Just as rock bands make comebacks, so do restaurants. During the past few months, we've seen the rebirth of one Fort Worth restaurant after another, either in the form of a new location, new name, or new chef.
For our December Where to Eat, we spotlight nine comeback kids.
Blue Mesa Grill
One of the city's most beloved Tex-Mex restaurants recently moved from its longtime home on University Drive to a newly erected building just a chip's throw west of downtown, at 612 Carroll St. With two stories and 16,000 square feet, there's twice the space to throw back blue margaritas and munch on stacked enchiladas. The restaurant's popular brunch has returned, too. Whew.
This 5-year-old Laotion and Thai restaurant at 5111 Beach St., in a north Fort Worth strip mall, is certifiably buzzworthy, thanks to the recent arrival of a new chef. Former Common Ground Grill & Tap executive chef Santy "Johnny" Vinaithong, a Fort Worth native who trained at the International Culinary Center in New York, specializes in authentic, frills-free Thai and Lao dishes. His must-get: kow piak sen, a Laotion, pho-like soup made with pork blood and house-made noodles that's out of this world.
El Cerrito Mexican Bar and Grill
From the tiny town of Reno, Texas, comes this uprooted Mexican restaurant, which moved into the enormous Jacksboro Highway space in Lakeside occupied for six decades by Vance Godbey's Restaurant. El Cerrito does straightforward Tex-Mex — enchiladas, tacos, nachos, and fajitas — with the occasional wild card, like rib-eye tacos. The cavernous space makes for good people watching, and the margaritas are pretty tasty, too.
El Patron Tacos & Tortas
El Patron is the latest restaurant to resurrect the tiny space at 1050 N. University Dr., inside a north side Shell station, where many other restaurants have come and gone. Excellent menudo, large torta sandwiches, and al pastor tacos, made with pork pulled straight off a trompo, give this mom-and-pop spot a leg up over other taquerias.
If you're wondering where Carlos Rodriguez went after his cherished Mexiburger spot Salsa Fuego closed last year, you'll find him in the unlikeliest of places: a gas station at 5595 FM 1187, near the south Fort Worth suburb of Rendon. His new restaurant is called Fuego Burger, named for his trademark burger topped with fire-roasted green chiles. Get it with a side of onion rings. But he's also doing street tacos, gyros, and Coke-braised barbecue brisket.
West side breakfast and lunch spot the Egg and I hadn't even been open a year when it was bought out by another chain, First Watch. Fortunately for breakfast fans, the two seem interchangeable. Like the Egg and I, First Watch offers both basic and fancy breakfast, from straightforward egg dishes to lemon ricotta pancakes, and soups and salads for lunch. One difference: First Watch has a cool juice bar.
Paco's Mexican Cuisine
When pint-sized Mexican restaurant Paco & John's closed, Fort Worth let out a collective sigh, even though it was lack of business that killed the place (really, there's no one to blame but us). All has been forgiven, though, as Francisco "Paco" Islas has gone solo, reopening a few blocks away in the old Magnolia Avenue spot occupied by Temaki Sushi. Lunch consists of tacos and tortas, drizzled with housemade sauces, and sides such as chile-lime potato sticks. At breakfast, you can go traditional and get tacos and huevos rancheros, or off the grid with a burrito stuffed with salmon, avocado, and scallions.
Revolver Taco Lounge
After months of maybes, Revolver Taco Lounge finally moved from the West 7th area to a more spacious hub at 2418 Forest Park Blvd., where Sera Fine Dining & Wine once lived. Most of the menu made the jump, from the roasted poblano in walnut cream sauce to Michoacán-style bone-in roasted goat. Owner Regino Rojas has also added a few extras, including a dynamite all-you-can-eat taco buffet at lunch and brunch.
Born again after a fire gutted it two years ago, the Ho family's flagship restaurant recently reopened, gleaming with all-new, attractive décor and an updated menu, executed by chef Kevin Martinez. The 20-year-old cafe still specializes in sushi, but now there's ramen, tempura red snapper (a rendition of fish and chips), roasted chicken with a black-garlic teriyaki glaze, and a large selection of craft cocktails and Japanese whiskeys.