Serape looms overhead and sconces made of corn grinding stones amp up the Saltillo authenticity at the new Don Artemio. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)
Tres Leches del Desierto is reconstructed tableside at the new Don Artemio. Photo by Courtney Dabney.
The bar at Don Artemio has a view of stacked Saltillo brickwork. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)
Ceviche El Porvenir soaks in its tiger's milk bath. Photo by Courtney Dabney.
Don Artemio's Nopalitos Fritos wrapped in soft tortillas is an interesting start. Photo by Courtney Dabney.
Prime cuts of beef aging gracefully in the cooler. Photo by Courtney Dabney.
The Chilean Sea Bass en Mole Negro is a must. Photo by Courtney Dabney.
Don Artemio, one of Fort Worth’s most anticipated new restaurants, recently opened with local restaurant veteran Adrian Burciaga at the helm. Burciaga previously led operations at Cafe Modern for many years, where Mexican chef Juan Ramón Cárdenas Cantú and he developed a friendship that ultimately led to this second location of Cantu’s Don Artemio, landing at 3268 West Seventh Street in Fort Worth’s Cultural District.
The first Don Artemio restaurant remains firmly planted in Saltillo, Mexico.
Burciaga’s smile and enthusiasm are infectious. He’s like a new father, passing out cigars to complete strangers and pointing to his brand new bundle of joy snuggled behind the nursery glass. And who can blame him? This new Fort Worth restaurant is a beauty.
The original vision and menu are the product of chef Juan Ramón’s Mexican heritage. His famous roast cabrito (goat), hand-made tortillas, sizzling steaks and authentic sauces are the real star of the show. Still this new Fort Worth Don Artemio’s vision includes the distinct architecture and steakhouse service as well.
Burciaga dropped hints on social media throughout the construction process. Each time a shipment of pottery or handmade brick arrived on site. The design of the modern space in Museum Place is very similar in design to the Saltillo Don Artemio original brought to life by Mexican architect Luis González Díaz de Leon, who oversaw its every detail.
High ceilings and walls lined with intricate brickwork lend an interior Mexico feel. One long bar greats you. Its shelves are lined with premium tequilas for sipping. There are several private dining spaces. One of the largest features a see-through wine case, which is shared by the main dining room beyond. Cantu has already hosted a few special dinners there, as he commutes back and forth to Mexico for now.
The chef’s son Rodrigo Cardenas will take over as executive chef of the Fort Worth Don Artemio restaurant soon.
Prime cuts of meat age in the refrigerator next to the central service station wall. Serape looms hung from the ceiling diffuse a lovely light. There is gorgeous woodwork and intriguing sconces made from corn grinding stones or metates. No detail has been overlooked.
This new Fort Worth restaurant is named after a folk hero. Don Artemio was both a gourmand and author who was dedicated to Mexican history. As is his namesake restaurant. The menu at Don Artemio unfolds like one of his books. Each page very intentional, whispering sweet nothings about the old country in your ear.
Don Artemio’s Mex-Mex Menu
The fried cactus appetizer called Nopalitos Fritos appears like a mound of shoestring onions. The cactus is shaved thinly. It is crispy and limey with a hint of bacon. Wrapped in fresh tortillas, it makes for a charming and unusual start.
Likewise, the house ceviche or El Porvenir are dices of fresh Norwegian salmon and whitefish in a bright tiger milk broth. The freshly made guacamole can be studded with tender ribeye, fried grasshoppers (chapulines), or served solo.
Yes, this is not your typical Tex-Mex.
The Filete de Res Asado is a house specialty and at eight ounces and $44, it’s fairly priced. The plate is painted with chipotle sauce and ancho-pasilla herb black bean puree, with grilled veggies on the side like calabacita squash and baby carrot.
But it’s the mole negro that I can’t stop dreaming about. If you appreciate a time-consuming, ingredient-laden mole as much as I do, the Chilean sea bass en mole negro is a must. When dining out, I always look for something I would never make at home myself.
I made traditional Oaxacan mole exactly once and swore never again. So a scrumptious ladle of the good stuff is always on my radar.
At Don Artemio, that means a generous portion of sea bass perfection bathed in silken mole with plenty of toasted sesame seeds and chocolate. As with most moles, this one includes a peanut warning. The plating is topped by sliced seared plantain, and served alongside tomato herb rice.
As a longtime food writer, I am ashamed to admit to knowing little about Mexican wines. Even though the grapevines in Mexico and South America predate ours by centuries. Of course, Mexican wines are part of Don Artemio’s Mexican heritage theme.
Burciaga kindly gave me a sample of the newest entry on the restaurant’s wine list. Casa Madero Winery was founded in 1600. So they have a bit of experience. The V is Casa Madero’s salmon-hued rosado. 2V is its vino blanc with very light tannins. And 3V is a red blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and tempranillo grapes. When these are in stock, I suggest all three depending on your mood.
By now, you may have seen Don Artemio’s signature dessert on an Instagram feed or three. Tres Leches del Desierto is a deconstructed Tres Leches dessert, topped with an ammonite shell-shaped ice cream and milks poured around it tableside. It’s a showstopper, but nothing like a traditional squishy, Tres Leches cake which is soaked overnight in three milks. So know that going in.
The upscale restaurant ambiance of Don Artemio and its fine dining service would set it apart regardless, but the unique menu pushes the envelope just enough to make this new Fort Worth restaurant a Mex-Mex must try.