Advice is usually free for a reason. Back in 2004, when I moved to Fort Worth, many a well-meaning native told me to avoid eating or drinking east of downtown. Never one to be left out of a good dysfunctional thought pattern, I became overly reliant on this first piece of information about that part of town. Psychologists refer to this flawed thinking as “anchoring bias.” All I know is that it took me far too long to realize that that anchor was holding me back from dining at Eastside gem Enchiladas Olé, and I was missing out on some of the best Mexican food in this city.
I can already hear Online OpinionGuy3784 saying, “This isn’t a food column! It’s about booze and bars. Stay in your lane! Also, your face looks like an undercooked empanada!” or some other insult out of left field because the internet. But the joke is on you, Mr. 3748, because Enchiladas Olé will soon debut the Cantina Olé, which will serve margaritas, beer, and other alcoholic libations to complement the outstanding food.
On a recent lunch visit, company treasurer Alexis Noonan and owner Mary Perez excitedly shared with me their reasons for adding Cantina Olé and a bar program to the current space on North Sylvania Avenue.
“It’s not like a big club or bar, just a comfortable cantina – a cool place to come after work and have some drinks and hang out,” Perez said.
She and Noonan both wanted a comfortable space for women to come in and have a margarita with their friends or alone, something that has been lacking in the surrounding neighborhood. Selfishly, as a woman who frequently must dine out solo, it was refreshing to hear this kind of reasoning from a business owner.
Much like current fans of Enchiladas Olé expect, the new cantina space is decorated entirely with items Mary Perez acquired in her travels around the state. The centerpiece is a long, hand-carved, substantial wooden bar that she bought in El Paso.
“When I first saw the photo of it online, I thought it wasn’t going to fit in my pickup,” she said. “It was so big I had to rent a U-Haul truck to get it back to Fort Worth!”
Cantina Olé is situated at the rear of the restaurant and should be ready for customers in a few weeks. Perez and company are waiting on the certificate of occupancy from the city, but you can already order a few drinks that will be on the bar menu in the restaurant.
Aside from the long bar, seats are available at two unusually shaped high-top tables that resemble petrified redwood trees but proved remarkably comfortable. There are a handful of flat screens hung around the cozy space for catching Texas Rangers spring baseball during upcoming happy hours. With the state of Rangers pitching, you might need some of the concoctions Perez has planned (ste-rike one!), like top-shelf and fresh-fruit margaritas, piña coladas, mojitos, micheladas, ice-cold beers, and a few signature drinks.
Don’t expect to be served a neon-green glass of well tequila with some heartburn-inducing mix. The bar will carry over the same ethos that has made Enchiladas Olé such a hit — the belief that everything should be prepared with fresh, authentic ingredients, daily. Sounds like the perfect place to, y’know, drop anchor.