Times are surely changing in the Lone Star State. Texas grub used to mean chili, barbeque, or Tex Mex, or a messy combo of all three. Nowadays, these old favorites still reign supreme, but more elegant fare is redefining the way people think about Texas cuisine.
At Bonnell's Restaurant in Fort Worth, chef-owner Jon Bonnell serves jazzed-up wild game, fresh gulf seafood, and organic beef to a packed house—cowhands, ranchers, and city slickers alike. Signature entrees, like pepper crusted, center-cut buffalo tenderloin topped with smoked whiskey cream sauce, dazzle the palate. Sides, like mac 'n' goat cheese, green chili cheese grits, and jalapeno parmesan creamed spinach, add Texas flair to much-loved staples.
Bonnell's style—“Fine Texas Dining,” as he calls it—stresses high-end ingredients with upscale presentation. Unlike some chefs who put recipes above all else, Bonnell developed his recipes based on local offerings. “Texas cuisine should embody the spirit of Texas and celebrate our local farmers and ranchers,” he says. “I try to use ingredients that are right here, that require one truck, one driver for delivery.”
In cultivating his menu, Bonnell chose only premium Texas products-free range meats, organic produce, and specialty cheeses. He visited farms, fisheries, and ranches throughout Texas, and took the time to understand their principles and processes before building relationships with a select few. From there, his menu took shape. Quality selections from Broken Arrow Ranch, Frontier Meats, and Diamond H Ranch inspired his popular "mixed grill" option-a combination plate with homemade Andouille sausage, a wild boar chop, spirand a choice of venison medallions, buffalo tenderloin, quail, or lamb loin.
When it came to dreaming up his recipes, Bonnell took cues from his neighbors. Louisiana's soulful concoctions gave way to his homemade Creole spice blend. New Mexico, Arizona, and California's fiery fusions added ample of zest to his guajillo chile sauce and jalapeno vinaigrette dressing. And Mexico's influences can be seen and tasted throughout the menu but are hard to miss in his smoked-chicken stacked enchiladas- topped with salsa verde, guacamole, and pico de gallo, of course.
Bonnell, a Fort Worth native who regularly participates in cutting horse competitions, understands a cowboy's misgivings toward places with white tablecloths and candlelight. His healthy portions and comfortable ambiance defy traditional fine dining concepts. "People pay a premium price and should get a full plate," he says. "No one goes hungry at my place. That's one of my rules."
He keeps the atmosphere upscale yet relaxed. Mahogany finishes add warmth, while local photography and Western accents keep the motif distinctly Texan. "You'll never get anything snooty around here," Bonnell says. "This is Fort Worth fancy."
Bonnell's Fine Texas Cuisine
4259 Bryant Irvin Road
Fort Worth, TX 76109-4223