it up.
A tangle of salty fried onion strings nested on the cider-braised pork loin, which was almost tender enough to cut with a fork. The meat was stretched over a stiff off-white mound of buttery, cheddar-y, eyes-roll-into-the-back-of-your-head grits. Firm enough to prop up the pork, the grits’ brawny stature matched their deep flavor –– the highlight of my meal.
We diverged on the tequila and brown sugar shrimp, which arrived with another hummock of sweet corn relish. The dish’s sweetness and deep, salty, soy-based glaze didn’t thrill me.
Sweet was about to punch us in the faces with dessert. Our warm apple crumble was luscious, and the vanilla ice cream on top was essential to balance the sweetness The white chocolate bread pudding was even richer, a syrup-saturated stack with a flash of whipped cream and strawberries. No one could manage more than two bites of the seductively sturdy, sweeter-than-Karo syrup confection.
Eagle Mountain Tavern lays down an interesting mix of comfort foods and adventurous dishes. With upgraded ingredients and plenty to explore on the menu, Olenjack’s hangout delivers unique chef-driven dining to the neighborhood.
Eagle Mountain Tavern
Bread’n’butter pickles $5
Fried green tomatoes $9
Tequila and brown sugar shrimp $10
Southern salad $12
Shiner Bock beef short rib macaroni and cheese $15
Cider braised pork loin $16
White chocolate bread pudding $6
Apple crumble w/ice cream $6