Compiled By Meda Kessler and June Naylor
EAT & DRINK
Roy Pope Grocery ready for its big reveal
The first thing you’ll notice is a greater street presence as the revamped Roy Pope Grocery makes itself known with a covered patio, bigger sign and new entrance on Merrick Street. And, yes, those are windows. Which, along with skylights, have definitely brightened up the interior. The store’s footprint is still small, so you’ll find your way around quickly enough. (The butcher and hot food service remain in the same area.) With an in-house beverage director, Mikey Riojas, the wine and beer section has been stepped up, too. You’ll have a lot more to choose from than just California cabs. Culinary director Bria Downey has been busy these last month’s testing ready-to-cook meals, soups, salads, sandwiches and more. Look for steak night and barbecue courtesy of a custom-made smoker for the store. The shelves have been given an upgrade, plus inventory will include additional local products. And, of course, there’s seating inside and out if you want to grab a bite, drink a little coffee or sip a glass of wine. The store should be open by the time you’re reading this if not soon after. Watch for updates at facebook.com/roypopegrocery. 2300 Merrick St., 817-732-2863, roypopegrocery.com
Hola, Maria’s Mexican Kitchen
Maria’s Mexican Kitchen is far from a combo plate joint. Felipe Armenta taps into his roots, inspired by the woman who infused him with a love for the traditional food of her home in the Colonial town of Guanajuato. “It was totally in the back of my mind, to open a Mexican place that would be an homage to my mom,” says Armenta, who grew up in the kitchen with his mother, “a phenomenal cook,” at their family restaurant in his native San Angelo. “But I wasn’t looking to do it during COVID-19.” However, the location near the Trinity River proved irresistible. Armenta and local designer Kellye Raughton collaborated on the overhaul of the one-time steakhouse. She drew upon a Colonial Mexico vibe with an inviting mix of colors: pink, black, light blue, cream and green. Luxe touches include lacquered wood paneling, designer wallpaper and custom tile. Raughton also mixed traditional elements with modern flair. Concrete tabletops inside and out mimic a bold terrazzo; breeze-block walls separate the lounge from the dining room. Lighting elements include custom copper bar-top lamps. The landscaped patio, lush with potted magnolias and a wall of succulents, is shaded by the large live oak that has watched over this space for many years. As for the menu, look for a handful of Tex-Mex items from Armenta’s San Angelo restaurant alongside specialties such as braised short ribs with ancho chile sauce and steamed sea bass with chipotle-lime sauce and roasted vegetables. Cocktail standouts include the Road to El Dorado, a blend of tequila reposado with ancho chile, caramelized pineapple and lime juice. Maria’s will serve brunch, lunch and dinner; opening is scheduled for mid-May. Check resy.com for available seating as reservations are highly recommended. 1712 S. University Drive, 817-916-0550, mariasmexicankitchen.com
Smoke-A-Holics BBQ adds second location
In less than two years, Derrick and Kesha Walker have expanded their smash-hit Smoke-A-Holics BBQ to a second location. The Morningside location still has long lines on the regular, but now the much-lauded barbecue can be found in the Cultural District. A new addition to the revamped Crockett Hall off West 7th Street and the most notable name in a spot that has seen frequent turnover, Smoke-A-Holics makes the food hall worth a revisit if you haven’t been in a while. Derrick, who was 12 when he began working the backyard smoker with his grandfather, got serious about the craft a few years later by entering barbecue competitions. With Kesha at his side (and his parents pitching in), he worked catering jobs and pop-ups on weekends till he could transition from his barbecue trailer into the couple’s own brick-and-mortar. Business exploded after they opened in August 2019. Can’t-miss choices include pork ribs, an exquisitely crusted prime beef brisket, and black pepper or jalapeno cheddar sausage. And do try the loaded yellow cornbread layered with baked beans, chopped brisket, shredded cheddar, green onions and barbecue sauce. Kesha’s Coca-Cola cake, banana pudding and a clever cake-meets-cobbler creation called the Peach Thang all promise to satisfy your sweet tooth. (Alas, the turkey legs remain a Tuesday specialty only at the original shop at 1417 Evans Ave.) Open 11 a.m. till 7 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; parking validated inside the food hall. The covered paseo offers outdoor dining. 3000 Crockett St., smoke-a-holicsbbq.com
The Rim brings Keith Hicks back to Fort Worth
Brent Johnson and Keith Hicks join forces to bring their version of Southern cooking to the former Taco Diner space in the Waterside development. Johnson is a busy restaurateur who owns four Rio Mambo restaurants. Hicks is beloved for his gussied-up plates of soul food — at the long-ago Ovations and then Buttons. The two first worked together in 1999. That was at Ellington’s, which Johnson opened in Sundance Square, introducing Cowtown to Sunday gospel brunch. Twenty years later, Hicks rejoined his former compadre at The Rim in Burleson, which Johnson opened in 2018. Now, they’re opening a second branch of this lively bar-and-grill concept, with generous sides of pop culture nostalgia. Johnson’s affection for vintage everything shows up in the decor, notable for its Harley-Davidson motorcycle hanging from the ceiling. Seating includes a significant outdoor dining area with a big view of the green space. Hicks’ food seals the deal. Waterside, 5912 Convair St., therimrestaurant.com
Café Modern returns
