Business Press Foodie Reporter
R.J. Gator’s opens in former Pop’s space Fried alligator is hard to come by in Fort Worth, but Blake Brooks has been serving it for more than eight years in Hurst. Now he’s opening a second location of R.J. Gator’s in the former Pop’s Burgers & Grill space at 4413 Trail Lake Dr., bringing his gator tail, along with blackened scallops, half-pound burgers and notable chicken-fried steak to the west side. “I’ve never had anybody tell me our chicken-fried steak wasn’t good,” Brooks said. Double-dipped in buttermilk batter, the eight-ounce rib-eye cutlet covers the entire plate. But not everything on the menu is fried, Brooks promises. Patrons will find plenty of blackened and grilled items along with fish and chips, coconut shrimp salad, Tex-Mex dishes, steaks and two full bars – one inside and one out. Also look for the sloppy Joe chimichanga, a Fort Worth R.J. Gator’s exclusive that Brooks calls “downright fabulous.” The R.J. Gator’s concept originated in southern Florida in the 1980s and later became a franchise. Now Brooks and his wife, Diane, both Fort Worth natives, own the name, menu and recipes, he says, along with one other operator in central Florida. Brooks has gutted and renovated his new Fort Worth space, which was home to the short-lived Hot Tub’s Back Porch Grotto before Pop’s. The outdoor patio, which is slightly larger than the nearly 3,000-square-foot interior, has two new fire pits, outdoor lounge seating and updated dining tables. Brooks says he and his wife have long been eyeing the Trail Lake Drive venue as a possible second location. “The location is right where both of us grew up. We live less than 60 seconds from that location,” Brooks said. “When that spot became available, it was pretty much a no-brainer. We’ve been watching it ever since it originally opened and thought if it ever became available, we were going to jump on it and open something up there.”
DELUXE BAR & GRILL TO BECOME JUST “BAR” Not completely following in the footsteps of its predecessors Mac’s on 7th and Monty’s Corner, Deluxe Bar & Grill isn’t closing. But the third restaurant to occupy the seemingly cursed space at 2600 W. Seventh St. in Montgomery Plaza is revamping its concept after just six months in business. The brunch, lunch and dinner joint, which originally touted a lengthy list of local craft beers and a chef-driven menu, will turn into a bar around the first of the year, says general manager Bobby Parkinson. Bar food will be served, but it won’t be from Aaron Nelson, who is now out as executive chef and headed to Bird Café to work as sous chef. Deluxe opened in Fort Worth as an offshoot of Otto’s Deluxe Grill, located near Houston.
THE BRASS TAP TO TAP DOWNTOWN FORT WORTH Scheduled to start tapping in early 2014, The Brass Tap will open a Fort Worth location at 901 Houston St. in downtown Fort Worth. The craft beer and wine bar franchise based in Tampa, Fla., boasts more than 300 craft beers and 60 taps as well as premium wines and cigars. The bar offers a point system for trying the brews in which T-shirts and gift cards are awarded. There will be live music and possibly food; The Brass Tap’s corporate restaurants in Florida are testing a beer-friendly menu including beer cheese dip, pretzels with pale ale mustard, prime nachos, pretzel pizzas, burgers and paninis. The menu could eventually extend to all locations. The Brass Tap’s only other Texas location is in Round Rock.