The Wounded Duck, 750 E Pipeline Rd, Hurst, 817-952-3322. 12pm–10pm Sun, 7am-10pm Mon–Thu, 7am–12am Fri–Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
For a restaurant, the Wounded Duck offers a lot of extracurricular events, like poker and karaoke evenings. The cavernous interior is apparently a great place to catch the Cowboys games, since there are large screens everywhere you look. On the Sunday when my guests and I visited, we were crestfallen to learn that there’s no Sunday brunch in this neck of the woods. Had we been in the mood for a bucket o’ Budweisers, though, we would have been in luck.
Ordering fried green tomatoes in a restaurant that doesn’t specialize in soul or explicitly Southern food is always risky. These were as acceptable as you could get this far east of a Southern kitchen. Although the tomatoes weren’t seasoned, the light crunchy batter provided a mildly zesty, slightly salty tinge and a perfect crunch. The meaty, thick-sliced gems, accompanied by their tongue-tingling housemade remoulade, made for an excellent starter.
Also from the appetizer menu, the duck cakes were a delightful surprise. I was picturing something like crab cakes, with a definitive circular shape and a bit of height. The cakes are actually hash browns with tiny pieces of smoked duck buried amid the shredded potato. The taco meat-sized bits of fowl weren’t unpleasant, but the presentation was definitely unusual, even given that a smoked duck cake isn’t a very common restaurant offering. Still, a little of the duck went a long way, and the flavor was good enough that we didn’t need any kind of sauce or condiment.
The bill of fare boasts some adorable names for entrees. Case in point: Let’s Give ’Em Something to Shiitake About burger includes a pile of the eponymous mushrooms, grilled onions, and a garlicky aioli atop white American cheese, cuddled between two brioche bun halves.
Our server didn’t ask how we wanted our burger cooked, and, fortunately, the dense, juicy, pleasantly rich meat stood up to its well-done treatment. Diners have a choice of fries or more Southern-influenced choices, including fried okra. The okra was fresh out of the fryer, and hardly any side beats the slightly gummy veg when it’s rolled in a cornmeal batter and properly fried.
From there, though, the kitchen took a wrong turn. The Buffalo nachos arrived topped with an allegedly housemade queso, but the color and flavor of the tan goo had me questioning its provenance. Battered chicken chunks sat atop the melted cheese, with a drizzle of blue cheese dressing and standard red hot sauce that managed to walk the line between salty, sour, and lip-burning spicy.
Unfortunately, the duck and sausage gumbo was just dreadful. A gumbo ought to be a thick, roux-based, multi-layered bowl of goodness. Here, the Cajun stew turned out to be a scoop of white rice at the bottom of the bowl with thin, oily broth ladled on top. The tiny pieces of duck and well-seasoned sausage struggled against an accompanying mound of celery and green pepper, and no menu adjectives could ever possibly turn that misguided bowl of broth into gumbo.
Finally, the chicken wings seemed to be straight outta the Ben E. Keith frozen section. You have your choice of two seasonings, including the traditional hot or mild style. Perhaps I’ve been eating too much chain-store wingage, but the lemon pepper seasoning was barely lemony and not at all peppery. The raspberry chipotle-sauced wings tasted a little better, but there wasn’t enough sauce to dazzle. The traditional red sauce from the nachos perked up the wings a little, and perhaps that’s the way to go.
I wanted to like the Wounded Duck. It’s a locally owned joint in a part of the world where those are few and far between. The menu seems ambitious, and as a duck hunter once told me, ducks aren’t hard to hit. They’re just easy to miss, which seemed an accurate description of both the food and service here.
The Wounded Duck
Fried green tomatoes $7.99
Duck cakes $10.99
Buffalo nachos $11.75
Give ’Em Something to Shiitake About Burger $11.99
Chicken wings $8.99