La Zona, 1264 W Magnolia Av, FW. 817-489-5055. 11am-12am Sun, 5:30pm-12am Tue, 12pm-2pm and 5:30pm-12am Wed, 11am-2pm and 5:30pm-12am Thu, 11am-2pm and 5:30pm-2am Fri, 11am-2am Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
There may be no better spot on West Magnolia Avenue to drink in the relentless hipness of the neighborhood than the newly opened La Zona. Angled out toward the Lake Street intersection, the broad windows of the European-style bar and restaurant provide a cinematic panorama of the busy streets and sidewalks nearby. The atmosphere inside is cozy — veering toward cute in places but welcoming and accessible. Though certain touches (like the full-wall mural of swirling pastels) seem indulgent, even excessive, the overall vibe is one of comfort and sincerity.
In other words, it’s a great place to hang out and enjoy a slow coffee or a glass of wine with a friend and (particularly if you’re of a certain age) watch Fort Worth pass you by.
The team of restaurateurs who last year brought us the rather unwieldy Americado on West Berry Street have honed their craft, seemingly, and delivered a concept in La Zona that is clearer, cleaner, and more concise. Though still highly stylized, the new project seems more thoughtful and less contrived than its on-again, off-again sister to the south.
La Zona consists of two distinct venues. Hotel Madrid, occupying the main building, is the bar and restaurant. Across the small property, linked by a broad porch and patio, is the Saint Sofia, a tiny out-building serving coffee and churros to pedestrian traffic.
Hotel Madrid goes a long way toward correcting an historic lack of Spanish cuisine in Cowtown with a menu of light dishes and tapas, as well a whimsical assortment of pizzas that flirt with Iberian flavors. Two recent visits afforded my guests and me the opportunity to put a respectable dent in the bill of fare.
Lunch service was efficient but unrushed, allowing us to linger over an appetizer of albondigas Andaluzas, plump Andalusian meatballs in a rich tomato sauce with almonds and cream.
A portion of fried calamari arrived golden and crackling, flecked with chopped herbs and flanked by a wedge of lemon. The dish of piquant marinara for dipping was good enough to finish off with a spoon.
The marinara made another appearance, this time on a pepperoni pizza, which I thought had gone as far as it could go until I tried La Zona’s version. There was nothing different or special about the pie other than an incredible richness from the quality of the ingredients. Silky mozzarella cheese and some unusually snappy pepperoni joined the house marinara on a crust that, though it wasn’t the smoky-crisp variety currently in en vogue (this pizza is fork-and-knife work), had a depth of flavor and was sophisticated as anything else down the street.
Another pie, the “Date Night,” was served without sauce — but the combination of figs, goat cheese, serrano ham, and arugula was playful yet satisfying, and it would have worked well as a shared appetizer, entree, or even dessert.
My guest’s Sofia salad arrived so lightly dressed as to be immodest, but the faint hint of lemon and mustard vinaigrette accentuated the deep flavors of the avocado, apple, and roasted almonds which crowned the mixed greens.
I had a lot of fun with a grilled cheese sandwich of Gouda, prosciutto, and strawberry jam which was so rich and over the top I could barely finish it. Most of us wouldn’t normally be seen eating something like that in public, but it felt good to throw dignity to the wind.
Thanks to prompt and friendly service, our meals on both occasions were finished in 45 minutes, leaving just enough time to stroll across the lot for an order of churros. The long Spanish donuts were deep-fried to a hard crunch, doused in cinnamon sugar, and served with a completely unnecessary (but delicious) cup of rich, melted chocolate. At four churros to an order, they come ready to share — or not.
Spanish meatballs $7
Fried calamari $8
“Date Night” pizza $14
Pepperoni pizza $14
Sofia salad $10
Grilled cheese sandwich $9