I first encountered Chef Jaime Fernandez’ food at 44 Bootlegger a few years ago. His creative, Spanish-influenced small plates provided perfect pairings at the now-shuttered wine bar. I was happy to see Chef Jaime return to the Fort Worth dining scene when he started having pop-ups under the name Black Cat Pizza over a year ago. He would take over Stir Crazy Bakery after hours and regularly sell out.
These late night pop-ups featured his wildly inventive pizza that you could buy by the slice. I remember forcing myself to stay out one night at La Zona (the bar across the street) so that I could go try it out for myself right at 11PM when the pop-up started. It did not disappoint and the wait in a long line and the late night dining hour were totally worth it.
South Main Village Location
Fast forward to June of 2019 when Black Cat Pizza transcended pop-up status to become a brick and mortar. The South Main Village area of Fort Worth serves as the location for this casual eatery with the newly opened Funky Picnic situated on the other side of the building from them. The South Main Village area continues to grow and become an epi-center for new and exciting food and drink concepts in Fort Worth. In good company, they join the ranks of Four Sisters, Game Theory and Hot Box Biscuit Club.
When you enter there’s a small patio with bright orange bistro tables and chairs that punctuate the dark gray walls. The posted menu on the patio gives you a sneak peek at what awaits you inside. The galley style interior space gives you a look at all the action going on with an open prep and oven space on the other side of the bar seating. The rest of the minimal space provides a long bench for seating and a few tables. It reminds me of a hidden gem I would stumble onto while traveling. The global soundtrack helps add to that effect.
What sets Black Cat Pizza apart from most other pizza spots in town is that you order by the slice. Of course you can order by the full pie as well. However, ordering by the slice allows you to try more of their unique flavor combinations. They offer an edited selection of pizzas that make up the regular rotation and a limited-time specialty pizza.
Speaking of unique flavors, you’ll find the TMNT and the Red Fang pizzas on the regular pizza rotation. The mysterious initials for the uninitiated stand for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. This slice takes veggies to new heights with green-hued toppings that consists of kale, pesto and other seasonal greens that could include broccoli or zucchini or even brussel sprouts. Slivers of marcona almonds top it all for a pleasant crunch. These unexpected pizza ingredients work in a delightful and delicious way in tandem with the cheese and notable crust. The textures and flavors combine for a crave-worthy bite that make you forget your getting your daily dose of vegetables from a slice of pizza.
A pizza is only as good as its crust and Black Cat delivers a spot-on version. The crust sits somewhere in between a charred Neoplitan and more billowy thick counterparts. At just the right thickness each pizza gets fired at between 600-650 degrees for 3-5 minutes. In my case it’s good enough to eat and not discard the edges or “pizza bones” as I usually do.
Moving on to the Red Fang pizza, this pizza continues the theme of non-traditional toppings. The smoky paprika notes hit your nose first before you even take your first bite. Roasted tomatoes gild the lily on the already solid house tomato sauce and add to the sweetness of the thai-chili infused honey that tops the pizza. Onions add a subtle flavor component in the shadow of the Spanish chorizo that provides the spicy counterpart as do the Calabrian chiles that dot the slice. These seemingly disparate ingredients combine to form the perfect blend of smoky, spicy and sweet.
Those looking for traditional options have cheese, pepperoni and pepperoni mushroom to choose from. The weekly specials vary and can range from an Al Pastor pizza to a barbecue inspired version.
The Latin and Spanish influences on the menu are an exciting cross-over. I was super excited to see a Bocadillo sandwich on the menu. I hadn’t had one since traveling in Spain. The version at Black Cat Pizza stays true to its Spanish origins with a plush baguette stuffed with flavorful cured meats. The only deviation is the topping of an oil drizzled arugula mix and it is a welcome one.
