Fort Worth chef scoops up favorite ice cream shop for new Latin restaurant
One of Fort Worth's most popular ice cream parlors has closed, but the historic east side building it occupied already has a new tenant: A Latin-themed bar and restaurant from a high-profile local chef.
Called La Onda, it will be located at 2905 Race St., in a 1918 bungalow occupied for five years by Gypsy Scoops, which closed earlier this year. A second location of Gypsy Scoops remains open on South Main Street.
La Onda, which means “the wave” in Spanish, will be the first brick-and-mortar restaurant from chef Victor Villarreal and his wife, Misty. Victor says they’re shooting for an October opening.
The restaurant’s focus will be evenly split between food and beverage, with Victor handling the former, Misty the latter.
“We’re putting an equal amount of emphasis on both,” Victor says. “If you want to come in for a drink, you’re going to have a great drink. If you want to come in for a meal, you’re going to have a great meal. We don’t want one to be any less important than the other.”
The Latin-inspired food menu will focus primarily on raw and cooked seafood. Dishes will include seasonal oysters and mussels on the half shell served with mezcal mignonette; smoked fish cucumber escabeche; ceviche; seafood charcuterie boards; and raw seafood towers featuring oysters, shrimp, and mussels.
Victor says he’s also planning on serving caviar.
“There will be three different selections of caviar, ranging from $35 to $120,” he says. “We’ll also do a caviar of the month.”
The drink menu will focus on Latin-inspired craft cocktails made with tequila, artisanal mezcals, and pisco, a Peruvian brandy, Misty says. Many of the drinks will be infused with fruits, veggies, and herbs local to Mexico and South America, she says.
Drinks will include a house sangria made with Verdejo wine, a mezcal and cantaloupe paloma, and a coconut and ginger margarita. There will also beer a wide beer selection, with an emphasis on local and regional products.
Over the course of a career that has spanned more than a decade, Victor has worked in some of North Texas’ top restaurants, including Magnolia Cheese Co., Grace, Clay Pigeon, Sera Dining & Wine, Max’s Wine Dive, and Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek.
Most recently, he was owner/chef of Abe Froman’s, a pizza stall at Fort Worth's Food Hall at Crockett Row. He closed it earlier this year to focus on La Onda.
“The great thing about Abe Froman’s is that it prepared me for what it was like to own my own restaurant,” he says. “Before Abe’s, I was mostly working for and with other chefs and cooking food that wasn’t necessarily my own. Abe’s was good training to open my own full-blown restaurant.”
It was at the food hall where Victor met Misty, then the hall's bar manager and general manager. Before working at the Food Hall, Misty was the bar manager at the Fort Worth location of HG Sply Co.
“We make a good team,” she says. “He knows his area of expertise and I know mine and we don’t step on each other’s toes.”
The bungalow where La Onda will open was built in 1918. Many of its original features, from the hardware to the hardwood floors, were kept intact by Gypsy Scoops. Victor says he’ll keep the historic elements, too.
“It’s a beautiful old building and we aim to keep it that way,” he says. “We’ll repaint it so it’ll be more in line with the restaurant’s theme. I’m hoping to get some local artists involved in one way or another, either by displaying their artwork or hiring them to create original pieces exclusively for the restaurant.”
Gypsy Scoops' new direction
Julie Markley opened the original location of Gypsy Scoops in the bungalow in 2015. It was an instant hit and helped draw attention to the Race Street area, a burgeoning district of restaurants and retail shops.
Ongoing road construction eventually caused a decline in business, she says, and she refocused her attention on her second location, opened last year in the bustling South Main area.
She quietly closed the Race Street store in March. In early July, she sold the business, which includes the South Main store and an ice cream truck, after her husband accepted a new job in Georgia, where the couple now lives.
The new owners of Gypsy Scoops are Jeff and Stephanie Brannon, who also own Dwell Coffee & Biscuits, a mini-chain of coffee shops with two locations in Burleson and one in Fort Worth.
“It worked out so well,” Markley says. “I was looking to sell an ice cream shop at the same time they were looking to open one.”
In a Facebook post, Stephanie Brannon wrote the couple will make some changes to the store and brand. “Over the next few months we will be doing some minor renovations,” she wrote. “You’ll see a name change and some different menu offerings.”