Favorite Fort Worth chef to open a flirty restaurant peddling paella
A new tapas and wine restaurant from one of Fort Worth's best-known chefs is opening this fall: Called La Coqueta, it'll be the first permanent brick-and-mortar restaurant from Juan Rodriguez and his wife Paige, who together run a popular pop-up dinner club on the city’s north side called Magdalena's.
La Coqueta will also reside on the north side, at 1216 N. Main St., in a small, long-standing building that most recently housed the La Arboleda bar.
“The north side has been very good to us, so we definitely wanted to open our first real brick-and-mortar there,” Juan Rodriguez says.
“La Coqueta” means “someone who is flirty,” Rodriguez says.
“In terms of the restaurant, the name means inviting, fun, even feminine, you could say," he says.
The menu will feature 12-14 tapas, or small dishes, designed to share.
"I love to cook Spanish and Mexican cuisine, and the menu will reflect that,” he says. “As we get into the groove of the restaurant, we’ll add more dishes.”
His signature dish will be paella, a rice dish made with meat and vegetables that originated in the rice-growing areas on Spain's Mediterranean coast. Paella is made in special pans that are shallow with sloped sides, which helps the rice cook evenly. Rodriguez’s rendition will feature seasonal ingredients.
Other dishes will include croquettes made with jamón serrano and manchego cheese; charcuterie boards; tostados topped with fresh hamachi and tuna; and tortillitas de camarones - small, flat shrimp fritters that originated in the province of Cadiz in Andalusia, Spain.
For drinks, there will be a menu of Spanish and Latin-inspired cocktails, such as a frozen horchata colada and the restaurant’s take on a mezcal sour. There will also be a short but varied wine list made up of small production wines from around the world, from Spain and Italy to California and Mexico.
Like the food menu, the wine menu will rotate, Rodriguez says. There will also be several coffee drinks, from cortados and espressos to coffee-infused cocktails.
The 2,000-square-foot building, which has been a bar, café and car lot since it was erected in 1955, will house about 25 guests. A to-be-built outdoor patio area will house about another 25 people.
Rodriguez credits his grandmother with introducing him to cooking. As a child, the Chicago native often visited his grandmother in Monterrey, Mexico, where she taught him how to cook over open flames – a technique he still uses today with his paella.
Later, he moved to Dallas, where he obtained an associate’s degree in culinary arts from the Art Institute of Dallas. He spent the next several years working in kitchens near and far, including the now-closed New York location of Tim Love’s Lonesome Dove Western Bistro.
In Fort Worth, he made a name for himself as executive chef of Reata, one of the city’s most popular restaurants. After eight years, he left Reata in 2015 to start Magdelena’s pop-up supper club.
Hopes were high that La Coqueta was going to open in 2022, but building permits and supplies have been slow moving, causing delays. Now the restaurant is on the right track.
“I’d love to open in the spring, but because of the supply issues, most likely it’ll be summer or fall,” he says. “We’ve started demo-ing now, so that’s a good sign we’re on track to open soon.”