Places like Black Cat Pizza are what I absolutely love about the Fort Worth dining scene. This is a literally homegrown establishment that grew from a funky pop-up to a full brick and mortar. That is an epic-ally huge jump. And Fort Worth diners are so lucky that Chef Jaime who’s a classically trained chef from Le Cordon Bleu and worked in Spain has not only chosen to stay in Fort Worth but that he has also chosen to focus his efforts on a more than affordable dining option as opposed to his white tablecloth pedigree. This chef-driven approach to pizza takes the pizza pie from humble to haute.
The pizza at Black Cat Pizza is unlike any other pizza I’ve ever had and that’s a great thing for Fort Worth. Could you get a cheaper pizza elsewhere – yes, absolutely – but I can guarantee a classically trained chef is not making that pie. The Spanish and Latin influences add to the package and take this casual eatery to another level. Black Cat Pizza is a spot that can put Fort Worth on the map because of its unique offerings and for those that look closely enough for the story told in each slice.
You’ll find the Clearfork Farmers Market bustling with activity every Saturday. With it’s ideal location at The Trailhead, there’s a constant wave of cyclists and runners getting on or coming off the trails.
Vendors busily set up for the morning while families and eager shoppers stroll around to check out the action and the goods. All this happens a stone’s throw from the popular Press Cafe, where diners seem drawn to the outdoor patio no matter what the weather.
It’s a vibrant scene and a welcome one. The Clearfork Farmers Market opened a little over 3 years ago to make it the second weekly farmers market in Fort Worth in addition to the well-established Cowtown Farmer’s Market. Not only does it provide another source for farm fresh products and artisanal goods it’s the hub for a variety of health and fitness related activities.
It’s location and the activities at The Trailhead make this more than just a spot to get the freshest produce. With a regular calendar of Saturday morning fitness activities ranging from yoga to group exercise classes, you could easily spend your whole morning there. It’s a no-brainer to grab some goodies to take home with you after a blissful yoga session. Or have a stellar breakfast at Press Cafe before stocking up on veggies and fresh bread at the Farmer’s Market.
If you are of the running or cycling persuasion or just want to take a stroll with your dog. You could be easily tempted to purchase a candle, succulents or coffee for the week on your way back to your car on any given Saturday morning.
Speaking of vendors, you’ll find a variety of vendors and offerings at the Clearfork Farmer’s Market. The items for sale range from traditional Farmer’s Market produce to specialty and artisanal items like pies, teas, bread, candles, sweets, succulents and hand-made clay objects. Find the full list of vendors here.
Next month visit them for they will host a Fall Market with 30 additional vendors. This family-friendly event will have free activities and Fall themed games. October 12, 8AM – Noon.
The market will not open if temperatures are lower than 40º degrees. In severe weather cases, such as rain or high winds,the market may cancel or close early. Please always check out social media for the latest updates.
Fort Worth’s first gaming lounge offers excellent food options and a fun gaming experience. Game Theory blipped on my radar a few months back when I heard that not only would Fort Worth get its first gaming lounge but that they would be serving food, specifically savory hand pies. We finally got our chance to check them out last month a few weeks after their grand opening and enjoyed everything about the experience with an unexpected surprise.
Game Theory opened last month in the growing area of South Main. Home to several hot spots including Four Sisters Taste of Vietnam. The large bar at Game Theory serves as the focal point for the modern, industrial vibe of the place, you’ll also see shelves of games in the front and back sections of the lounge. You pay a $5 library fee per person to play a game (or games) from their 500 options! If you spend more than $10 on food/drink that fee is waived. It’s easy to spend $10 on food/drink with lots of enticing and affordable food options in addition to a great cocktail selection.
If you don’t know where to start in choosing a game, the games are organized from easiest to most strategic and the game guides can further help you make a choice. On our past two trips we chose games we had never played before, which wasn’t a problem because the game guides can explain to you the basic rules of most games (but not the super strategic ones).
