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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

FWB Food + Wine: A bottomless cup of Americana

Montgomery Street Cafe

2000 Montgomery St.


Montgomery Street Cafe opened in 1949, the year of the “Great Flood” − when flood waters spilled over the Clear Fork levee and inundated what is now the West Seventh District. Eyewitnesses remember how University Drive and Bailey Avenue had to be navigated briefly by boat.

In the ever-changing restaurant industry, Montgomery Street Cafe is an anomaly. The menu does not change with the seasons. In fact, it has changed very little over the past six decades. All items still ring in under $10, and you will find no mention of trendy ingredients such as kale or broccolini on the menu.

The interior has not been updated to stay in fashion either. While many new restaurants work hard to achieve the same distressed and aged appearance, Montgomery Street comes by the look naturally. While the world has changed around it, this quaint cafe remains like a cherished time capsule.

You can expect well-worn knotty pine booths with rusty hat racks attached, and a slim counter with vintage soda fountain stools topped in black vinyl. Black and white checkered tile blends with red and white checkered tablecloths. A 1940’s era General Electric wall refrigeration unit (originally from an old Majestic Liquor Store in town) is still humming.

The cafe has been owned by Claudette Finely for 30 years, and she can be credited with its consistent quality and friendly service. Some of the familiar wait staff, who know their customers by name and keep their coffee cups full, have been with her for 25 years. Longevity like that is a rarity in the business.

Breakfasts are simple and hearty, ranging from English muffins to oatmeal, and omelets to steak and eggs with your choice of hash browns or grits, along with toast or home style biscuits and gravy. Regulars have their own favorites and never veer too far afield.

On a recent lunchtime visit, the hamburger ($5.25) with a side of onion rings ($2.25) was a good choice. The refreshingly non-gourmet burger was filled with crisp iceberg lettuce and fresh tomato slices, with pickles wrapped neatly in paper. The onion rings are simply some of the best around. Soft and sweet onions wrapped in a crunchy (not greasy) coating are not to be missed. And it’s a large order with plenty for sharing.

The vegetable selections on the blackboard change daily, but most plates and platters (doubling the portion of meat – for heartier appetites) come with a freshly baked yeast roll, which is always handy for mopping up gravy. Montgomery Street is known for its gravy, which is delicate and creamy. The same cream gravy tops the biscuits as well.

The vegetable plate ($5.99) gives you a selection of three veggies plus a side salad. Grilled catfish fillets ($8.99) are another fan favorite, but they are only available on Friday. The meals are served in divided cafeteria-style plastic plates.

We indulged in the chicken-fried steak plate ($6.99) and doubled up on our starches, opting for mashed potatoes and cream gravy, alongside a scoop of sweet roasted whole kernel corn. A side salad was our only redemption.

The chicken-fried steak is always tender and the coating is thin and crispy. It is a reasonable size portion too, not a food challenge. For dessert, you can’t beat the coconut pie ($2.25) with its flaky crust and dense filling, topped with whipped cream and toasted coconut.

The view from the windows of Montgomery Street Cafe is of the cattle barns at the Will Rogers Memorial Center across the street. Don’t be afraid to visit during this year’s Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo (Jan. 15-Feb.6). There won’t be a line around the block. The place is typically packed when cutting horse events come to town, but with so many dining possibilities on the Stock Show grounds, you can get in and out of Montgomery Street Cafe with ease.

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