Walloon’s mermaid beckons hungry bellies and thirsty gullets from high atop Magnolia and Hemphill on the Near Southside. Photo by CODY NEATHERY

France might be half a world away, but that corner of the world’s inhabitants just found representation in Fort Worth on the corner of Hemphill Street and West Magnolia Avenue. The unique name for Chef Marcus Paslay’s dazzling new dining concept happens to be the word for the French dialect spoken by the Walloons, who reside in the southern parts of Belgium and adjacent regions in France. Perhaps not so coincidentally, “Walloon” is also the name of a lake in Michigan once frequented by Ernest Hemingway and which Paslay often visited with family decades ago. While Hem or the Walloon people might never appear in the Fort, we locals are glad the Near Southside just became that much cooler with a long overdue bona fide seafood and raw bar, all from the mastermind behind Piattello Italian Kitchen, Clay Pigeon, and Provender Hall.

If you’ve paid attention to this spot over the past two years, you’ve watched the birth of construction merging old and new, incorporating modernity among Magnolia’s historic buildings with a seamless and classic design. Paslay’s project inched closer to completion after he hanged a glowing neon mermaid outlined in marquee bulbs out front. The sign is a seductive statement working that corner.

You have to park in the garage behind the restaurant or along Magnolia, creating anticipation and excitement as you make your way to the doors of the 1920s building opening to one of the most gorgeous interiors of any brasserie in North Texas. Think: New Orleans or New York but more appropriate of the era when this former bank anchored the corner.

Walloon’s modern-meets-historic design is a feast for the eyes.

Marble, tile, and Art Deco reign supreme, supported by ionic columns with a horseshoe-shaped bar presenting the wow factor as the centerpiece. Tables and tiny booths are set all around, and the original vault door splits the main cocktail bar from a separate raw bar stocked with oysters and lemon slices which offers its own dining experience plus a window to the kitchen and a view of oysters being shucked by hand.

When combing through the menu during my first of two visits, I had just returned from New Orleans and commented to our server on the similarities between Walloon’s menu and those found in the Crescent City, which she acknowledged were an inspiration. This made my heart race as my guest and I began to make our food choices as our cocktails landed on the table.

The tequila-based Goddess of War was one of four beverages from Walloon’s “limited time only” portion of the drink menu, hinting at seasonal changes. Unfortunately, this was no Wonder Woman, the flavor leaving us contemplating her intended direction. The Hugo Spritz was an appropriately light and airy selection that respectfully complemented the cuisine. We were fortunate enough to have ordered the last two of the evening, though our reservation was for 7:45 p.m. As informed by our server, the bar simply ran out of ingredients, perhaps a reflection of Hugo’s popularity. The espresso martini was presented with a bubble covering the rim which had to be popped before drinking. Sadly, the cocktail was heavy on the simple syrup, providing an overly sweet tone that drowned any potential balance from the espresso.

Two refreshing Hugo Spritzes, please. One for each hand.

The raw bar selections were bountiful, seizing the day with market-priced oysters, a shrimp cocktail, spicy tuna crudo, and an $85 seafood tower that would be appropriate as a shared plate. We decided to skip the sandwich section (trust me, that lobster roll is still calling my name) and stick to aquatic mains.

The grilled trout almandine was simple, not overly complicated, and probably the most health-conscious entrée on the menu. Straight to the point, the fish and green beans were unfussy, and the brown butter was the accent, yet the cumulative effect left us wanting more pop.

Though less expensive, the pan-roasted salmon delivered more flavor — the accompanying creamed leeks, potatoes, and zucchini were comparable to chowder with a hearty piece of salmon floating on top.

Walloon’s hearty salmon dish will be perfect for the cooler temps around the corner.

The tastiest entrée was the redfish. The second most expensive dish (right under the $39 6-ounce filet), it came with two delectable Gulf shrimp and three mussels soaking in roasted tomato bouillabaisse.

The redfish swimming in mussels and Gulf Coast shrimp won the day.

And if you’re not too hungry, order the moules mariniere, steamed mussels served in a puddle of white wine and crème fraiche sauce with minimal shallots and leeks, along with toasted sourdough to soak it all up.

The starters were equally mixed. The French onion dip was remarkable, though for $14, you’d expect house-made instead of commercial brand kettle chips. The red fish beignets — not to be confused with the fried bread treats — were good but came across as essentially beer-battered filets from an Irish pub. One surefire pleaser was the deviled crab dip. Though served with toasted sourdough, it’s just as well eaten alone.

Walloon’s penchant for Southern comfort with coastal spirit, including exemplary service, is already a welcomed addition to the neighborhood, warranting multiple visits from people I’ve spoken with. Paslay and company prove complicated cuisine isn’t necessary to keep guests returning, and sometimes simplicity is the best dish served.


Walloon’s, 701 W Magnolia Av, FW. 682-224-3230. Sun-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm.


Grilled trout almandine $27
Pan-roasted salmon $24
Redfish $36
Deviled crab dip $18
Goddess of War $16
Hugo Spritz $14