Game Theory offers some great food options. They have what I would call heavy snack food and some nice shareable selections. I wouldn’t come here for a full meal unless you wanted to try multiple dishes. My family of two teenage boys and husband were hungry on our last visit so we tried a little bit of everything. We had the Japanese pot pie, the al pastor and the Aussie mini pies, the sausage party, white cheddar queso and the classic popcorn chicken.
The pot pies and the the mini pies had a nice flaky and crispy crust with creative fillings and they did not disappoint. The Japanese pot pie was a favorite with spin on a comfort food classic. The mini pies are small enough that you can easily try more than one – the Aussie filling tasted similar to what I’ve had in Sydney and the Al Pastor really worked as a savory pie filling (and kudos for taking this traditional taco filling into new territory).
The sausage party is just that- 3 artisan sausages served with condiments-you can choose from traditional sausages like bratwurst and andouille or more unique options like lemongrass or beyond meat bratwurst. The popcorn chicken was also a hit at our table.
Game Theory offers a solid craft cocktail menu. I tried their version of the margarita, the Zarrow Shuffle, which surprised me when it arrived thanks to its purple hue and color changing block ice cube. Just like the food, the drinks are well executed without taking themselves too seriously. They offer a small but curated selection of Craft brews on draft and canned with several Near Southside Breweries represented.
The service is great considering your wait person is also your game guide. There’s a console on the table that is connected to a smart watch your game guide wears. If you need anything you press the appropriate button on the console for more food, drinks, or have a question about the game and your guide will be alerted through their smart watch. Also, they do no accept cash, so make sure you have a debit or credit card for payment.
I’d have to say the most surprising thing about the whole experience was that it’s a great way to engage with people – in other words it’s hard to be on your phone when your trying to dominate a board game. We found a new board game, Carcassone, that we absoluletly love. I love the trifecta of food, connection and fun that Game Theory brings to the table.
Ice cream and ice cold beer both bring relief to hot summer days, especially in Fort Worth. In a natural and super cool collaboration local brewery, Martin House Brewing Company, combines with Fort Worth’s craft ice cream shop, Melt Ice Creams, to bring you Melted, a strawberry and waffle cone ice cream ale. Martin House Brewing Company released this limited-edition ice cream beer August 2.
This new ice cream beer brings together happy hints of summer with strawberry and waffle cone flavors. I was a little unsure about what to expect from a brew inspired by ice cream. I found it surprisingly refreshing and balanced with a great aroma. It’s also an easy to sip summer beer to enjoy on a porch with friends.
Martin House Brewing Company brewed the beer with strawberry puree and crushed Melt’s signature waffle cones and included it in the grain bill. The ale is 5.5% ABV. You can grab a six pack of Melted locally at Central Market, Trader Joe’s or Spec’s. This is a limited release which means you should get some now while it’s available. It’s a great way to survive the blazing Fort Worth summer in style.
I recently checked out the newest taco spot to open in Fort Worth, Austin City Taco. Don’t let the name throw you off it’s simply meant to clue you in on the “Austin-y” vibe of the place. I
It can be argued that there’s plenty of Fort Worth taco spots already, however Austin City Tacos brings something different to the table. Funky decor touches and Central Texas style brisket provide that Austin appeal. Local chef Juan Rodrigez, from Magdalena’s (Supper Club and catering) serves as the culinary director. He brings the Funkytown flavor in spirit and in his approach to the ingredients.
As a self-appointed taco connoisseur, I believe any great taco begins with the tortilla. Firstly, the corn tortillas at Austin City Tacos receive Chef Rodriguez’s fine dining treatment.
You will see the creative addition of blue corn to the traditional corn masa on some of the menu options. This results in a distinctive and colorful half and half effect (perfect for instagram!). The tortillas larger size allows for generous fillings that include chicken, 12-hour brisket, pork, shrimp, veggie and all day breakfast.
Speaking of brisket, you should start with a brisket option when you visit. The brisket slow smokes over post oak for 12 hours in the the Central Texas tradition. The smoker resides in the kitchen so don’t be surprised by the smoke-tinged aroma when you enter. The Bohemian contains a nice combo of classic taco ingredients that include guacamole, queso fresco, shredded cabbage, serrano crema, corn tortilla that complement the brisket for a greatest hits version of a taco.
