A year of shocking Fort Worth restaurant closings, changes

Changes at two historic Tex-Mex restaurants shocked Fort Worth in 2023, and one remains in flux.

Restaurants closed for all kinds of reasons: high rent, staff shortages, even baby-boomer owners’ retirement.

But the two changes that stunned Fort Worth most involved fajitas, margaritas and enchiladas.

The Original Mexican Eats Cafe moved to the north side after 93 years. And Pulido’s restaurants were dark two months before they were sold to new owners after 57 years.

Those were the Nos. 1 and 2 most-read Eats Beat food stories in a year of closings and changes.

Even the sale of 75-year-old Cattlemen’s Steak House to “Yellowstone” executive Taylor Sheridan and partners — and their plans for an upcoming $3 million remodeling — couldn’t outrank the tremor than shook two Tex-Mex legacies.

A look at some of the restaurant shutdowns that surprised Fort Worth in 2023:

A faded sign on the back of The Original Mexican Restaurant in Fort Worth March 25, 2023.
A faded sign on the back of The Original Mexican Restaurant in Fort Worth March 25, 2023. Bud Kennedy bud@star-telegram.com

The Original goes north

The Original Mexican Eats Cafe, 1400 N. Main St., was dislodged from its 93-year home on Camp Bowie Boulevard June 30.

The landlord won a long-standing lawsuit revoking the undervalued lease.

Owner Robert Self moved to another iconic restaurant location, the former El Rancho Grande. The Original kept El Rancho’s popular thin-and-light chips and tortillas, and now offers a choice of both restaurants’ table salsas and pralines.

The new Original still serves the “Roosevelt Special” combination plate, a favorite of 1930s presidential son Elliott Roosevelt when he lived near Benbrook. The Original also added puffy tacos, nachos and chips similar to those served at long-gone Caro’s.

The old restaurant space at 4713 Camp Bowie Blvd. is being converted for retail shops.

Pulido’s: ‘We will be back!’

Five Pulido’s restaurants will reopen in 2024 after a shutdown Oct. 14.

Pulido’s, a legacy Tex-Mex restaurant known from the days when Dionicia Pulido cooked for Pedro Pulido’s co-workers in the West Vickery Boulevard railyard, had shut the doors with a note reading, “Hopefully we will be back!”

The restaurants were sold to JD’s Hamburgers owner Westland Restaurant Group, also the owner of West Side Cafe.

The flagship Pulido’s, 2900 Pulido St., will reopen first. It will be followed later by locations near Benbrook and in Hurst, Cleburne and Eastland.

The same company also bought Margie’s Italian Gardens, open 70 years at 9805 Camp Bowie Blvd. It will reopen in spring after remodeling.

More closings that stung

Edelweiss German Restaurant, 3801 Southwest Blvd., closed Feb. 28. It had struggled since founder and showman Bernd Schnerzinger retired in 2013.

Former chefs and managers had moved to Little Germany, nearby at 6737 Camp Bowie Blvd.

Edelweiss owner Kenny Zeqiri said at the time that he planned to open an Italian restaurant — he also owned Italian Inn — but he has not said more.

Chef Point Cafe, 5220 Texas 121, Colleyville, is open there but closed its old, original Watauga location Jan. 29.

The restaurant was originally a gas station. When chef Franson Nwaeze turned the grill into a upscale restaurant, national media covered the quirky convenience store-cafe “calamari Conoco..” The Watauga location will become a Pizza Buzz.

Ranchman’s Cafe, 110 W. Bailey St., Ponder, is seeking a new owner after 75 years. Owner Dave Ross retired Oct. 30 due to poor health and a shortage of help.

The “Ponder steakhouse” had just been featured on the “Texas Bucket List.”

North Main BBQ, 406 N. Euless Main St., a 1990s legend for its all-you-can-eat barbecue buffet in the former Green’s Trucking Company office, was sold by descendants of Shari Green and closed in summer.

Don Green of the original founding family has Green’s Texas BBQ, a trailer at 414 W. Euless Blvd.

Tributary Cafe, 2813 Race St., home base for the annual Race Street Mardi Gras, went dark in the end of the summer. Owner Cindy Crowder Wheeler did not renew the lease.

Closings struck the Near Southside.

The most surprising was Shinjuku Station, 711 W. Magnolia Ave., open 12 years. Owners Jarry and Mary Kha Ho and Casey Kha cited the unsteady economy.

Tre Mogli Cucina Italiana, 401 S. Main St., closed without explanation Oct. 2. Corporate cousin Wishbone & Flynt remains open.

The global-cuisine Beast & Co., 1010 W. Magnolia Ave., closed April 3. The restaurant had announced on Facebook that business was off 80%.

Ober Here, a Filipino rice bowl stand, closed at 1229 Eighth Ave., where Burnin’ Mouth Hot Chicken had closed earlier.

To the south, the 35-year-old Hemphill’s Restaurant plate-lunch cafe closed Nov. 24 at 3506 Hemphill St.

Business, competition and labor struggles — and sometimes rent increases — drove several restaurants out of shopping areas.

Tap-In Grill & Pub, 3351 Texas Sage Trail, closed a way-too-big location in Alliance Town Center along with its Grapevine location.

Slice City PIzza is moving to 7445 Oakmont Blvd. after closing in the Chapel Hill shops on West Freeway.

Amy’s Restaurant, known for menudo, closed at 1537 N. Main St. as rents and land deals increase near the Stockyards.

Pizza Snob, 3051 S. University Drive, was squeezed both by cheaper delivery pizzerias and new, more elaborate brick-oven pizzerias.

Station Patio Icehouse, 111 W. Vine St., closed in Keller.

J.R. Bentley’s English Pub, 406 W. Abram St., closed after 43 years in Arlington.

That’s not to mention the anchor Romano’s Macaroni Grill in Fort Worth or legions of corporate chain restaurants.

Fanboys Grill, 2708 W. Seventh St., a restaurant that promoted “nerd and pop culture” for a comic-and-toy-shop company, closed June 18 for obvious reasons.

Same for Boozie’s Brewery and Gourmet Sandwiches, 6473 Camp Bowie Blvd. After all, it wasn’t named Foodie’s.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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Bud Kennedy is a Fort Worth Star-Telegram “Eats Beat” dining columnist and restaurant podcast co-host. In print since 1985 and online since 1992, he has written more than 3,000 columns about Texas cafes, barbecue, burgers and where to eat.
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source: star-telegram

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