The chairs at 97 West Kitchen & Bar all have leather and hide backings. The paneling underneath the bar has hide on it, too. The napkins are made of blue cloth that’s meant to recall the denim from blue jeans, and the walls are festooned with paintings of bucking broncos. In another context, I’d say that this is all too much. However, this new restaurant serving Texas cuisine is inside the new Hotel Drover in the Stockyards, so the guests there may well want a reminder that they’re in the Lone Star State. In that light, well, it’s still a bit much. At least the menu has enough modern accents to keep things interesting.
97 West Kitchen & Bar, 200 Mule Alley, FW. 682-255-6497. 9am-2pm Sun, 5-9pm Tue-Thu, 5-10pm Fri, 9am-2pm and 5-10pm Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
For starters, there’s the chicken-fried Texas oysters, which come coated in enough breadcrumbs that you almost lose the shellfish. You definitely lose the pickled mango pico and the cumin, but the morsels are undeniably tasty, crisp in texture with a richness and kick from the chipotle butter that they’re served in.
Even better eating came from the Broken Arrow Ranch antelope, where the medallions of meat were not fork-tender but close to it. Smoky and rich with flavor, they were accompanied by goat cheese grits, which had the sweetness and creaminess that you’d associate with Italian polenta, as well as chunks of tasso ham infusing the side dish with its meatiness. The drizzle of elderberry marmalade spiked with balsamic vinegar was also a welcome sharp and fruity counterpoint to the meat. If you do want to cut the medallions smaller, just remember to slice against the grain. I sliced one with the grain and wound up chewing on that morsel for some minutes. Even so, to make game meat that tasty and juicy was something of a triumph for the kitchen.
I ordered brûléed stone fruit for dessert, which in my case was pear. I only had a spoon to cut it with, and this job was made somewhat difficult by the hardness of the winter fruit. I suspect that if I had been eating a peach (which the kitchen uses for this dessert when it’s in season), this wouldn’t have been an issue. In any case, the show was stolen by the honey basil ice cream served alongside, as the menthol note from the herb set off the ice cream’s sweetness in a new way. The whiskey glaze underneath, which was as thick and stringy as honey itself would have been, also bore a welcome flavor of ginger.
Where the Texas-ness of the place came in really handy was during the fixed-price all-you-can-eat brunch, which is served on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Most of the dishes are familiar: salad, scrambled eggs, bacon, ham, biscuits. The skillet potatoes came out melt-in-your-mouth tender, not bad considering how large the chunks of spuds were. The refreshing bit of this venue’s brunch was a taco bar, with pulled pork and brisket kept warm in big metal drums. The toppings were fairly standard, so you won’t be able to concoct anything as novel as, say, the tacos at Torchy’s. Nevertheless, the corn tortillas were as fresh as if they’d been house-made. (They aren’t, but I was unable to find out where the hotel got them from.) I’ll admit I generally prefer the texture of flour tortillas, but the corn flatbreads were flavorful enough to swing me over to their side.
The restaurant’s Stockyards location means that unless you’re actually staying at the hotel, you’ll have to pony up for parking. That’s something to take into consideration, especially since the menu’s price point isn’t exactly cheap. Still, the test of any hotel restaurant is whether it’s good enough for the locals to visit. If you’re planning a special evening on the North Side, this place will give you something memorable.
97 West Kitchen & Bar
Chicken-fried Texas oysters $15
Broken Arrow Ranch antelope $36
Brûléed stone fruit $12
All-you-can-eat brunch $35