Chef Felipe Armenta strikes again
Cork & Pig Tavern
2869 Crockett St.
Some chefs are bold, outgoing self-promoters. Others prefer to maintain their anonymity around town and remain behind the scenes. Chef Felipe Armenta would fall into the latter category, quietly running a growing empire with understated ease. He has been on my radar since opening The Tavern on Hulen Street in 2011 (in the pre-Trader Joe’s days).
Since then, he has snapped up some of the most coveted locations in town to plant his new concepts, slowly building up steam. Each concept is different but they all seem to have a few things in common: relaxed atmospheres, consistent service and modern menus that hit all the right notes.
Pacific Table features fresh seafood, Northwest fare and sushi in the corner of the bustling University Plaza. Then, he launched into 2016 like a cannon − becoming the first dining location in the ever-expanding Edwards Ranch. Press Café feeds the needs of Trailhead hikers and bikers while welcoming droves of diners from sunrise to sunset with its outstanding river view. (Oh, and Armenta welcomed his second child, a daughter, around the same time as well).
No sooner had the dust been kicked up at the Trailhead than he announced yet another newcomer to a different part of town, which raised many eyebrows and got us salivating once more.
While Cork & Pig is new to us in Fort Worth, it was actually his first baby in San Angelo, followed by a sibling in Odessa. Cork & Pig focuses on wood-fired pizza and wine. But it has a lot more to offer. The opening of Cork & Pig in the former AF+B prime West Seventh location in July has met with the same crowds as the opening of Press Café. Reservations are suggested.
The layout is unchanged; you enter the bar area surrounded by booth seating and the adjoining dining room has banquettes and tables scattered about. An open window into the busy kitchen glows with the constant flame of the wood-burning pizza oven, which in this case is fueled by hickory wood.
The pizzas here do not come in every conceivable combination, but the six options offer creative ingredients. Take the Napa Valley ($14), which is decked out with wild mushrooms, Kalamata olives, kale, mozzarella and garlic. Each pizzas is ample for a meal or nice as a shareable appetizer, with crunchy browned edges and a rather thin mid-section.
Among the appetizers you will find ahi tuna carpaccio, crab and Parmesan dip, and deviled eggs topped with pancetta ($5). Our deviled eggs arrived on an eye-catching black plate topped with crispy pancetta crumbles. They were not overly creamy, more home-style mashed with a mustard hit that was nice against the salty bacon.
Carolina pork ribs ($18) are a hefty portion (have your to-go box handy) of the most tender, fall-of-the-bone pork ribs served with a tangy mustard-based barbeque sauce. The pork ribs are regular menu items, but on occasion the restaurant also serves a mammoth beef rib, which has been a long-time specialty at the West Texas Cork & Pigs. When they are in-house the beef rib rendition is destined to run out quickly.
We sampled the halibut fish & chips ($18). The upgraded flaky white fish was beer-battered and fried until golden brown. The dish is served with a side of shoestring French fries and tartar sauce or malt vinegar to suit your taste.
Each of Armenta’s restaurants has a signature dessert. Cork & Pig flaunts its Mexican chocolate cake ($8), which is a large wedge with two layers of moist cake. It is iced with a chocolate-walnut icing and dusted with cinnamon for a rich Mexican chocolate flavor.
The interior is similar in style to other Armenta creations, with a comfy urban and modern appeal. Chandeliers feature tall incandescent bulbs giving off a golden hue. The bar area (which serves pizza and cocktails until 11:30 p.m. on weekends) has vintage-looking tile floors and a curved concrete bar top. It features a rotating seasonal selection of local beers along with an affordable wine list with tantalizing tasting notes. Additional patio seating is in the works, which will soften the corner location.