Over the last six years, Marcus Paslay has been creating a mini empire with Clay Pigeon in the Foundry District and Piattello in the Waterside development. Both restaurants were temporarily shuttered for a couple of months due to COVID-19. His newly opened Provender Hall –– named for the feed bags used by horses and mules because the building was once a mule barn –– is a gorgeous addition to the upscale-casual dining scene that Fort Worth seems to love so much.
Provender Hall, 122 Exchange Av, Ste 110, FW. 817-782-9170. 5-9pm Sun, closed Mon-Wed, 5-9pm Thu, 5-10pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
If you’re a grilling purist, then you’ll absolutely care that the kitchen’s smoker and grill are both wood-burning. If you aren’t, you’ll still appreciate the delicate flavor of wood smoke in almost everything on the menu. Case in point: the smoked trout dip. The appetizer wasn’t smooth like the Eastern European version you’ll find at a New York-style deli. The chunky trout was treated with just a touch of mayo and dill, and it was served with avocado slices and the most beautiful grilled sourdough toast points. Heartier than a yet also incredibly light, the stellar starter was a perfect choice.
The deviled eggs were probably the only thing on the menu (along with the banana pudding) that didn’t take a trip though the fire. The eggs were mixed with mayo and mustard with the barest hint of paprika. They weren’t bad, just not amazing.
However, amazing actually happened with the prime New York strip. The cut isn’t the softest part of the cow, but the treatment here made the strip surprisingly luscious. The smoke and a little grill mark-sear left the hefty portion tender and flavorful. The grill rub was subtle and gently played against the smoke without overwhelming the meat.
Sides are not included with your entrees. (That’s a Fort Worth upscale-casual tradition.) The side of mashed potatoes was fluffy and creamy, and it’s just too tempting to add mashed potatoes to an order of steak. Or a wedge salad, for that matter. The iceberg-based Everything offered a little twist on the steakhouse classic. Blue cheese, bacon, and tomato? Check. The addition of chopped egg and the flavorful everything-bagel spice jazzed the plain lettuce up spectacularly. The dressing, a house made buttermilk ranch as opposed to a heavier, stronger blue cheese dressing, was also an inventive touch.
The only disappointment was the shrimp and grits. The jumbo shrimp (I was guessing the 21/25 count by the size of the five on my plate) were actually perfectly cooked, subtly seasoned, and not rubbery. However, the bowl of grits was a stringy affair, with good-sized pieces of chewy bacon and mushroom slices floating in a very loose, although tasty, sea of slightly chunky pieces of corn. The whole thing wasn’t pretty. It may have been that my taste buds really wanted Jon Bonnell’s cheese grits or the shrimp and grits from Fixe, and that’s not what I got. To be fair, cheese grits appear as a side dish as well.
I find gin to be a mood beverage, but when the house has a special drink, I’ll bend my preferences to at least taste what all the fuss is about. The Golden Cheeked Warbler turned out to be the perfect late summer combo of gin, tart lime, and sweet pineapple juices, with a dash of Midnight Marigold Bitter Cordial. The bitters offered a spicy, savory, slightly gingery note that augmented the super-sugary pineapple well. If you’re getting your meal to go, the bartender will pack yours in a giant zip-top bag with a straw, sort of like a grownup juice pouch.
The loft (formerly a hay loft) is an attractive place to grab a drink, and the enclosed front porch space offers the suggestion of a patio without the exposure to the elements and noise of Mule Alley, the strip of historic brick buildings renovated from livestock pens to upscale retail during the Stockyards’ recent facelift. Three restaurants and six years in, Paslay has plainly learned a thing or two about keeping people happy. In 2014, his front-of-the-house staff couldn’t even get it together to honor a reservation at his newly opened Clay Pigeon. Perhaps he’s hired better people, or maybe it’s the uncertain atmosphere of COVID and an enforced, limited seating capacity –– but every single staffer, from the hostess to the bartender to the server, was solicitous and apparently delighted that my party of two had arrived. With its exposed brick and airy ceilings, Provender Hall is a feast for all the senses.
Smoked trout dip $12
Deviled eggs $11
Iceberg Everything wedge $12
Prime New York strip $45
Mashed potatoes $6
Shrimp and grits $30
Golden Cheeked Warbler $12