Similarly, all the other ingredients benefit from Chef Rodriguez’s fine dining background. He focuses on using high quality ingredients like gulf coast shrimp and in-house prepared rotisserie chicken with a guajillo and orange juice marinade. One bite of any of the shrimp taco options and the freshness of the ingredients becomes clear. I regularly order the “Gulf Coast” shrimp taco because I appreciate the simple straightforward ingredients.
In addition, look out for quirky garnishes like fried onion strings, buttermilk ranch dressing, southern slaw, potato chips and bacon jam that give the tacos a signature spin.
ALL DAY BREAKFAST TACOS
The all-day breakfast options on the menu get equal billing with five selections to start or end your day with. The Midnight Craving packs a hearty bite with brisket, eggs, potatoes, queso fresco and bacon jam all satisfyingly wrapped in a flour tortilla. Additionally, check out the migas breakfast taco which combines a mexican breakfast favorite and puts it inside a taco.
Any decent taqueria puts as much emphasis on their sauce selection as they do their taco ingredients. Austin City Tacos does not fall short here. The jalapeno vinegar glaze delivers a tinge of sweetness. The creaminess and just the right amount of kick of the slightly creamy fresh jalapeno sauce makes me reach for it again and again.
SIDES AND MORE
Next, let’s talk sides. Indulge in what Austin City Tacos calls “Cheat Day Queso”. The cheeky name matches their interpretation of chips and queso. Which you can have served with nacho chips or fries. See, so cheeky with the fries! The queso itself contains all the qualities you look for with a creamy texture and a slightly spicy kick thanks to the swirl of guajillo sauce.
They offer a variety of beers and two frozen margarita options. (Margaritas are my love language!). The frozen margaritas provide a refreshing sip to complement the tacos.
Finally, if you haven’t overdone it on tacos and queso finish your experience with some of their soft serve dessert. Again, here the fun shines through with a topping of fruity pebbles cereal.
The Fort Worth taco scene does not lack for options. But, Austin City Tacos brings a sense of whimsy along with an elevated approach to ingredients. The decor and murals make this fast-casual spot feel unique yet approachable.
A green wall outside displays the mantra “Choosing Happiness” which I equate with choosing tacos! As far as a taco experiences go, this one ranks high on the happiness scale.
Do you ever meals that just make you happy? From the moment the dishes hit the table to the first bite at Four Sisters, it’s clear that care and attention have been paid to the preparation and presentation of the menu items.
Do not let the clean lines of the restaurant and the deliberate plating deceive you. What awaits you at Four Sisters is some feel-good, home-style Vietnamese food that gives you some serious comfort food vibes.
What’s fun about Four Sisters, is that many of the dishes are easy to share. Food is just more fun when you can gush about it as a collective. My dining companion for this evening had a few dietary restrictions and she was delighted that there were many gluten-free options available.
The perfectly crisp batter on “Mom’s Fried Shrimp” takes it from simple to standout
The wings give me the same soul satisfying feels as any piece of southern fried chicken. The drizzle of Nuoc Mam sauce provides just the right amount of tang.
The lemongrass tofu was light yet full of flavor, I have to admit I don’t always like tofu but the version at Four Sister’s is worth a try. The crispy shallots added a nice texture contrast to the tofu.
The Vietnamese Cabbage Salad provided a nice light, almost palate cleansing effect to balance out the rest of the dishes we tried.
The Shaken Beef Tenderloin was a highlight of the whole evening. The beef was tender and flavorful with a light sauce. The crispy shallots added a nice flavor and texture.
Four Sister’s is in the quickly emerging South Main Village of the Near Southside. It’s a great spot for destination dining and a nice anchor for the all the exciting new businesses that are opening in that area. A return visit is in order soon to try their much-praised Pho.