In the long tradition of well-loved dive bars that have taken up residence at 4400 White Settlement Road, most notably the Hare n’ Hounds Inn and Froggy’s Boat House, the new tenant,Thurber Mingus, calls itself a “throwback to West Texas border town cantinas.”
Thurber Mingus opened in February and is slowly catching on. This new incarnation is a boozy burger/taco joint with locavore appeal.
Every attempt is made to use Texas ingredients and as locally sourced as possible. All the beers and booze hail from the great state of Texas as well, except the tequila, simply because no one north of the border has successfully distilled it yet. (Oh, there are a couple that have tried, but they are not yet up to snuff – tequila is still an import item.)
If you head west on Interstate 20 and take the Thurber Mingus exit, it will lead you to the ghost town of Thurber and the tiny community of Mingus, which hold sentimental ties for owner and chef Coby Baumann.
The restaurant’s location on a nearly deserted stretch of White Settlement Road, with cars whizzing by, is reminiscent and lends to that road-trip ambience and the dusty-feeling dive that Baumann was trying to re-create. And yes, this place it haunted, too, with the former beat of 80’s club music. If you listen very closely, you may still hear Depeche Mode’s cover of “Route 66” faintly thumping in the background. Haunting, indeed!
Tacos come one per order. The featured taco, on the night we visited, was peach smoked brisket ($5.50). Wrapped in a lightly grilled flour tortilla, it was topped with corn relish and queso blanco with an agave lime vinaigrette. It was tasty and filling. But my favorite, from the regular menu, was pork shoulder taco ($4.50). This one came swaddled in double-ply corn tortillas and was nicely spicy, with the perfect amount of acid from a red wine vinegar and brown sugar glaze.
Chips and queso blanco ($7) are both simple and surprising. My only request would be a basket of better and crunchier chips. The queso was a touch grainy (possibly due to an undercooked white roux – flour and butter base) and blended with mild green chilis, spooned over fresh guacamole hidden at the bottom. It was fun, like a box of cereal with a surprise hidden inside.
Thurber Mingus has patio dining down to a science, with patio sling chairs inside and out. The backyard has a deck and multiple levels with picnic table seating. Inside is scraped to the original concrete and cinder block, and for that reason it is acoustically challenging during busy hours. Mason jar lighting hangs overhead and string lights on the patio. Table tops are uneven, made from repurposed fence slats that also cover the wall behind the stainless steel bar, where the chalkboard menu covers the entire expanse.
The goat cheese and bacon jam burger ($11) was delish. The grilled egg-bun was scrumptious and sturdy. The patty is substantial with crusty edges and tender beef. The bacon jam was neither too bacony nor too sweet, just a nice oniony topping. The goat cheese was not a big player; we hardly noticed it.
Likewise the caramelized 1015 and blue cheese crusted burger ($11) was a mouthful. It came with the same glistening bun and same fresh tomato slices and green leafy lettuce. These hefty burgers do not require fries to make a meal. The burgers are splendid. I would rank them very favorably in the gourmet burger category – way up there with the likes of Rodeo Goat and Brewed, and that’s high praise!
Baumann has made his vision and childhood memories accessible to all of us who longingly remember lazy road trips through parts unknown. It’s the kind of place my father could always sniff out, no matter what town we were passing through. Thurber Mingus is a relaxed atmosphere to tank up on your way to anywhere, or make your final destination for the evening.
Courtney Dabney is a food critic and writer with experience in the food service industry. She writes the Food & Wine column for Fort Worth Business. Contact her at email@example.com
4400 White Settlement Road
Fort Worth 76114
Open: Tues. – Thurs. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Fri. – Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sun. 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m.