A busy week for restaurant openings (barring any last-minute delay, Liberty Burger is due to open Wednesday in north Fort Worth) and reopenings ( Tokyo Cafe is back in business west Fort Worth) gets another long-awaited opening with the debut of Wild Salsa, which has set a Wednesday opening in downtown Fort Worth.
The restaurant, from Dallas-based DRG Concepts, was announced in July 2014 as one of the tenants for the new One City Place building on Throckmorton Street. That location already home to Avanti — where, for months, diners on the patio have been able to look across at the under-development Wild Salsa.
Wild Salsa, which also has locations in downtown Dallas and in Fairview, will eventually be joined by another DRG Concepts restaurant, Chop House Burger, which has locations in downtown Dallas and in Euless, with more to come, including Southlake. (Chop House Burger is not to be confused with the independent Chop House Burgers — note the plural — in Arlington.)
Wild Salsa will start with dinner only; lunch and weekend brunch will be added soon. We dropped in on one of Wild Salsa’s soft-opening services last week. Here are our impressions.
The vibe: Upscale Mexican with a side of party on the patio. According to the Wild Salsa website, the idea is to follow the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos by bringing people together to eat and drink as a celebration of life (Dia de los Muertos is next week, so the Fort Worth location got a bit of an early start). The restaurant’s decor represents that well, with the colorful, ornate “sugar skulls” associated with Dia de los Muertos, as well as plenty of iconography (look for a variety of crosses on shelves), some Frida Kahlo references, and an artful curtain of beads separating the bar area from the main dining area.
The bar itself has a glowing red base inside (echoing the long glowing light outside on the Throckmorton Street side), as well as an outdoor side where there are several bar-side stools — and a couple of swings, which might turn out to be a balance challenge for some people after a couple of margaritas. Pots of planted peppers — say that three times fast — decorate the patio area, which also has a cornhole game area nearby.
Music was appropriate to the venue and not too loud for conversation on our Friday-night visit. But the restaurant was not at capacity, and we’ve got a feeling that when the patio gets going, things will be louder. It will be interesting to see how this patio contrasts with/complements the more sedate Avanti patio nearby.
The food: Downtown Fort Worth already has several local-brand-name Mexican/Tex-Mex restaurants with Cantina Laredo, Taco Diner and Mi Cocina, not to mention the smaller and independent La Perla Negra several blocks to the south. Wild Salsa does enough to differentiate itself with some offbeat menu items, while still playing in the enchilada/taco ballpark.
With the opening of the Fort Worth location, all Wild Salsas are adding items to their menus: ceviche verde, queso fundido, a chorizo torta, camarones asados (Gulf shrimp with achiote carrot purée, charred corn and Mexican squash, chorizo-potato tacos and veggie tacos, as well as a blood-orange margarita and Burro de Jalisco, a tequila/lime juice/ginger beer/ginger syrup concoction.
Also new is a chile relleno that was possibly the most fried version we’ve ever had, the coating on the poblano appealingly crunchy. It’s filled with house-made chorizo with jalapeño-potato-onion mix, guajillo sauce, all seemingly pureed together. It was an unusual take, and big enough that about a quarter of it made a decent leftover snack. We might not have needed to have taken anything home if we hadn’t been saving room for the cuatro leches, about as moist a take on the dessert as we’ve ever had, served in a small jar that had us digging around in the bottom for more pieces of the cake (did we say it was moist) even as our willpower futilely tried to tell us to stop.
Prices range from the reasonable (the menu features four tortas, all $9) to the semi-intimidating ($24 for lamb-shank barbacoa and braised lamb-shank tacos, $26 for “wild” fajitas). Most entrees hover in the $10-$14 range, in line with similar downtown restaurants. There are some offbeat takes on salsa (poblano pecan, for instance) and guacamole (we liked the sesame-pepita guacamole we sampled). Brunch will eventually be available on weekends and the drink menu, especially the tequila section, is impressive.
The verdict: It’s a welcome addition to downtown, and we’re happy to have it only five blocks from our offices. We’re curious how it will do; it’s sort of on the edge of downtown foot traffic, a little north of a concentration of restaurants in the Tower condo complex and a little west of the Sundance Square action. But Avanti appears to be doing OK, and the later addition of Chop House Burger should bring more people in that direction. Another expected addition, Hooters, has not been greeted with open arms by downtown Fort Worth neighbors, and appears to be in limbo for the moment.
Wild Salsa, 300 Throckmorton Street No. 180, Fort Worth, 682-316-3230, http://www.wildsalsarestaurant.com. Currently open dinner only; lunch and brunch to be added in the near future.