A Fort Worth chef with a fine-dining background is heading up a new restaurant concept that plays to his roots. Called Americado, it will be a unique combination of restaurant and meat market and comes from chef Victor Villarreal, whose stellar resume includes four-star restaurants such as Grace and the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek.
The restaurant-market is opening on the south side of Fort Worth, in a new building at West Berry Street and 8th Avenue. Villareal is joined on the restaurant along with a group that includes Mexican food aficionado Tyler Casey, Dallas restaurant company Coeval Studios, and a Mexico City restaurateur.
While the menu is still in development, it'll have tacos, ceviches, chicken mole, and enchiladas, but with "outstanding flavors," Villarreal says.
"We have some great family recipes and they're all very authentic," he says. "Some of the salsas use roasted tomatoes and tomatillos. And the beans are different than what you expect. We're using a special white bean from Mexico, and there's no pork fat. It's really about balancing flavors.
"I think Fort Worth needs something like this," he says. "I'm not saying we don't have authentic Mexican food, but not Mexican food like this."
Villareal was most recently at Texas Christian University, where he was consulting on menus, but his history is in fine dining. He was at the Mansion during the John Tesar era, working alongside names like Tim Byres and Jason Maddy, and has also worked at Grace, Magnolia Cheese Co., Clay Pigeon, Sera, and Max's Wine Dive.
"Fine dining is wonderful, but I wanted to be cooking food that's good, local, and seasonal, where you don't have to spend $30 on a single dish," he says. "Sometimes I feel like we've gotten away from doing something simple, and just wanted to get back to cooking good food."
Although Villarreal is Mexican-American, he'd never tackled Mexican food as a restaurant cuisine. "At first, my reaction was no," he says. "Mexican is a homey kind of thing. It always felt better to go home and eat it. But then I sat down and tasted the food, and said, 'This is what I want to do.' A lot of my friends and chefs said, 'OMG you’re finally cooking Mexican food.' But I'm doing it in a way that feels fresh to me."