Fort Worth's birria taco queen readies new restaurant for opening day
One of Fort Worth's most hotly anticipated restaurants is preparing for its brick-and-mortar debut: Calisience, a food truck that draws sell-out crowds for its crispy birria tacos, will open in a permanent space at 2707 Race St.
Owner Jacqueline Anaya says it's too soon to pin down an opening date, but she's aiming for August. The restaurant is taking over a space previously occupied by Dino's Live, a restaurant and live music venue in the Oakhurst area of Fort Worth.
"We have a few more cosmetic things to do, then after our final inspection, we'll be ready to open," she says.
Anaya first launched her food truck in February 2020, on the brink of the pandemic, and it became one of Fort Worth's biggest food-related success stories.
Thanks to social media and word of mouth, people lined up for hours for her ramen and crispy birria tacos; her food also helped shine a light on birria and usher in a big local food trend.
Calisience will be on the same block as two other popular and independently owned restaurants: high-end seafood spot La Onda and Tributary Café, a Cajun restaurant. Originally, Calisience was going to share the building with Stir Crazy Baked Goods, which had plans to open a second location, but has since put its expansion on hold due to the pandemic.
Anaya's original plan was to open the brick-and-mortar location in 2021, but it got delayed by the same setbacks that have plagued other restaurant owners, including material and manpower shortages — perhaps more challenging since Calisience is essentially a one-woman show.
"I did have some opportunities to work with some investors," she says. "But sometimes you have to compromise with them, and I didn't want to do that. I want to be true to my food and to who I am."
She's spent the past year revamping the 4,000-square-foot space, part of a building that dates to 1948. When finished, the restaurant will be outfitted with a trio of dining areas: main dining room, a small lounge area, and a secluded private dining area for big parties and corporate events.
The floors, bathroom, and kitchen areas have all been redone, as well as a large, shotgun-style bar left over from the previous tenant.
"I really liked what was already in there, especially this big, beautiful bar," she says. "Everything's been repainted or refinished in some way or another, but I wanted to keep the building's character. The only major change we made was removing a stage area to make room for additional seating."
One promising sign of progress: Calisience’s outside sign — a venture between two local artists, Israel Vasquez and Guillermo Tapia featuring the beautiful looping calligraphy-style logo of the restaurant name on a classic marquee — was just hung. Other artisan touches include the plates, which are being hand-painted by an artist in Mexico City.
During construction, Anaya has kept the food truck at 3318 E. Belknap St. open, but she's no longer booking any private events with the truck until the brick and mortar location is open. She's also working on setting online ordering for pick up. Her hours for the summer are Tuesday-Saturday from 10 am-3 pm.
Her menu will feature trademark dishes such as her signature tacos dorados, featuring beef simmered in spices for six to seven hours, folded inside corn tortillas along with Monterrey Jack cheese, then grilled until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are crisp, served with beef broth consommé for dipping; plus birria in quesadillas and in an open-faced sandwich called mollete.
Other menu items include street tacos, Mexican rice, refried beans, pasta salad, and her popular strawberry horchata drink, made fresh every day, with more menu items added once the restaurant gets off the ground.
She was briefly thinking about making her signature birria ramen a special, available on certain days only, but the people told her otherwise.
"I got a lot of feedback on that," she says, laughing. "Because of that feedback, the ramen will be a part of the regular, everyday menu."