Thus far in my irregular career reviewing restaurants for the Fort Worth Weekly, I’ve never encountered Tim Love. I did stop a few times for burgers at his Love Shack when it was on the way from the office to my home, but I never dealt personally with the man. Thus, I didn’t have the chance to dive deep into one of the polarizing local chef’s restaurants until recently, when he opened Paloma Suerte, his first-ever Tex-Mex venture, which is located in the Stockyards. Recognizing that the place is pitched at the tourists in that area rather than at anyone seeking authentic cuisine (whatever that means), I still got an inevitable sense of a talented chef seeking social-media clickbait more than culinary excellence.
The restaurant is located in Mule Alley, so be prepared to cough up for parking and/or do some walking from your car to the door. Not a great deal of thought has gone into the decor of the place, and I wound up taking my meals at the polished concrete bar while watching basketball and soccer on the TVs above. The bar area opens up onto a patio, so it’s possible to take some fresh air there while still sitting under a roof. If you look at the photographs accompanying this review, you’ll notice that the plates were clearly obtained from the same supplier as Don Artemio’s, which I reviewed (“No. 1 or Bust,” April 20, 2022).
Both times I went, I had tortilla chips that were straight out of the fryer. Southwesterner that I am, I respond to warm totopos the way other people respond to freshly baked bread — the smell is ambrosia to me. On my second visit, I ordered the specialty queso with the chips, and aside from being too full of bits of tomato, chile, brisket, and other extraneous stuff, it was fine. The bigger issue was that after I’d eaten my way through a basket of chips, the bartender took so long to refill my basket that the cheese congealed into a solid mass, becoming useless as a dip.
You can say that one’s on the server. Elsewhere, though, I found examples of needless gilding of the lily. The bacon-wrapped jalapeños came stuffed with not only cream cheese but also brisket, and the latter wound up being overpowered by the bacon, which was charred to within an inch of its life. The cheese at least offered a textural contrast. The brisket contributed nothing, as did the bean dip that was one of two served alongside the chiles. The tangy, creamy dressing dip was a better match.
One of the kitchen’s specialties is the crab-stuffed Gulf shrimp, and it suffered from the same overkill. These came sizzling on a plancha like fajitas, and the big crustaceans had decadent piles of crab meat filled out with buttery breadcrumbs. So what purpose was the side of buttery sauce supposed to serve? The entree was already plenty filling enough without piling more fat on top of the fat.
The kitchen showed off better with something simpler, like the birria tacos. I ordered duck meat for mine, and the tacos came with a broth for dipping that gave the rich meat a crisp and lightly spicy contrast. Even here, the diced onions sprinkled on one side were an unnecessary touch, though the shells had just the right amount of cheese and crunch.
All this heavy food places equally heavy pressure on the bar to provide drinks that can cut through the fat. There are dessert options that aren’t listed on the menu, though they’re limited to Mexican staples like flan and sopapillas. Instead, I welcomed the taste of my signature house cocktail, a frozen concoction filled to the lip of the glass and thick enough not to spill out, with the sour-and-sweet flavors of mango, watermelon, blueberry, and prickly pear cleansing my palate. (The bartender offered me the option of salt on the rim, which I declined.) I can imagine this drink working even better on one of those hot summer days. The bar may be the best part of Paloma Suerte, where cleverness is all over the menu, whether it works or not. The Stockyards may or may not be a tourist trap, but the new restaurant there definitely is one.
Queso de la casa $14
Brisket and cheese stuffed
bacon-wrapped jalapeños (3) $12
Birria tacos (2) $16-18
Crab-stuffed Gulf shrimp $32
Signature house cocktail $12