Fort Worth favorite Chadra Mezza and Grill perseveres by shifting gears
A longtime Fort Worth Middle-Eastern restaurant has shifted gears after 20 years: Chadra Mezza and Grill, a family-owned restaurant which built a devout following for its Mediterranean salads, hummus, and "Heavenly Chicken," relocated in 2022 to a new space at 1701 Galveston Ave., where it's now focused primarily on catering.
The restaurant, owned by husband-and-wife Nehme and Christina Elbitar, first made the switch from dine-in to carry out during the pandemic. The couple was facing a changing environment, but they also wanted a better work-life balance.
“We were having difficulty finding waitstaff and this just seemed like the best way to regroup,” Christina says.
She says their plan was always to do something significant when they hit their 20th anniversary, like take a month-long vacation or travel the world.
Instead, the couple bought a sprawling farmhouse in southeast Fort Worth, with enough room for Nehme's mother, and where they're growing a big garden with corn, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, squash, fava beans, okra, berries, and more.
But saying goodbye to the old place was difficult. "It was hard to say goodbye to having full-service restaurant, but we didn't want to close our doors entirely," she says.
They've nonetheless weathered the transition well. They're doing primarily catering in a space that Christina likens to an indoor food truck, with seating limited to two tables. The setup encourages diners to take their food to-go - just as they would a food truck. And they've always had a brisk take-out business, even when they were still operating as a restaurant.
One thing that makes Chadra unique is that their food is distinctly Lebanese, versus Syrian and Turkish food, which are the more common middle-Eastern cuisines in the DFW area. In fact, Chadra is named for the northern Lebanese village of Chadra, the Elbitars' hometown, where Christina says dining is a celebration of life.
Their most popular menu item is the Mediterranean salad platter featuring feta salad, like a Greek salad, with tomatoes, cucumber, onion, bell pepper & feta, and two Middle-Eastern classics: tabouli parsley salad with cracked wheat, and dolmas - grapes leaves, filled with chickpeas and rice.
Their unique signature is the Heavenly Chicken, featuring chicken breast stuffed with cream cheese and topped with bacon, spinach, mushroom, and Alfredo sauce, served over penne pasta.
They do still have a small cafe they've been operating for six years in the Summit office towers downtown. Called the West Fork Grill, it serves the tenants and surrounding businesses.
Building a business is more than just serving good food to the couple.
“We love our community, family, friends, neighbors, universities, corporations, and businesses that have supported us along the way," she says.