It’s been 14 months since we last gazed out across the reflecting pond while enjoying dinner and a glass of wine at Café Modern. Wolfgang Puck Catering is now the overseer of the restaurant inside the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, which reopens this month (May). The celebrity chef-branded company, with outlets from coast to coast, has brought in chef Jett Mora, pictured, to replace Denise Shavandy, who served as executive chef since 2015. Mora’s resume includes a decade with WPC, as well as time alongside Puck himself at Oscars dinners and at Puck restaurants in Los Angeles. Mora is working with local farmers and purveyors to bring Texas ingredients to his new menus. Roxanne Mclarry, the longtime Café Modern general manager, stays on to oversee service as it resumes at lunch Tuesday through Sunday, happy hour and dinner Friday, and brunch on the weekend. 3200 Darnell St., 817-840-2157, themodern.org/cafe-modern
More space, more cakes
Nothing Bundt Cakes has long outgrown its space on Camp Bowie Boulevard. But there’s good news and more room ahead for the popular bakery, as it’s set to open its new expansion in May. Look for more party goods and other retail in addition to an expanded workspace. 4603 Camp Bowie Blvd., 817-989-2253, nothingbundtcakes.com
While we have plenty of good pizza in the 107, there’s always room for more. Which is why we welcome the return of Hysen’s Nizza Pizza on University Drive. Their veggie is one of our favorites, and we’re also partial to the chicken parm and the chicken al vodka. And, yes, we’ve missed those addictive garlic knots, too. Another bonus? The drive-thru is much easier to navigate — as is the website. 401 University Drive, 817-877-3900, hysensnizzapizza.com
A favorite in Dallas’ Deep Ellum, Serious Pizza comes to Fort Worth in late May, opening in a former mattress shop on West 7th Street near Velvet Taco. Distinguished by its New York-style pies, the new dining spot also has a pizza that measures 30 inches in diameter. Specialties include the Blue Buffalo, topped with grilled chicken, Buffalo sauce, blue cheese and mozzarella. The late-night crowd will like the hours: till midnight Sunday through Thursday and till 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The restaurant also offers live sports and retro movies on TVs, along with plentiful seating and a patio. 2728 W. 7th St., seriouspizza.com
The Market at Ridglea
Amanda Wear has turned a drab former office building in west Fort Worth into a destination for those who love to support small businesses and shop local. The founder of Cowtown Couture — Wear formerly worked in surgical sales — has attracted a lengthy list of vendors to fill the 6,700-square-foot cooperative space near Ridglea Country Club. Along with clothing (dressing rooms are available), accessories, housewares, plants and works by artisans, there are grab-and-go food options from Ridglea resident Michael Zeigler, who runs Three Z Catering, and beverages, plus a tea bar. “The tenant list filled up in two weeks,” says Wear, who wants to make retail space affordable for small businesses, including her own. We think she has succeeded. The bonus? The Dolly Parton mural from Fort Worth artist Kristen Soble. Selfies are encouraged. Watch facebook.com/marketatridglea for updates; check the website for a complete vendor list. 3400 Bernie Anderson Ave., themarketatridglea.com
Noble 31: Shop local
The founders of Noble 31, a Fort Worth-based fashion line, have pushed forward with their spring-summer line all while navigating COVID-related delays. Sisters Madi Davis and Mackenzie Moore, both residents of the 107, credit their amazing fabric suppliers and New York manufacturer for helping keep their business moving forward. “They are like family to us, and we wanted to support them during the pandemic,” says Madi.
The result is a collection full of wearable pieces for dressing up or down. The colors are bold with a versatile citrus yellow presented as a go-with-everything neutral. Included are shorts, a one-shoulder top in black silk, fitted midi skirts in a sweet floral print and a classic white denim shirt-jacket inspired by their mother.
A portion of their proceeds goes to Rivertree Academy, a community-funded school for kids in the Como neighborhood. They also worked with students on creating a look for the fall-winter collection. Sign up for the newsletter to keep up with special events and pop-ups. Check out the collection online at shopnoble31.com/shop
The Noodle story: How an unwanted dog found a family
Ronnie Beaty is a familiar face to those who’ve shopped at Neiman Marcus Fort Worth for the 16 years he has worked there. Noodle Lui, Beaty’s little Lhasa apso/Maltese mix, might be known to some of you who have seen her in the store or follow her on Instagram.
When Beaty adopted her from Saving Hope Rescue, she had a skin disease. “Her skin was so raw that it looked pink; we had to give her injections every week. And she remains on a special diet. I have a white dog and a black dog; Noodle is white with black markings, so she fits right in. She’s my smallest of the three but has the biggest personality.”
When COVID started last spring, friends suggested Beaty write about the little dog. The result is Noodle Lui Finds a Family, a 30-page hard-bound book with illustrations. He says he understands what it felt like not to fit in or not be accepted for who he is. “Lucky for me, I found a wonderful group of friends. And lucky for Noodle that I found her. I wrote the book for any child who might feel alone because they feel different, to let them know that being different doesn’t mean they won’t be loved.”
You can meet Noodle and Beaty at a special book signing hosted by The Modern Shop inside the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. A table will be set up in the lobby and social distancing maintained. Books, $20.95, will be available for purchase, as will other merchandise for animal lovers such as home decor and dog bandanas. 2-3 p.m. June 5; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell St.