As in many other corners of life, when it comes to food we are often guilty of the same misstep: We lionize the young and the unknown, the hip and the new-to-the-scene… and we end up taking for granted things like consistency, tradition and experience.
I was reminded this during a recent lunch at Paco and John Mexican Diner, in the Near Southside district of Fort Worth. Located in a converted convenience store, Paco and John was conceived by Bernard Tronche, the chef and owner of Saint-Emilion, and his longtime friend and employee Francisco Islas – serving traditional Mexican fare prepared with classical French technique. When it first opened in spring 2009, I visited a number of times, relishing the flavorful street tacos and the bounteous tortas.
But time passed, and new restaurants arrived on the scene – and as many times as I drove past Paco and John on my way downtown and said, “I need to get back there,” I never did.
I’m glad to report that Paco and John is still a terrific spot for a casual, affordable and unexpectedly flavorful breakfast or lunch; indeed, based on my recent lunch visit, the food seems even more sophisticated than ever. My guest ordered a pair of street tacos on the regular menu – you can choose between beef fajitas, carnitas, chicken, red snapper and vegetarian – while I opted for the tamale plate, one of the selections on the special board which changes weekly. Three tamales, filled with shrimp, duck and rabbit, respectively, are served with a side of rice and black beans. The tamales were beautifully prepared – moist, and with a perfect balance of masa and filling – with particular props to the rabbit version.
Lunch was so good that it got me wondering about all the other restaurants that I take for granted. Out of curiosity, I took the Internet to see what other local establishments are currently celebrating fifth anniversaries – and discovered at least three other spots where I’m overdue for a visit. Turns out that early 2009 was a good moment for the Fort Worth dining scene.
Grace: This elegant, fine-dining restaurant actually opened in late 2008, and immediately stood out in downtown, which tends to be heavy on steakhouses and Mexican fare. The expansive wine list – which features a number of excellent, affordable options -- might just be the very best in the entire city.
Jakes Hamburgers: This Dallas-based burger mini-chain, with its delicious poppy seed buns, arrived in downtown Fort Worth before the current wave of gourmet burger establishments. These days, it’s still serving up consistently juicy, nicely peppery patties, in a bright and busy (but not too raucous) atmosphere. Just make sure to order a side of the tater tots. (A second Fort Worth Jakes is located on Camp Bowie Blvd.)
Eddie V.’s: Part of a national chain, this seafood- and steak-focused fine-dining option was among the first restaurants to help revitalize the now-bustling West Seventh district. Over the years, we’ve found it to be an especially good spot for special events (birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and the like) – the excellent service staff insures everyone will have a memorable evening.
So make sure to check out one of these gems too easily taken for granted – or re-visit one of your own old favorites that you've been neglecting and tell us about it the comments section.