As you sit in front of your computer recovering from your food coma from yesterday’s feast, what could be more timely than a restaurant review to whet your appetite for next week? Today’s installment takes us a bit off the beaten path to the town of Weatherford, Texas, 60 miles west of Dallas, for a visit to the Fire Oak Grill. Why on earth would I head to a small town an hour and a half away from home for dinner? I love long drives, of course, but in this case, while having my tires changed a few weeks prior, I read about the Fire Oak Grill in an issue of Texas Monthly highlighting ten out of the way spots throughout the state to enjoy “destination” fine dining featuring modern takes on Texas cuisine using indigenous ingredients. That seemed like a worthy use of a few hours on a Saturday, didn’t it?
Fire Oak Grill
- 114 Austin Avenue, Weatherford, Texas
- Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 11:30-2 and 5-9; Friday 11:30-2 and 5-10; Saturday 5-10
- Price: $50-75 per person, no alcohol
Directions: from Dallas, take Interstate 30 west past Fort Worth until it merges with Interstate 20. Continue an additional 6 miles until the exit for US 180 west (Exit 414), and then continue 6 more miles to downtown Weatherford. Turn right on Elm Street, left on Trinity Avenue, and left again on Austin Avenue. The restaurant is located on the northeast side of the courthouse square. Trust me, you can’t miss the courthouse.
Date of visit: October 10, 2015
My experience with the Fire Oak Grill started pleasantly around noon that day, when I called to make reservations for 6:30 P.M. A friendly woman happily took our reservations, and also warmly welcomed us to the restaurant when we arrived that evening. It’s the type of traditional Texas hospitality you expect to find in a small town, part of what makes this part of the world so endearing. The restaurant is located in a restored historic building, and the interior definitely screams “Texas”, from the big Texas map in the lobby, to the old wood floors and silver molding upstairs, to the mounted big game head in the corner.
The head in the corner is actually a kudu, native to South Africa, not central Texas, but hey, who’s keeping track, anyway?
We were shown to our table upstairs, and were quickly made to feel at home by the pleasant waitstaff. The menu varies by season, but the general idea is to use ingredients indigenous to Texas, but with a modern interpretation. Some examples include quail served with wild rice, sausage, squash puree and huckleberry jam, Gulf shrimp and green chile/white cheddar grits, pecan crusted trout, etc. What I found particularly interesting was that the menu reflected the culinary diversity of the entire state, with dishes typical of anywhere from the Rio Grande Valley along the Mexican border to the deserts of West Texas.
During our October visit, the autumn menu was in full swing. To start with, we ordered the “Surf & Turf”, which was jumbo Gulf shrimp and beef tenderloin with the aforementioned grits and lump crab, and the bacon wrapped stuffed jalapenos.
The Surf & Turf was nicely done. The shrimp were large and juicy, the tenderloin medallions were moist and cooked properly medium-rare, and the grits had a hint of spiciness from the green chiles, and a nice creaminess from the cheese. As for the jalapenos, I should give a healthy warning to anyone thinking of ordering these. In a word – YOWSA!!!! These little suckers are delicious, but will light you up big time, in a delayed reaction sort of way. The first bite has a kick, though not an overwhelming one, but as you proceed through all four – holy smokes. The peppers and the bacon have a delightful, smoky flavor to them, and the chipotle cream cheese is simply outstanding, but your tongue will be on fire for a good half hour after you stop eating them. Trouble is, they’re so good, you don’t want to stop, even with the 3-alarm blaze in your mouth…
Thankfully, there was enough of a wait between the appetizer and main course that my taste buds had time to recover for the main course. I went with the espresso crusted beef tenderloin, and my wife had the seafood special, which was essentially a fish and shrimp etouffee. I also ordered the five cheese mac & cheese with lump crab as a side dish.
I didn’t really get the espresso flavor in the crust, but the beef was nicely cooked to a medium temperature, with a tasty red wine demi-glace. I found the sauce particularly tasty, with an interesting sweet-bitter contrast going on, perhaps enhanced by the coffee crust. The beef also had that melt-in-your-mouth texture that you typically associate with a high-end steakhouse. The mac and cheese was good, though I wasn’t a fan of the vegetable medley. It was mostly pickled squash, but the pickling was excessively strong, resulting in an unpleasant bitterness. I didn’t try any of the etouffee, but the leftovers went home with us, and Prita finished off the whole thing eventually, so I’d rate it is as winner as well.
Since we’d come all this way, we decided to live a little and order desert. I ordered the Parker County pecan pie with caramel ice cream, and Prita ordered the chocolate/peanut butter tart.
Weatherford is the county seat of Parker County, which also happens to be one of the state’s most prolific pecan growing regions. The pie was outstanding, with a flaky crust, rich, creamy caramel, and giant, meaty pecan pieces. Add in the caramel ice cream, and the whole thing was perhaps a bit over-the-top in terms of richness, but boy, it was delicious. I tried a small piece of Prita’s tart, and it was also great, reminiscent of an oversized Reese’s, though it seemed as though it has been in the freezer a tad too long, as it was a bit hard to cut through.
Service throughout the evening was attentive and friendly, though a bit slow. Everything is cooked to order, and so don’t expect to be in and out quickly. Our reservation was for 6:30, and we finally left a few minutes to 9. It’s no problem on a Saturday night, but if you’re coming on a weekday, keep this in mind, especially if you have a long drive back home and have to go to work the next day.
Rating: I’ll have to issue a half star demerit for the substandard vegetables on my main course, but otherwise, a near-perfect 4 1/2 stars. If you have time to spare on a Saturday, it’s definitely worth the drive out west.